Summer Love

Wine Out Of Water Summer            Every summer has a love story.

There isn’t anywhere else in the world I want to be during the summer season in the western hemisphere than in New York City. The bright blue skies and warm air do something to my heart that I cannot describe. NYC itself is like a bad lover. Summer swoops in and takes me off my feet; my eyes light up like the stars and I can’t stop grinning madly. It’s enough to make me forget that only six weeks prior I had been shoveling through feet of snowfall to get out of my house, and that a mere twelve weeks from now I will be cursing the cold again as I pull my jacket around me just a little tighter while trying not to lose my life by slipping and falling on black ice. All I can see are the flowers, all I can feel is the warmth, all I want is the salty sea air in my nostrils, music in my ears, and the ability to stand barefooted in the earth. Summer brings me these things. True, I can have this in several other places, and once I tried my best to leave. But living in NYC spoils you for many things. Sucky public transportation that doesn’t actually suck, pizza and gyros at 2AM, and the ability to let go of my inhibitions and simply be myself because this city is huge and no one cares if you cry or wear pajamas or your favorite cosplay on the train because no one is paying that much attention to you …

When New York City calls your name, you come home.

So I returned, the prodigal lover, with all my battle scars in the sweet, sweet summer air, penitent for having left yet grateful for having had the chance.

My most favorite summer in NYC was the summer of 2002. I’d just gotten here from Trinidad where I’d grown up and spent most of my life. I’d gotten a job at a local discount clothing store in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn, and was living with a family, a mother and her son, whom I had never previously met and to whom I was not related. My days and nights were filled with equal parts excitement and dread. I’d never spent more than a couple nights away from my parents’ home, so being alone and completely on my own with no chance of going back was as terrifying a prospect as it was liberating. I never slept. The sun didn’t ever seem to set completely and Brooklyn was perpetually noisy. I would begin my first semester of university soon but for the moment, I was very small in a very big world I’d only ever seen before on television. I visited the church where I was baptized, went to Mass there and was astonished by the aesthetics of the building and the grounds. I considered trying to find my older sister and her mom, but reconsidered it because I figured they must have moved away from that address by now. I went to work everyday and never called in. On my days off, I would explore as much of the city as I could. I got a subway map and would randomly ride a bus line or the train to the last stop, get out and explore. One of those bus rides got me lost in the neighborhood of Brighton Beach, which is close to the beach, but the bus as I soon discovered doesn’t go directly to the beach, and though I could hear the waves and smell the salt, I couldn’t find the seashore. I got a ride back to Flatbush with a trucker named Chuck (yes, Chuck owned a truck…thank you, peanut gallery!) who gave me his worn out map book of the Five Boroughs, and warned me to never, ever take rides from truckers.

I went to backyard parties and concerts with my coworkers, got my first tattoo, got promoted to “Assistant Floor Manager” (which meant when the Manager went on her extended lunch breaks I got to hold the cordless phone. I also closed the store more often than not because I was the only person who could ever account for every single pair of unsold jeans in the place, thanks to my photographic memory. Apparently “doing inventory” had never been less stressful!). I hung out with that one coworker who lived in Bed-Stuy and whose mother gave her money to buy pot and us permission to smoke and hang out on the fire escape on the condition that we didn’t draw attention to ourselves nor cause the cops to come to her door. I still have no idea how I got home some nights.

Then there was BJ.

Every Summer Has A Story...

He walked into the store one day and upon seeing him I simply couldn’t catch my breath. I hid behind a clothing rack and chided myself for blushing so hard, but I couldn’t help it he was so gorgeous. He saw me hiding awkwardly behind the clothes by the fitting room and sent one of my coworkers over with a piece of paper with his phone number on it and instructions to call him. So I called him that night. We talked for a couple hours and he came by the store again to say “hello” the next day. We had lunch together (this time, I took an extended lunch!), the conversation varying across several topics. I loved his face, his voice, his smile…he was tall, rugged and extremely handsome. He said he was intrigued by me, that he thought I was “cute”. His name was John, but they called him BJ in the streets, which stood for “Black John” but I didn’t need to know why. That summer, John became my black knight.

One night in particular we met up after I got off work and hung out with some of his “boys” on the block. He hoisted me up and placed me to sit on the hood of someone’s car that was parked at the side of the street, and we stayed outside way past midnight drinking malt liquor and talking. Our conversations always seemed to stretch on forever. He put his arms around my waist and began to recite a poem he’d written. Truth be told, I wasn’t listening. I was looking at his lips move but I couldn’t hear the words. Instead, I was aware of everything around me. The rhythm of his voice floated through my body. I felt the warmth of the hood of the car radiating upward through my hips and up my spine. I felt the intermingled warmth and coolness of the summer night breeze flowing through my hair and caressing the back of my neck. I imagined kissing him and felt the strongest case of butterflies I ever remember experiencing. He stopped talking and asked me what I was thinking about and I told him. He smiled, said, “Word?” and nodded his head. That night he walked me home and before he left, he kissed me, right there in the lobby. That night I slept.

