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My Vision Board, Sans Perfectionism (and Plus Playlist)

12 Jun

My vision boardThis weekend, that fateful day finally arrived: my return to self-help. In the form of my friend’s vision board party that I excitedly, yet with some trepidation, RSVP-ed “Yes” to. Would I be triumphant, happily reunited with collaging as if we’d spent no time apart, and the past seven years since my last vision board were just an insignificant blip? I had my doubts.

As the day approached, collaging anxiety crept in. Plus, I had volunteered to make the party playlist and was starting to feel the burden of responsibility. I felt like I had to prep. Go shopping for an array of magazines that represented all the areas I wanted to cover on my vision board. Swing by a few home furnishings stores to pick up catalogs. Buy art supplies. Decide on a vision board base–should I put everything together on one huge piece of poster board, or break up my collages by category on scrapbook pages with labels? Then I’d have to print out category labels. And I couldn’t just bring labels for myself, I’d need to bring extras for the rest of the guests. I’d started a file folder a while ago of images I liked and wanted to use in a future vision board. But I couldn’t find the file anywhere, and felt like I’d lost part of my vision. A few days before the party, I made the mistake of looking at the last vision board I made seven years ago, pre-self-help detox, and it was A-MA-ZING (categorized scrapbook pages, labeled). A sheer thing of artistic beauty, I couldn’t believe I had created it. There was no way I could live up to my collaging past.

And then there was the playlist–all the new songs I wanted to buy on iTunes, and how to organize them for optimum flow.

What happened was this: my perfectionism was taking over, turning a fun afternoon with friends, glitter, and glue sticks into an oppressive list of tasks and To Dos. So I decided to scrap everything–all the planning and preparation (it wasn’t even my party!), and just do the absolute minimum. As if I was cramming for a final, I quickly made the playlist at 11pm the night before with nary a newly purchased song, or a second thought the order. I wanted the music to be uplifting, so I just did one round of edits where I stripped out all the codependent love songs about needing someone else to be able to live or breathe.

An hour before the party, I picked up three magazines–a yoga one, a home one, and a vacation one–and found the ideal compromise of half-sheets of poster board at an art supply store. I let go of trying to locate my image file, and embraced the idea of creating my vision afresh in the moment. Pounding an iced coffee for sustenance, I was ready to collage. Imperfectly, dammit.

Me with my vision boardAt the party, my friend read a few vision boarding suggestions before we got started, like keeping some white space in your collage to leave room for other things to come in, and so it doesn’t look chaotic and clutterred. Flipping through magazines, I still doubted my artistic abilities, but reminded myself that this didn’t have to be the end-all-be-all vision board, just one attempt.

I was a little behind, only on Phase 2 (deciding which images to use) when everyone else was on Phase 3 (gluing), but somehow mine came together quickly in the end. While I’d thought my vision board would be significantly career focused, and had even brought cut-outs of the New York Times Best Seller list and logos for places I wanted to write or teach, I tucked them underneath my poster board before I started and none of them made it on. Mostly my vision board wound up being about joy, relaxation, playfulness, fun–and a balanced life. And by the way, I love it.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that my playlist was a huge hit. Someone even said I should make playlists professionally, if that’s even a thing. Other than like, DJ. And someone else asked me if I’d publish the playlist, which was the inspiration for this blog post. Having recently met Maxwell, it’s a little Maxwell intensive. But as I told my friend who was hosting the party, it was a major accomplishment that my playlist wasn’t just: “Maxwell CDs.” So here it is, codependent love song free, and guaranteed to uplift!

Vision Board Party Playlist
1) “Imagine Me” – Kirk Franklin
2) “Ascension (Don’t Ever Wonder)” – Maxwell
3) “Superwoman” – Alicia Keys
4) “Beautiful” – Christina Aguilera
5) “Brand New Day” – Joshua Radin
6) “Declaration (This Is It!)” – Kirk Franklin
7) “A Star Is Born” – Jay-Z feat. J. Cole
8) “Closer” – Goapele
9) “Best Of My Love” – The Emotions
10) “Seasons of Love” – Original Broadway Cast, RENT
11) “Just Fine” – Mary J. Blige
12) “F**ckin’ Perfect” – Vicci Martinez and Niki Dawson on The Voice
13) “Party” – Beyoncé feat. André 3000
14) “Over the Rainbow” – Glee Cast Version
15) “Pretty Wings” – Maxwell
16) “My Love” – The-Dream & Mariah Carey
17) “September” – Kirk Franklin
18) “Ganapati” – Girish
19) “Guru Brahma” – Jai Uttal & The Pagan Love Orchestra
20) “People Everyday” – Arrested Development
21) “Lovely Day” – Bill Withers
22) “Lifetime” – Maxwell

What songs would be on your Vision Board Party Playlist?

