No More Hashtags

No More Hashtags

To say the last week has been gut-wrenching and maddening is the understatement of the year. I created this blog as a platform to share what I am passionate about. And if you’ve followed me from the very start back in 2018, or you’ve ever read any of my posts, it’s likely that you’ve become somewhat familiar with my viewpoints on racism. In fact if you’ve spent any time on my page at all you would know that I am married to a black man. You’d also know that when I started this blog, I clearly stated on my “about” page that the entire point of me sharing my words is in my website name: relentless Sarah. So here’s a little excerpt about the guiding principal behind what I write and why.

“The title, relentless Sarah, stems from the direction I want to be moving in. It is my mantra for how I choose to live my life, and one that I take very seriously. Every day, I strive to be relentless. In my daily pursuit of my passions. To be relentless in loving others. Relentless in my advocacy for standing up for my beliefs. Relentless in sharing kindness and generosity. And to relentlessly spread the truth.”

The past week has sent me into a spiral of self-reflection, consumption of media (both good and bad), deep conversations with friends/family who do and don’t look like me, and research on how I can do better. Or perhaps do more. As I watched the world unfold this past week on the news and through my timelines this deep pit formed in my stomach. Am I doing all I can? What more can I do to help? I’m praying Lord, but it doesn’t feel like enough. How can I stay silent and still when so many of my brothers and sisters are hurting? I’ve donated, signed petitions, passed along helpful resources that have been enlightening to me and hopefully will be to another, showered my black husband and family with love, affection and support. But none of that has made a change.

I believe that in life, we are given gifts, or talents, predispositions, whatever you’d like to call them. And these gifts are anointed over us so that we may hone and utilize them to the best of our abilities. And as with gifts, they are meant to be given away, freely. From a young age, I’ve known what my gift was, and I’ve been reminded of it over and over again. My gift is my words, and the ability I have to articulate my thoughts, experiences and feelings sometimes before I even realize what I’m saying. Writing for me is a supernatural experience. Every time I write I’m reminded that my words and message are bigger and more far reaching than me.

Simply because we’ve been given a gift and know how to use it (most days) doesn’t mean that sharing your gift is easy. In fact most of what I share comes only after a back and forth inner battle to be vocal. But regardless of the fear I have to push back to speak up, I show up anyway. So here I am today, showing up. Speaking up and speaking out, because I have been compelled to do so.

I have friends on the front lines in D.C., Dallas, Houston, Austin, LA and New York marching for change, but that’s not where I’m called. I’m called right here to share my words in the hope and faith that they will benefit someone else. Right now, black people are hurting. This doesn’t negate your hurt and your struggles, but please don’t try and understand a pain you’ve never experienced and never have to. I’ve built a life with my husband. And while I have shared some of the negative and racist experiences, I can’t even begin understand and sympathize with my husband fully, because I’ve NEVER experienced what he lives through on a daily basis. I don’t know what it feels like to be racially profiled. To be called a “thug” simply because my skin is darker than yours. To fear for my life if I get pulled over. To be undervalued, underserved, under-protected and under-supported.

Last week I wrote a poem in reaction to the senseless murder of George Floyd. And I have read those words daily as a reminder to myself of what I must do in response. If you haven’t read it, I hope you will now. If you have already read it, I encourage you to read it again, because with each read, it rings truer and truer.

No More Hashtags

Using my words is more than writing a blog post or poem. Yes, I hope my words are able to facilitate conversations. Yes, I hope my words are able to offer a new or slightly different perspective. Yes, I hope my words drip with hope and encouragement. But I also hope they are more than that. I pray my voice joins in the chorus of enlightenment to affect change.

The reason that I have continued to reread this piece is because of the call to action in the last stanza. While justice can no longer be served for George Floyd, I’ve been mulling on how I can continue to honor and remember his name and the countless others before him. And this is what I came up with.

Screen Shot 2020-06-03 at 1.47.19 PM
No More Hashtags Shirt

I wanted to create something that would be a catalyst for dialogue. That when people see it, they will either open up a conversation about why I have so many names written on my chest or see it and know they are not fighting alone. Shying away from difficult and uncomfortable conversations is not it. Staying silent in the presence of evil is not it. Doing nothing when our brothers and sisters are in tremendous pain is not it.