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Something about BJ drew me in. Somehow, he knew everything about me- that I loved deep, analytical, philosophical conversation, that I enjoyed staying inside and watching movies after work and on the weekends; he knew how to touch me and where and for how long; how to kiss me and where and for how long. He was a thug in the streets with a revolver in his belt, always in the ‘hood uniform- a white t-shirt and blue jeans and white sneaks- but in the apartment behind blackout window shades, he was a boy. I thoroughly adored watching him go from gangsta to lover once company left and the door was closed; he would simply melt in my arms, and I relished every moment of it.

I never asked about his girlfriends even though I heard about them and realized slowly that there were several. I never saw any of them despite being at the apartment with him every time I had a spare moment, and never calling before I showed up. I never asked him what his last name was, nor did I ever find out. He never took his socks off, not even that one time in the shower when he swore he just knew I was going to sneak in there to find out what his feet look like. I never asked him for anything (except repeatedly to see his feet, and he ALWAYS said “No”.), and he never asked me for anything (except to please, get nicer underwear because I still wore “little girl” cotton panties at 20 years old, and he said it made him feel like a pedophile).

It’s as though our souls met in that space and time and simply knew each other- we connected in ways I’d never understood before. I had never experienced that level of intimacy before or after. I always knew, too, that he wasn’t meant to be with me forever. We never argued (except about his feet). I didn’t want to own him and apart from asking me once to move down to Maryland to be with him, he never tried to own me. We were both simply present, in the moment, loving and taking delight in every moment and every little detail about each other. He appreciated my mind and every inch of my body, and I savored being in his presence, hearing the sound of his voice, picking his brain for weird facts and sayings, and lounging in his embrace. That summer, I was drawn to him over and over and over again, and I relished every single instant- every breath with him, every touch, every kiss, every conversation. The last time I saw him was the Thanksgiving break during first semester freshman year when he traveled up from Baltimore and spent one night with me. The next night, before he left to return to MD, he called briefly from some other girl’s phone, “just to say “hi” and I’m thinking of you”. I ended that conversation by saying, “…I just want you to know, I love you.” He replied, “Thank you”.

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I’ve never seen or spoken to him since. I sometimes think I dreamed him up. I close my eyes and in an instant I can feel him and hear him again; I’m back in the apartment in 2002, in the armchair, wrapped in his arms with my head on his chest. Whenever I feel the night time summer breeze caress my shoulders, I’m sitting on the hood of that car again, fantasizing about my sweet, sweet Black John, whose voice filled my ears like a Nubian siren.

Sweet Prince of the ghetto…

This summer was one of my first summers as a truly single woman. I made the decision to remain consciously single, and to spend some time consciously loving myself. One of the conversations I had with BJ that has always stuck with me was centered around me learning, understanding and loving myself.

I still remember him asking me, “How can you expect a man to love you when you don’t know how to love yourself? How is he supposed to know what to do to please you when you have no idea how to please yourself? How is he going to give you an orgasm when you don’t know how to give yourself one? He’s not going to know, and you won’t know what to tell him. You have to learn yourself. Learn yourself first and then you’ll have something to teach the world.”

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Ironic then, that I never had to tell him anything and yet he seemed to always know what I wanted and needed and with the exception of maybe a couple things, he was an expert in pleasing me. Unconsciously, after that I lived expecting the men in my life to instinctively know what I wanted and demanding that they deliver by reading my mind..or perhaps some novel…or possibly by watching The Notebook & The Time Traveler’s Wife…

I crave the ease of that relationship today, the deep, unspoken connection I felt with him, the way he always left me satisfied- physically, emotionally and spiritually. So many years later, I still remember how being with him made me feel even though I can hardly remember what he looks like. It’s possible that I’ve seen him on the street or on the train since then and completely overlooked my long-ago lover. But I will never forget the way he made me feel, and the conversations that stirred my heart and my passions so many years ago. I will never forget the many, many things he taught me, the secrets he unlocked inside my soul for me to find so many years later.

And this summer, I spent my time and energy loving myself, caring for me- spending time exploring my body and examining my physical, mental and spiritual health, filling my heart in anticipation of meeting my soul partner, the one with whom I will spend the rest of my life- because I know deep within my soul that he is coming. He is the lover of my soul, the one whom my soul loves, and I am excited to meet him. Summer in the western hemisphere may be almost over, but for me, it is just beginning.

Photos courtesy google images

Art by Patsy Stirling, courtesy Sageword on facebook. 

Dear Future Husband, Never Give Up

Jeremiah 29:11 says “I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (New International Version).

