I am not a big fan of taking photos... of myself. Never have been. So what do I do? I set up a photoshoot with a friend who is great at taking photos and I push through it... looking uncomfortable the whole way. Why do I do that to myself?
Over the last few weeks it has become increasingly clear that no matter how successful I am in business, at home, with my children... if I don't get reallllllly comfortable with the uncomfortable things my life will not be as fulfilling as I desire. I remember plopping on a couch feeling the whole weight of my body, my spirit and my story bang into the cushions. I remember looking up through tears of glass and saying, "Either we are gonna find out what is going on with me or I am jumping out of the window." That was at minimum 3 years ago. Erva Baden (she is dope. You should definitely check her out.) sat across from me and held my hand through unraveling decades of trauma.
That was three years ago and I am reminded of an old church adage..."Another level, another devil", except this time (and likely every time) the devil is ME. NO! I am not saying that I am the devil! Relax! Put your annointing oil away and breathe. What I mean is this: with every new level I ascend, there is a new level of ME I need to conquer, love and understand.
Some things need to be conquered, processed, expressed and stood upon. Some things need love, care, soothing, shit, a hug! Then there are some things that need to be understood, validated, heard.
I hate this place. Hate being defined as really, Really, REALLY not liking something. I hate this place because it forces me to move to and THROUGH so many hurtful places that I instinctually retreat from. Who WANTS to stick their hand in a fan? Who WALKS toward the fire? Even the Pheonix would retreat if it could.
So because I don't want to, I write... about some of the hardest, most destructive and defining moments of my life. The lump in my through tells me I am moving in the right direction. Until then.
New challenge: to be open, vulnerable, and expressed.
I have been painting or creating just about all my life...
Even the 15 years or so, from about 20 to 35 years old, when I put the paintbrushes, charcoal and canvas down and stopped creating through visual art, I was creating programs, curriculum, and events at work. There was this incessant need to create, to make something new that I hadn't seen before... to see what could be made from the components given to me that invigorated me.
It was kind of like the "When life gives you lemons" saying... I would, throughout the years, take what life threw my way and do all I could to stay afloat and make SOMETHING, anything, out of it that resembled a palatable creation. Sometimes the creation was too bitter and others it was just right but, all in all, my creative drive was always there. That is not to say that it was always easy to create, to get in the zone.
I remember dark times, very dark times, when the most I could create was a dark room with me on the couch and tears, lots of tears. There is a strange thing that happens when you are depressed (and I was- very much so), the music you select (let me correct that) the music I (underlined "I") selected was somber, sad, dark, melancholy... I couldn't talk about what was going on with me. Hell, I didn't really understand what was going on with me and it was like the songs helped express it for me. The songs helped me cry more which seems like a bad thing but, I have learned in the almost 20 years since that time, it is good for the soul; the actual expression of trauma, pain and grief. Of course, I had no idea that is what was going on or that trauma, and grief were the culprits but the songs helped none the less.
What did she say?...
Yea. You heard me right,...Before you dismiss it, judge it, or try to figure out what Kool-Aid I drank today, let me explain. Please. Please let me explain. First, let me be sure to share that I am not a yoga expert, practitioner or even a reasonably good yoga student. Second, know that there is a method to my madness... I am sure you are wondering how long I will take to get to it already!
sI have practiced yoga off and on since my now 16 year old son was born. Initially it was used as a way to relax and reset my system. My pregnancy was especially amazing and stressful at the same time. I really found peace and a place to restore my sanity even if only for the hour during the classes. As I returned to yoga over the years, whether in a class or via YouTube with my daughter following along (that was fun and cute!), there has always been this one concept that I have heard repeated over and over... "Strength and softness", "be strong and soft", or some other variation. Coming from a family of strong black women, (my grandmother raised 5 children solo for the most part while building a business, my aunt runs a business while raising children and keeping a home for her and her husband, my mother raised me as a single mother building her business, and the list goes on and on) it was not a question of what type of woman I would be. There was a single phrase I remember my grandmother drilling into me over the years:
There comes a time in every soul's life when the self begs the question... "What I ought... or what I AM?."