While this post is an obvert nudge to do something, take some time to think about where and how your service can be most effective. If you’re a photographer, use your photos. If you’re a social media whiz, share resources and information. If you’re an artist use your art. If you’re a great purchaser, buy and donate necessary items for your local protestors. If you have margin, donate to one of the many organizations working tirelessly to affect change. Or maybe your eyes are truly beginning to open and your time is best spent right now reading, learning and soaking in all you can.

We are so quick to throw the word “love” around. But love is more than an emotion, love is a verb. So if you love your neighbor, friend, co-worker, relative, community members, show it.

xxx

Sig

If you are interested in purchasing a shirt, simply click on the link at the bottom of the photo and it will take you to the purchase page. I will not be taking individual orders, as I want you to be able to receive your shirt as quickly as possible. I am not making any money off of these shirts. All proceeds will be donated to the Black Lives Matter Campaign.

*I welcome dialogue about this topic and encourage any questions, comments and conversations. However, I will not tolerate hate or name calling. Just to come out ahead of this, please don’t comment or leave a message that “All Lives Matter.” Of course they do, but you’re missing the point entirely by focusing more on what you want to say rather than being open to listen. All lives cannot and do not matter until Black Lives Matter. 

Photo credit: Picheta, Z., 2020. Thousands Around The World Protest George Floyd’s Death In Global Display Of Solidarity. [online] CNN. Available at: <https://edition.cnn.com/2020/06/01/world/george-floyd-global-protests-intl/index.html&gt; [Accessed 3 June 2020].

I See You

I See You

I wrote a poem the other day as an attempt to vocalize the undercurrent of emotions swirling beneath my surface. And while it helped to isolate and identify my feelings, as time has passed I realize I’ve only scratched the surface. I wanted to take a moment to not only honor what I’m feeling but to also connect with you as you might be experiencing some of these same emotions. 

I see you

First of all, can we all take a deep breath? I mean a legit, deep-belly breath that makes sound as you exhale all that built up tension right on out of your body. 

Breathe in and out…

It’s interesting how noticing something as routine and ordinary as your breath can catalyze such a shift in how your body physically feels. Let’s talk a little more about our breath, the life giving necessity that our body does on autopilot. Of course our breath is vital to our existence and like a well oiled machine, our bodies naturally breathe in and out. But the breaths we take are efficient; just enough air in to function and just enough air out not to wind ourselves. Our natural state of being runs on self preservation…essentially we operate in the realm of just enough. But if I take a conscious moment, or several, and reprogram what comes so naturally, I can feel a physical response. My heart beat slows, my chest rises and falls more slowly and my muscles truly relax. 

Let’s take this a level further and circle back around to my water analogy. If you’ve ever been in the ocean before, you’ve felt waves. Now if you’ve ventured out further than where your feet can touch, chances are you may have experienced an undercurrent. If you haven’t, consider yourself fortunate because getting caught in one is a scary scenario. 

When I was 12 my family took a vacation to Hawaii, so naturally we spent the majority of our time at the beach. This wasn’t my first experience with swimming in the ocean, so I ventured out. Deep enough where my feet were nowhere near able to touch or even find the bottom. I was enjoying what you would call body surfing, or letting the waves propel you forward while you float. I was thoroughly enjoying myself until I was caught between two crashing waves. 

Water rushed over me, sending me down beneath the water’s surface. Several full body tumbles later and I was completely discombobulated. I began swimming towards what I thought was the water’s surface only to realize I was in the middle of the ocean, unsure which direction was up. Frantically, I began swimming in the other direction trying to navigate the tumultuous waters. 

Another dead end. 

My heart was racing, my arms and legs were coursing with muscle tension, my breath was running on empty and my mind was terrified. 

What if I can’t reach the surface? 

What happens when my breath gives out? 

Can you still be revived after your lungs fill with water? 

After twenty more seconds of swimming in circles and what felt like my final few breaths, my mind stilled. I stopped thrashing and fighting the current. I relaxed my body completely. And you know what? I began floating towards the surface. 