Write Your Wild List

16 Dec

Last week I wrote a post about being wild, and included lists of times I was wild on the outside and inside.  And in writing these lists, I felt reconnected with those wild times in my life and parts of myself.  Often I feel like my experience of life has become dulled, muted, and tamed.  I can get into ruts that last weeks or months or even years, where I am numb and sleepwalking through my days, or worrying and white-knuckling it through my days, or just plain trying to make it through the day.  I keep quiet or play it safe or get all into self-hate.  And in these times, I have complete and total wild child amnesia.  I don’t remember how strong, courageous, free, bold, and downright badass I’ve been at times in my life.  Many, many times, when I’ve taken risks and rebelled and been wide awake, alert, and wild.

Lots of things can numb us out to our own wildness:  Routine.  An unfulfilling job.  Anxiety and worries.  Being hard on ourselves by doling out self-criticism and heaping on self-hate.  The expectations.  All those obligations.  That list goes on and on.  And then there are all those strict disciplinarians – inside ourselves, outside ourselves, remembered, and imagined – keeping watch and reigning us in should we get too feisty.

But luckily, there is a simple cure for wild child amnesia:  writing your own wild list.  Because in the remembering, and in the writing, you can feel that energy again, of your own badass boldness.  And reconnecting with these times in your life and this part of yourself may make you smile.  It could wake you up out of a daze and nudge you out of that rut.  And it just might give you some wild ideas…

So here’s an assignment, should you choose to accept it.  Take out your notebook and pen.  (Hand-writing your list will let you get more unruly and wild than if you neatly type it up.  You can even scribble in the margins, and write outside the lines!)  Turn on some music.  Maybe you have a wild theme song.  One of my favorites is “Teenage Dream” by Katy Perry, and I also like to rock out to songs that remind me of my wild days.  Like hip-hop from the early-90’s.   Lauryn Hill circa 1998, D’Angelo in 2000, Justin Timberlake and Gavin DeGraw and The Black Eyed Eyed Peas in 2003, and R&B tunes that were on the radio in the summer of 2005.

So now you have your music.  Maybe you wanna crank it up and dance around a little.  Then sit down, kick back, and write your wild list.  Start it with Times in my life I was wild… and see what adventures it takes you on…

I’d love to hear how it goes.  What are your wild theme songs?  Did writing your list make you smile?  Could you really feel it?  How did it feel?  Get any ideas? 😉

Where The Wild Things Are

10 Dec

“You were once wild here.  Don’t let them tame you.” -Isadora Duncan

Last week, a yoga teacher read this quote at the end of class.  And it hit me as something that is very, very true.  It reminded me of my own wildness, that I sometimes allow myself to feel and occasionally allow myself to act on and more often feel the pressure to suppress.  And it occurred to me that society does not like wildness.  It doesn’t trust wildness, and it certainly does not value or encourage wildness.

A few days later, I attended a symposium about gender parity in theatre, and playwright Tina Howe spoke about being very conscious that as a woman, when she is frisky or confrontational or wild in her writing, when she writes about ideas that society does not embrace and does not want to hear, she gets her wrists slapped (in particular, by the critics).  Which seems to be a tactic for taming.

I kept thinking about this quote, about how I feel wild inside and do not ever want to be tamed, to follow the path I’m supposed to follow or do the things I should do or want the things I’m told to want.  To feel neat, quiet feelings and never be emotionally messy and loud, and if I am, to quiet it down and clean it up fast, and if that doesn’t work then just hide it so no one can see.  To only say the things that are nice and acceptable and polite, and stuff down everything else.

Then I tweeted this quote which led to a conversation with several people on Twitter about times in our lives when we were wild.  And this got me thinking about what it means to be wild, and what the costs are of letting ourselves be tamed.

These are some times in my life I was wild:

* The night before my French final sophomore year of high school, I went to the local dive bar and got drunk on Sex on the Beaches.  I threw up that morning before I went to school and was on the verge of throwing up through the whole exam.  But I think I got an A anyway.