Those are the words I wrote on January 17, 2017... I wrote those words then stopped writing... until today.
It seems the answer to that question was too heavy for me at the top of this year. I am not so sure that it is any less difficult now or if I am just up for the challenge of seeing what the answer might be... or maybe it is in pondering the question that I can figure out the oughts and AMs of my life. Are there overlaps? Things that I ought to do that are also part of who I AM? I hope I am not getting too deep...
So, I was encouraged to read "The ONE Thing", by the founder of Keller Williams, Gary Keller... through this amazing connection with The Circle of Greatness, I was on a call with Sean Gagnon, owner of The Abs Company (and a dozen other companies)... and I posed the question, "How do you prioritize when there is movement in many areas of your work?"... and then he shared about this book, The ONE Thing.
Now I am only on the 3rd chapter and there are questions that are popping up all over the place. I have learned that magic is not found in answers so much as in the right questions. Any question can get an answer; the brilliance lies in asking the right questions for the right reasons at the right times...
I shared my thoughts with Sean via email and there he goes again!! Posing the right question!... here it is,... are you ready?
"What is the ONE THING by which doing everything else becomes easier or unnecessary.
BOOM!!!!!! ...the one I couldn't live without...! I told Sean in my email that my passions lie in visual art (making stuff...painting, greeting cards, etc.) and personal development, coaching, speaking, etc. ... and he goes and says ...the one you couldn't live without. I thought I was doing something extra deep by sharing briefly how I put down the paintbrush for over 16 years only to pick it back up (through the power of personal development) and my skills are event better!... but then he says...the one you couldn't live without... and I am floored.
I sit with it a bit, ... the one I couldn't live without,... I think about those 16+ years, and ponder what wasn't diminished?, what part of me wasn't silenced? I think of high school and 'The Knowledge Fest' picnic I lead and hosted. Preaching (yup... that is a topic for another blog post), and teaching; encouraging and healing...the one you couldn't live without...
Then Sean writes...
I think at the end of the day we all know what our ONE THING is. We just have to have the courage to go after it. -- Sean Gagnon, via email Jan. 17th, 2017 (highlighted for emphasis)
...and I begin to ponder...what would require courage for me to go after...? Becoming a personal development leader.
There. I said it. Oh, shit. I said it.
Keisha "I Make Everything Beautiful" Whatley
...how something can look so simple and uninspiring at first glance. As I gear up to do my traditional review of the year: what have I accomplished? What was on my list of 25 (at the close of 2015) to get done this year? How many did I complete?... as I get ready to do this, I am shocked by the number of things that were so very important to me at the close of 2015 that, due to experiences, growth and just plain ol' a-ha moments, were not as important or priority by the close of this year.
Growth has a way of doing that. For instance, increasing my income was not on the list as an outright expression of a goal for this year, yet in working towards all of the other goals and always putting my best self out there in the world... BOOM, BAM, BIP *smile* (I am still Keisha...haha!), here I am. Purchasing a home was not on my list. It was a future goal, one I knew I was in the process of manifesting through all of the other steps I was taking...but if you would have told me that we would be in our own home that is more than twice the size of the one that I was grateful to rent just 14 months ago, I would have shaken my head...
Anywho, I say all that to share how important having goals is... to our hearts, souls and minds. I also share all that to encourage us all to simultaneously be open to possibilities that we can no more foresee than we can know what tomorrow is going to bring.
With you in creation,
P.S. (We are hosting a Create 2017 Artist Jam Session right before New Years Eve... join us. Interested? Contact us for details.)
t is always exciting to be stretched beyond your limits of knowledge, experience and know-how. Recently, I have been provided amazing opportunities to create illustrations and designs for clients for new applications (books, products, etc.) and I have spent some time learning the ins and outs of design licensing. 2015 is sure to become the year of laying a solid foundation for Custom Arts Studio and the future I envision for it.