I emerged still slightly panicked, but relieved to have survived. Feeling out of complete control of your life is chilling to the core. I eventually paddled my way back to the sand and collapsed in exhaustion.

But my adolescent self learned a valuable lesson. The waves are going to come. And keep coming. They’re not worth fighting against. Better to be still and ride them out. In a panicked state, I only hurt myself and almost jeopardized my energy and breath. 

It’s been awhile since I’ve been back to the ocean, but I remember that experience like I’m still covered in sand and saltwater. Yet during a time in our country, where the waves are crashing hard, our bodies naturally go into survival mode. We operate from a panicked and frenzied place and only further succumb to the waves. And I’m writing this from a person who learned this lesson the hard way, and even now has sunk beneath the waves. 

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been anxious. Felt the physical, invisible weight sitting on my chest, making it difficult to take in a full breath. Felt the haze that’s settled in over my mind making it difficult to think clearly. Felt the swirling of thoughts and emotions tumble in the emotional undercurrent; tossed around so viscously that I find it difficult to sleep at night. And then when the exhaustion takes over, finally, I’m not able to fully rest. I feel the overarching web of grief that we’re all collectively experiencing in one way or another. 

But I’m here to tell you, everything you’re feeling and experiencing is valid. But I don’t want the initial fear and panic to sit with you long-term. When we are in our survival mode, we are limiting and hindering ourselves. We are not able to process and receive information in a clear headspace, therefore our reactions/responses will differ and stem from a place of fear.

Don’t feel pressure to respond to this situation in a particular way. Don’t feel guilty for reading a “how to be productive from home” guide only to realize that none of those tips and suggestions are helpful. Don’t feel less than for not doing a daily at home workout. Don’t feel shame for not shopping completely healthily. Don’t feel embarrassed for snacking more than usual. Don’t feel lazy for slowing down and watching (or binging) a new Netflix show, I’m talking about you, Tiger King.

This time that has been placed in our laps does not have to be more productive, more purposeful, more creative, or more anything. In fact, I would encourage you to use this time in the opposite manner. For me what has felt the most beneficial and healing has been slowing down. Less hustle and bustle, less time on social media, less time in front of the television, less time rushing from one event/task to the next. Less time planning and more time being in the present moment. 

If painting is what helps you cope, then by all means, but don’t feel like you have to produce art daily for your day to count. If going for a run gets your heart pumping and makes you still feel connected to nature, then go for it, but don’t run because you’re afraid of putting on weight. If watching an episode or three, of mindless television helps your mind stop reeling, enjoy it, but please don’t use it as a bandaid to ignore your thoughts and emotions. 

There is no right way to respond. However, I truly believe that if we slow down our breath, encourage our bodies to relax, and choose to fill our days with at least one choice or activity that brings us joy, we’ll all come out of this on the other side in a better place than where we started. I also recognize and acknowledge that I’m writing this from my living room with working electricity and internet. I’m not diminishing the severity or ferocity or suggesting that times are not difficult. I’m merely sharing a life shaping experience that helped to reshape my perspective when responding to struggle. 

It’s my hope that this message is able to bring you peace and hope, even if only temporarily. You’re not in this alone. I see you. 

xxx

Sig
P. S. Since most of us are confined to our couches, I figured I’d upload a photo of me sitting on one of my favorite couches. In a field. In my wedding dress. Just a little different from what my daily routine looks like now, right?!

No. 46 – Sun and Rain

No. 46 – Sun and Rain

The sky opens up

And soft tears pour down from it

Gently misting the earth below.

A cacophony of droplets

Dances in my ears.

Scents of the earth

Welcome my nose.

A light opens up slowly

Illuminating the grey clouds

Brightening the sky

Yet never revealing its light.

Rain and sun

Existing together

Yet separate somehow.

Reminding me of the human spirit:

Crying out in pain

While still shining.

Mourning and worshipping,

Peaceful and tumultuous.

There is a season for all things.

Especially simultaneous sun and rain.