* The summer after my junior year, I told my Mom I was staying at my friend’s house and instead we went to Montauk with the guys we were seeing.  We sped down Old Montauk Highway in the pitch black night with the windows down and the sunroof open blasting “Ultraviolet” by U2 and my stomach did flip-flops like I was on a roller coaster.

* Senior year I cut Honors Physics class and went to the beach with two of my best friends in a red 1973 Alfa Romeo convertible.

* The same month, a group of friends including a guy I had a crush on pulled up in front of my house one night, and my crush asked me to dance in the middle of the street as “At This Moment” by Billy Vera and The Beaters played on his car radio, and I said Yes.

* Also that month, I quit my job at the tanning salon/juice bar/coffee house where I worked so I could go to a Bruce Springsteen concert because I wasn’t able to get my shift covered.  It was June of my senior year of high school, and a good month for wildness.

* When I was 19 I turned down an internship doing PR for garden supplies, and I spontaneously drove to Cape Cod in my 1972 BMW 2002 to live near the beach with my college roommate.

* At 24 I quit a job with a salary and benefits so I could wait tables and be an actress.

 

There were other times when I was wild on the inside, in quieter, less obvious ways that didn’t involve road trips, classic cars, and quitting jobs, but that still feel like some of the boldest, most daring risks I have taken.  Times when…

* I was strong when I didn’t think I could be

* I didn’t care what anyone else thought of me

* I didn’t give a shit about being “nice”

* I spoke up for myself and stood up for myself

* I had unwavering belief in myself

* I followed my heart even when it meant that things would be hard, uncomfortable, painful, or all of the above

* I rejected what I was supposed to do and did what I wanted to do

* I had messy feelings that I did not hide

 

But the boldest and most courageously wild thing I have ever done is write.  And put my thoughts and feelings and experiences and fears and hopes and self down in words.  Even when it scares me.  Writing is deceptively simple, running your pen across paper, clicking keys on your computer.  But it is scary and powerful and wild beyond taming.  As Anne Lamott said, “Tell the truth as you understand it.  If you’re a writer, you have a moral obligation to do this.  And it is a revolutionary act — truth is always subversive.”

What does being wild mean to you? Where do you feel the pressure to be tamed? When were you wild on the outside and what times were you wild on the inside?  What are your big & loud and small & quiet acts of wild rebellion?

Fight The Ball!

23 Nov

A few weeks ago, I was faced with the challenge of believing in myself even when I didn’t think I could anymore, when I was putting myself out there in what felt like every direction, and getting nothing back but rejection and radio silence.  I wanted to keep going, past the point where, historically, I would give up.  Past the point where, traditionally, I would curl up in a ball, on my bed or on the floor, whichever was closer at the time.  And cry.  And stop.  Trying.  Stop.  Doing.  What I hoped to do or longed to do or needed to do, because the rejection just hurt too much.

There’s nothing wrong with hanging out in a ball sometimes.  It can be very nurturing, and healing, and even exactly what I need, to take a time out, and allow myself to feel sad and disappointed and hurt and discouraged.  Just let it all out, and comfort myself and nurture myself and move through it.  But the problem is, I tend to get stuck in ball formation.  For a long, long time.  Like, one might say, at times, that I’ve spent years in various combinations and permutations of literal and metaphorical balls.  And while I’m there, I don’t believe in myself.  I believe the rejection.  And I stop trying, with whatever project or projects I was working on at the time, that I was so intensely passionate about and consumed by and determined to succeed with, pre-rejection.  I accept the apparent limitations of my life, painful as they may be, because that seems like the less painful alternative to pushing through the rejection.  Because doing that would require getting even more rejection.

And now for a word from my negative, critical, self-defeating internal voice:  I can’t do that.  I’m exhausted just thinking about it.  So don’t mind me, I’ll just be over here in the corner, curled up in my tight little ball.  Yeah, that’s cool, you can just step right over me.  Or step on me, whatever, I don’t care, nothing is ever going to work out anyway…

OK, now back to me.  As much as I appreciate her input, I’m pretty tired of listening to it.  Make that really tired.  So, a few weeks ago, when she started piping in with, “What’s the use?” this and “Why don’t you just give up?” that, and “Hey, doesn’t curling up in your favorite ball formation sound so good right now, I challenged myself to challenge that voice.  To reject the rejection that I was getting and keep going, anyway.  To believe in myself, past the point I had ever been able to believe in myself in the past.  To believe in myself when it didn’t feel like anyone else did (this wasn’t actually accurate as many people believe in me, but you know how that pesky, negative, critical, self-defeating internal voice just LOVES to distort the truth).  I made the choice to stay upright and moving forward, and to believe in myself even when I didn’t think I could.