As I look back over 2014, it is absolutely mind blowing how many seemingly small steps have been taken that have opened the doors to many new clients, experiences and projects! In addition to meeting new portrait clients, I have also met authors, business owners and visionaries who need design support, imagery and creativity to bring their work to life. I am humbled constantly at how my work and my talent assists them with reaching their goals.
This year, I will have completed 12 portraits in The Women of Inspiration series which I am so excited about. This project will be a breath of fresh air and a visual affirmation to so many. I am in the process of creating 3 illustrations for an author which has been an exciting journey. Bringing his characters to life and working with him has been great. Portrait requests are funneling in and design clients are starting to renew their sense of awe with their own projects. It is amazing how clients will find you who align with your passion and focus.
Well, I just wanted to share what's been going on at Custom Arts Studio.
Custom Arts Studio... your ideas, our technique.
It has been about a month since the last Men @ The Round Table event was held at The Black Writers Museum in the Germantown section of Philadelphia... I have realized that hearing from and listening to the stories and thoughts of black men has transformed me from the inside out. I am aware that compassion, care and true love go a long way to buffering me from succumbing to the effects of living in the sludge of male oppression, disappointment, lowered expectations and just plain anger. Anger towards myself and anger towards men.
I just spoke with a friend of mine today about the transformation (my favorite word) in my own life as it relates to my father with whom I had never had a real relationship prior to September 2013. There, in the midst of that month, came a metamorphosis of pain into forgiveness, apprehension into appreciation, resentment into love and today, as a grown woman with children of her own, I can say that my relationship with him is giving me what I longed for and so much more. I shared with my friend that I get early morning text messages from him about how beautiful I am, how amazing I am and I can feel his pride in what I have become... To any man who is unsure what his contribution can be or should be to his daughter (or son for that matter), know this- that this 35 year old woman is being nurtured as an adult in ways that I never thought possible and it is making a profound difference. Imagine what difference you can make early on!
Even in the sense of looking to a mate or potential mate for attention, validation or love, the motivation is not internally driven by a hole in my heart. I am complete, whole, lacking nothing- not just because my relationship with my father is whole but also because my relationship with ME is whole. It is in light of the dissection of all of these areas of my life that the Men @ The Round Table project could be born. The birth pains have been deep and severe but the joy of new life is sweeter than ever imagined.
Well, I tell ya. When you ask for understanding... sometimes it brings to light things you never thought of. So, I created the Men @ The Round Table events to learn about the affects of racism, feminism, incarceration, absentee fathers, etc. on African American men in the US... What I have gotten out of these discussions has far surpassed anything I would have imagined. I have been confronted by myself... yes, an African American woman/ female,... confronted, sometimes surprised, sometimes horrified, by own ideas, thoughts, preconceptions about African American men. I knew they were there... some at least.
In sitting at a conference table with black men from all walks of life, senior citizens, young men, professionals, students,...and listening to their stories, expressions, confusion and frustration, I have been confronted by my own frustration, anger, disappointment and general disdain for black men. I have also been confronted by my heart for them; the knowing in my soul that I love them, that they hold the key to so much in my world. I found myself holding back snappy comments like "Just be straight up, man, and stop trying to look so tough." and "You are so full of shit." Simultaneously, I asked them questions about their life and what those experiences did to them on the inside with genuine care and concern.
These events and experiences have been transforming me from the inside out... Much of my work is about transfromation. I figure, why create art, paintings, drawings and crafts, unless they will challenge, inspire or ignite a fire in someone...? I figure that in order to create works to transform black men and women's relationships, I must delve into the depths of all that is REAL for me... the good, the bad and the ugly... sometimes the hideous.
Keisha makes "Everything Beautiful" that she comes into contact with... won't you contact her and see what blossoms?