Author’s Note: I find that the more energy I invest in the present, the more I receive back. Yet, it’s increasingly difficult to disconnect from the noise around me. My ears have been so tuned to hear noise rather than notes. 

It has only been recently, in moments I physically remove myself that my ears begin to truly open. Overwhelmed with music all around me. Soft melodies, intended to be the soundtrack of life. Only audible when intentionally dialed in. Songs of peace, contentment, encouragement. Uplifting without utterance of a single syllable. You know exactly of which I speak if you’ve ever been comforted by the rain. 

Wishing you all time to be fully present and hear the sweet symphony playing around you. 

xxx 

Sig

No. 45 – This Season

No. 45 – This Season

The cool, gentle breeze

dances all around me

cloaking me in an unseen embrace

comforting

reassuring

fulfilling

joining me in my solitude

carrying the loneliness away

in its arms

while wrapping me up in another

cupping my face

tenderly steeling my faith.

Rejuvenated by the presence

so palpable and thick

my spirit and my face lift up,

skyward

a welcome greeting from the sun

meets my skin with a warmth

that penetrates to the depths of my soul.

winter is over.

spring is here and with it,

a season of flourishing growth.

my lips spread into a smile

for it is this season I have been waiting.

Author’s Note: So I heard that it’s National Poetry Month…? What! How did I not know this was a thing until now. So fun fact about me, poetry was actually my first exposure to writing when I was younger. I used to LOVE writing poetry. Now naturally when I was six, most of my poems rhymed or were accompanied by a tune I made up. I’d like to think I’ve strengthened that muscle since then.

For me, poetry has always been a refreshing creative outlet. To me, poetry is painting with words, and each reader gets to use the colors you’ve laid out to paint their own picture as they read. It’s beautiful.

Lately, all my thoughts have turned into poetry. Walking to my car, on my lunch break, sipping coffee in the morning. Maybe it’s the fresh spring air, or maybe I just needed the creative outlet more than I realized, because the past few weeks, I’ve written a poem a day. Sometimes even several.

This little piece came to me as I was sitting out on my patio, soaking in the spring sun. Rereading it now brings me right back to that moment in time. Peaceful, refreshing and full of promise. That’s what Spring feels like to me. A time for new growth, A time for shedding those winter layers and allowing yourself to blossom. It is my hope that these words do just that for you too.

xxx

Sig

 

No. 44 – Rest

No. 44 – Rest

Need a mid-week pick-me-up? How about a mid-chapter pick-me-up? That’s been me these past few weeks. I’ve been weary friends. Emotionally, mentally, and physically fatigued.

In this fast-paced society we live in were told we should always be striving for more. More work, mo money, more accomplishments, more self-care . And I agree, a stagnant life is a life unfulfilling. But at some point, I can’t take any more of anything. Trying to balance a full-time job, full-time marriage, side hustling, and writing a blog while also trying to better myself by working out, and stimulating my mind is exhausting. I got tired just typing it all out. When you’re in a season of growth it’s not easy, it’s uncomfortable and often tiring. I’m not writing this to say, don’t be so tired. Because reality is, sometimes we need to be tired as we work towards a better version of ourselves. I am writing this to acknowledge you in your season of striding.

A few days ago on my lunch break while sitting in my car with my windows open, absorbing the fresh air, I penned this love note to myself. And after writing it, I read it several more times that day and the next few days after that. And each time I read it, I feel rejuvenated. Its a reminder that even in the process of running after our dreams, we still need to prioritize rest. Not quitting, not abandonment, rest. So it is my sincere hope that these words encourage and rejuvenate you in the same way they have done for me.

When weary, dear one,Rest.

But never cease.

For there will be many times

Your aching muscles will be screaming

At you to give up

To lay down and wait for death.

But never cease.

Pause and catch your breath

Remember why you started

And fan that flame as you press onward

Gaze forward, head high

But never cease.

In those moments of defeat

You will gain your inner strength

Fortitude that is powerful enough

To propel you forward

When you believe there is nothing left.

When you grow weary time and time again,

Rest, but never cease.

In short, grab a coffee, or in my case a chai tea from Epic Gelato and take a moment to rest.