And it was kind of touch and go there for a little while.  I was on uncharted ground and my legs were shaky.  They so wanted to give out and curl up.  But then, as I was wavering, my best friend started sending me emails and texts that said, “Fight the ball!”  And I started to catch that fighting spirit.  I started to feel feistier.  And then, when the rejections came in, instead of wanting to curl up into that ball I know and love and then on top of that, kicking myself when I was down, I found myself, in this other, feistier internal voice, defending myself against the rejections.  And I felt my belief in myself grow stronger and stronger, and not despite the rejections, but because of them.

And no, this was not the most fun way to strengthen my belief in myself.  I’d much prefer to grow my belief in myself while I receive glorious acceptance after acceptance.  But, that’s not how it happened for me, and I gotta work with what I’ve got/am getting in any given moment.

And then, some good things of the non-rejection variety happened!  (Imagine, that voice that said that that would never happen, LIED!)  While I want to enjoy them, I don’t want my self-esteem to get caught up in and tied to them either, because that, while temporarily better feeling, is just as much of a trap as tying your self-esteem to rejection.

So for now, I’ve made it past my historical wall and through my traditional limits.  I know that as I keep moving forward, I will encounter more walls, more limits, more seductive siren calls luring me to drop it all and curl up in a ball.  But now that I’ve proven to myself that I can do it, when the time comes, I will be well-armed with my feisty don’t mess with me internal belief in myself, and ready to fight the ball with all I’ve got.

What do you do when you want to curl up in a ball, call it a day/week/year, and give up?  How do you keep going, or get yourself out of the ball and back in the game?  What works for you, and what doesn’t?  When is curling up in a ball actually helpful, and when is it not?

The Believe In Yourself Even When You Don’t Think You Can Challenge

10 Nov

“Don’t stop believing, hold on to that feeling.” -Journey

Sometimes in my life, I feel like I am being tested.  Because I am getting the same lesson from so many different places, at so many different times, and in so many different ways, that it is just impossible for me to ignore it.  I have to pay attention to it.  I have to (sigh) learn my lesson.

Lately, I have been getting a lot of rejection.  On several different projects and ventures.  In my writing and in my business and in my life.  I am experiencing more rejection than I normally do.  A lot more.  And, on the bright side, this is because I am putting my writing, my business, and my life out there a lot more than I usually do.  Which is, usually, not a lot.  Because I don’t like rejection.  I actually have an extremely low tolerance for it.

But let me tell you, it does not feel good.  It feels really really really bad.  Especially because, even though I know on a logical, intellectual level that these rejections are not a rejection of me, as a person, that is not at all how it feels, on an emotional, rejected level.  And, I am at the point, or somewhat past the point actually, where, in the past, I would stop.  I would retreat.  I would curl up in a ball and tend to my emotional wounds, and maybe just…forget about that project or piece of writing or business venture or part of myself.  Maybe just…conveniently let it go.  Because it hurt too much to hold on and keep trying.  Because I couldn’t take anymore rejection.  So I might just go back to not trying that hard, not believing that much, in myself or what I could do, and smoosh myself into a smaller, more mediocre version of my life, and while I was there, smooshed in a ball, maybe I would chide myself for even hoping to believe for one second that more was possible.

So.  Here I am.  At that point, or slightly past it, where things are not feeling so good.  Where people are rejecting me (oops, I mean, my writing, my ideas, etc.) on what feels like a daily basis.  Or even worse, I am putting things out into a void, pouring my heart and soul into ideas and projects and just getting…the radio silence version of rejection.

However.  I am trying to break out of old patterns and limitations.  I am achy from being smooshed in a too small, disbelieving life.  My conditioning wants me to believe the rejection.  It is so convincing, and so seductive.  I can start to hear the (brash) internal voice piping in with, “See, what’s the point?  Why would you even think that this was possible?  You should just go back to that old way you know so well… don’t you like it in that cozy little ball?  It hurts so much less there!  Come on, do it do it do it!  Give up!”

And it occurred to me one day, when I felt the rejection sweeping in at me from so many different angles I felt like I was being pulverized by it, that I am being forced to raise my game.  I am being forced to have so much more internal strength than I’ve ever had before.  I am being forced to believe in myself when I do not think I can, when I don’t feel like I have it in me anymore, when all I want to do is make it not hurt and it seems like the only way to do that is to believe the rejection and give up.  And am being forced to cultivate a belief in myself that is so strong and fiery and fierce that it can persevere even in the face of this.

That I have a choice to go back to how I’ve always been, and put those ideas and projects and parts of myself in the back of a dark drawer and “forget” about them for a few years.  But I am achy from being smooshed, and I just can’t go back to that curled up ball again.  So I have to pick what’s behind Curtain #2, which is stoking the fire of my self-belief like you cannot believe!

Like most people, I get caught up in letting my self-image be determined by what others think of me.  So when I (I mean, my writing, my ideas, etc.) get rejected, that is what I believe.  But now I am being forced to doubt that, to say and feel and mean that I do not accept that as my internal reality.  That, no matter what is going on around me and no matter how many rejections or radio silences I get and no matter how bad it feels, I am going to make the radical decision to believe in myself anyway. I am going to stretch out and feel the full length of all my limbs, reaching for new possibilities, and refusing to accept the old limitations anymore.

What happens when your self-belief gets challenged?  How much rejection can you take, and when is your breaking point to revert to old patterns?  How you can break free from your former limitations and believe in yourself no matter what?  What strategies do you have for persevering even in the face of extreme rejection and disappointment?  Do you accept the rejection, or do you accept The Believe In Yourself Even When Don’t Think You Can Challenge? And post a comment if you’d simply like to pledge your belief in yourself, no matter what! I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on overcoming rejection and believing in yourself, please share your Journey 😉

Summer of Fun Mission ’09: All Revved Up & Raring To Go

6 Jul

Last week in my newsletter I wrote about my mission to have fun this summer.  When I wrote it, I had already started bringing fun to the forefront of my mind and therefore my life in some small ways, and I am happy to report that the Summer of Fun Mission ’09  is now officially in full swing.

I am realizing that you can’t just ignore fun or think about it like twice a year and assume it will just passively mosey on over in your general direction.  You really have to hold that intention to have fun front & center and let it inform your decisions as you move through your days.

This 4th of July weekend was evidence of the shift I’ve made towards embracing more fun.  Holidays are usually especially UN-fun for me.  I feel like there is so much pressure to do something fun and the expectations are so high, and as a result holidays have traditionally been disappointing/depressing for me.  Over the past several years, I’ve somewhat given up on holidays and often don’t even try to make any plans, and then the holiday rolls around and I find myself even more disappointed/depressed that I don’t have anything to do. 

This year, a friend invited me to her family friends’ home on the Jersey Shore for the 4th of July weekend, and whereas I would normally say no to anything out of my routine, this year, guided by my mission to have fun, I said YES instead, and I am so happy I did.  I treated myself to a new self-help book, bought a ticket on New Jersey Transit, and headed Down the Shore. 

The weekend was chock-ful of the quintessential summer fun I so miss from my childhood/college/20’s, like going to the beach, playing in a pool, hanging out on a patio in a lounge chair with my feet up, relaxing in a hammock (I have long had a theory that hammocks are the key to complete relaxation), and eating what felt like a never-ending procession of food coming off the grill.  The weekend culminated when another friend stopped by and drove us home, windows down, “Freefalling” by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers and various Steve Miller Band songs blasting on the radio, the wind whipping through my hair as the scenery whizzed by, totally college road-trip style. 

And the quintessential summer fun was supplemented by new experience fun, like riding on a motorcycle for the first time ever, another thing I said YES to (although, full-disclosure, I only said yes after extensive convincing).  Before I strapped my helmet on, I was instructed to lean into the turns instead of trying to stay upright, and every time the motorcycle turned a corner, I felt myself effortlessly leaning with it, acknowledging the metaphor that I wanted to lean into my life more and not sit up so rigidly, to just go with the flow and trust instead.

Another thing that has given a boost to my Summer Fun Mission is that I have been amping up my yoga practice and practicing more regularly which is fun in its own right, and also provides me with the energy and endorphins necessary to pursue fun like it’s my job.  And I have been listening to music I love pretty much non-stop.  Walking home from the subway tonight, my neighbor busted me as I was rocking out on the street to “I Want You Back” by the Jackson Five.  I had just taken a big breath in and was switching my bag to my other hand in preparation to launch out into full-out choreography mode, when he walked up behind me and said hi.  Feeling the need to explain I said, “Hi.  I’m rocking out,” and he responded, “Good for you!”  I love dance parties in any location – in my apartment, sitting in my chair at work, in the street, on the subway, and in my mind – and listening to a constant stream of energizing, uplifting music and rocking out wherever I feel so inspired provides an extra burst of fun to activities that are usually decidedly un-fun, like the rush hour subway commute.

Last week, one of my friends used the expression “all revved up” and it immediately became my new favorite expression.  How often do you feel “all revved up” about anything in your life, let alone your whole life?  How often do you leap out of bed in the morning “all revved up” to start your day, “all revved up” about the fun and excitement and adventure it will bring?  I have gone through long periods of time on auto-pilot where I couldn’t muster one single rev, even for things that once brought me joy.  That’s where I am coming to learn that fun is an active pursuit, a muscle you have to flex daily or else it will atrophy, an engine that you have to keep on revving or your vehicle will conk out on you.  And this requires constantly and deliberately placing people, places, and things in your life every single day that you are super-excited and all revved up about.

So how is your Fun Factor this summer?  Do you want to make fun your mission?  Or is it already in the forefront of your life?  Post a comment to share what fun you are infusing in your life, I’d love to hear from you!

OK Ladies & Gentlemen…start your engines!

Copyright © 2009 by Jennifer Garam

Happy 3rd Birthday Writeous Chicks! (Celebrate Good Times!)

10 Feb

Celebrate good times, come on!  (Let’s celebrate)

Celebrate good times, come on!  (Let’s celebrate)

There’s a party goin’ on right here

A celebration to last throughout the years

So bring your good times, and your laughter, too

We gonna celebrate your party with you

 Come on now!

     -Kool & The Gang, “Celebration”

This past Saturday night was the Girls Night Out Plus Hip-Hop and R&B Dance Party that was inspired by seeing the movie “NOTORIOUS” three weeks ago.  The GNO started out with dinner near Union Square, and one of my friends had booked a reservation at Gonzo, which was super-yummy and had the perfect festive atmosphere to kick off the celebratory night, which was cause for celebration merely because my friends and I, who are rarely able to get together with one another individually, and almost never as a group, were able to all coordinate our schedules at this one intersecting point of Saturday night. 

I was running late and when I arrived all my friends were already seated around the table, which was quite amazing considering that most NYC restaurants require parties to be complete before being seated.  But anyway, as I was scurrying to my seat apologizing for my delay, my friend hoisted up a chocolate-colored gift bag with deep purple tissue paper puffing out from it, and handed it to me.  “Happy Birthday!” she exclaimed.

My mind raced – my birthday is in September…my half-birthday is in a couple of weeks so maybe she was referring to that?  “For Writeous Chicks!” she explained, seeing my puzzlement.  Writeous Chicks was turning 3-years-old the next day, but I hadn’t thought to call it out and celebrate it.  But my friend had, and turned our already festive GNO into a full-out celebration. 

I opened my gift on behalf of Writeous Chicks, and it was a canister of Godiva Hot Chocolate and a couple of packets of flavored hot chocolate, because my friend and I are both dinah girls at heart, and know something that I discovered early on at about 5-years-old:  that on a cold winter night, nothing really beats going to your local diner for a grilled cheese sandwich, a hot chocolate with fluffy whipped cream from a can, and conversation with good friends.  The only thing that could possibly compete is recreating that scenario at home so you don’t have to venture out into the cold at all, and upgrading the hot chocolate to Godiva.

After we completed our delicious meal (I split a Caesar salad and the rigatoni with homemade meatballs with my friend sitting to the left of me, which we decided was the perfect meal to give us the required sustenance for a night of hip-hop dancing, but not too much to give us stomach aches and/or put us in a post-dinner food-coma, thus severely limiting our dance moves.  It turned out, it was the perfect balance), the busboys and waitress cleared our cleared plates, and the waitress set down small dessert plates for everyone.  “Are we getting dessert or coffee?” I asked, thinking that the protocol of this particular restaurant was just to automatically place plates/saucers down for everyone after the meal.

After a chorus of mumbled “Uh, I don’t knows…” from my friends, the waitress arrived with the crispy meringue praline ice cream sandwich sporting a sparkling candle, and set it down in front of me.  They had requested it when they were all assembled before I got to the restaurant, so I guess sometimes it pays to be late and miscalculate your Saturday night subway commute, allotting just enough time to get to your destination on time if the subway slides into the station as you set your foot on the platform, and not accounting for, say, non-rush hour infrequent schedules and weekend service delays.

I joyously beamed at my alighted ice cream sandwich, so happy to be celebrating Writeous Chicks’ birthday for the very first time, complete with a gift, a decadent dessert with a candle sprouting out of it, and the opportunity to look into the flame and make a wish(es) before blowing it out. 

After dinner we moved on down to our next destination and onto the dance floor.  More of our friends showed up and joined us in waves, until we were more than 10 ladies on the dance floor, shaking it from the HIP to the HOP.  The DJ played the perfect mix of old school and new school hip-hop and R&B, and we threw our hands in the air for Naughty by Nature’s “Hip Hop Hooray,” and stepped on down memory lane to “Here Comes the Hotstepper” by Ini Kamoze.  The DJ even took my request for “Real Love” by Mary J., and dancing to it brought me all the way back to dancing to that same song in the summer of 1993 with my high school best friends at The Pinewood in Riverdale, where you had to be “18 to party, 21 to drink,” but even though I didn’t turn 18 until the fall, I had already attended my college’s summer orientation and received my school id, which, if you had asked me that last summer before going away to school, was the best investment of college.  Wearing my standard summer of ’93 uniform – body suit/Daisy Dukes/faux Doc Martens/beaded choker – my friends and I mimicked this dance a couple guys in our class did involving taking big exaggerated steps, sticking your arms straight out in front of you, and alternately flipping your palms up and down, and sang along as Biggie came on with the breakdown:  “Look up in the sky!  It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no it’s Mary J., ain’t a damn thing changed!”  And we would act surprised like:  Is it a bird?  Is it a plane?  No, it’s Mary J.!  Celebrating in that way that comes so much easier when you are in high school, when every Friday night is a cause for celebration, and when you are in your last summer before college, where every single night is a cause for celebration.

This past weekend, my friends and I turned a regular old Saturday night in February 2009 into a cause for celebration, celebrating our group of friends and the joys of new school and old school hip-hop and R&B, by taking the time to plan a Girls Night Out when we are at an age where people are hectically busy, usually over-committed and over-extended, often tired and depleted, and schedules don’t seamlessly or easily fit together anymore.  It took work, pro-active effort, and planning to make it happen, but it was more than worth it for the joy of adding a splash of festivity and a dash of celebration to regular old winter night.  And my fabulous friends took it to the next level by calling out the event of the 3rd birthday of Writeous Chicks, and mixing in an extra-special celebration for it, and for having these wonderful friends with which to celebrate the joys and accomplishments of life, and to bring out the celebration and joy in the everyday occurrences of life as well, I am so very grateful.

It is my experience that we do not celebrate nearly enough – we don’t always (and sometimes even rarely, or never) call out and acknowledge our accomplishments and milestones – both big and small – and share the celebration with our friends and families, and we don’t have time to have a party for “no reason” when “nothing special” is going on.  We can maybe celebrate the big things, like anniversaries and holidays and birthdays, but then trudge along for months at a time in a celebration deficit.  Soooooooo….

Is there something you can celebrate – this month?  this week?  today?  right now?  Something you feel extra-great about that you want to call your friends and tell them to meet you at a diner, or a restaurant, or a coffee shop, or on a dance floor, to celebrate?  Or something that you think is no big deal and brush off, but when you start to think about it more, you realize that it IS a big deal, and you are proud of yourself, if you let yourself be, and it absolutely IS reason to celebrate?  Or, could you have a party for no reason at all, where YOU are the something special?

Make a list of everything you have to celebrate in your life RIGHT NOW, of everything you could possibly celebrate, and then flip through your calendar, pick a date, pick a time, AND HAVE A PARTY!  And forget the pencil – write it down with a brightly colored Sharpie!

Happy Celebrating To You, Happy Celebrating To You, Happy Celebrating Dear Yooou-ou, Happy Celebrating to You!

See you at the party!

xoxo,

Jen

Copyright © 2009 by Jennifer Garam