In my first letter I told you that I was living out Gods plan and pursuing him. As God keeps revealing His plans and purpose for me each day, I sometimes wonder what are His plans are for you? What is your journey like? What plans do you have for yourself? Then I just pray for you because it’s all I can do and will keep doing for you, always.
Prayer is how we communicate and meet each others’ needs.
Tell me now- what are your plans? Do you have a short term plan or life time plan?
I am a planner by profession and gifting, so I have a 5 year plan and a lifetime plan. It’s basically a list of goals I have set for myself to be achieved in a certain time period. In my plans you fit in, but knowing God, He has His own plans and timing, which is perfect and beyond my wildest dreams. I’m yet to see how and when He reveals us to each other!

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In this letter, I just want to encourage you to never give up.

#1.Never give up yourself. You are your number 1 fan, cheerleader and success story. So chin up, suit up and smile. You’ve got this!

#2. Never give up on God. He will never give up on you, even when everyone else has. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. He loves you like that. He also is your biggest fan and cheerleader. He is your pillar of strength, support system and provider of all things. Ask Him and you shall receive.

#3. Never give up on your plans. The heart racing and ever burning plans I believe are the ones God has placed in our hearts. His plans. If I had given up on being an Event Planner, I would have never discovered the great plans God has beyond event planning. God sees the tree in a seed, while we look for the fruit or flower. Let your plans (seed) be planted and rooted in God, nurtured by God and grow into a tree that will produce an everlasting harvest.

And I am encouraging you with words that I am using on myself. Our plans, visions and dreams may be different, but the one who approves them is God. His approval comes with prosperity, hope and a future. He has approved the plan for when we will meet, fall in love, get married, buy a home, have children. He is the architect of our lives and keeper of our time. I have asked Him for you and He told me, “Soon” and I said, “thank you”.

I pray that as we draw near to the point where our journey’s cross paths that God will be there with us and lead us on the path we take together to reach our goals and dreams. I pray that as you continue on your journey that God leads you and His angels guide you, always.

I pray that you will seek Him in every way and for everything as He is your provider of all things.

And lastly I pray that you may grow spiritually as you read God’s word and commune with Him.

I thank God for you and your ability to fulfill the plans He has for you.

You are a conqueror. You are the head and not the tail. You are filled with great wisdom and knowledge to be the best in your field and capacity. You have the power and strength to be a great man of influence and impact.

Now go out there and be You, in prosperity, hope and a beautiful future!!

With love,

Harmony

#DearFutureHusband notes started last year (2014) as love notes to my Future Husband.  God has not brought him my way yet, but I am still believing in Him for my gift.  Putting the notes on social media was a way of hopefully grabbing his attention. I was basically making conversation and in doing so, inspiring other women to empower and encourage their Future Husbands before meeting them, to see the good in a man and want the best for him. Some of the posts are personal and for my #DearFutureHusband and some are for #DearFutureHusbands and Husbands out there.

About The Author: 

10428640_10205536827637733_491797516647396958_nHarmony Zenande Botya is an inspirational writer from Western Cape, South Africa. She is a first year student at The Aleit Academy and aspiring Events Coordinator. She loves good books, good food, good music and being surround by people with good conversation and energy. One other thing she loves is sending words of love, encouragement and empowerment to others. Says Harmony, “God is my first and last love, desire and focus.  I am who I am today because of His love, grace and blessings.”

(Author’s photo used with author’s permission)

Editor: Asa-Mari Thompson 

Photo credit: google images

The Art Of War

It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.~ Sun Tzu, The Art Of War, Chapter 3

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Much of life is preparation and calculation. Luck is where preparation meets opportunity. In the 6th century BCE, Chinese general and military strategist Sun Tzu understood these principles, and wrote an entire manuscript called “The Art Of War”, which has been studied and translated since then. These principles for dealing with the “enemy” in times of war can be applied to daily life situations where “the enemy” can be considered as any adversary- any giant or pitfall- in our daily lives and personal development. Sometimes “the enemy” is us.

When the enemy is perceived to be external, our knee jerk reaction is to fight. We launch an all out, self-righteous attack, usually driven by a need to pacify our own ego. We feel slighted by the “other”. Our feelings have been hurt and we need to satisfy our feelings of revenge and self-pity. The universe must make it right! Chaaaaaaaaaarggggggeeeeee!!!!

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How often do we take the time to understand our “enemy”?

Sometimes the things we see in others that annoy us and drive us to anger are the same things with which we struggle, but we simply don’t see in ourselves- or don’t wish to see.

Sometimes the enemy is ourselves.

So many times, we let our fears, prejudices and bad attitudes get in the way and block our progress. It’s difficult when we are in these negative thought patterns to be the creatures of light, creativity and blessing we are called to be.

When it is clear that someone- an annoying coworker, a bad boss, a disloyal “friend” or companion, is causing the trouble, we have a few options. We can attempt to make our voices heard through direct communication and active problem solving. As Sun Tzu states: know the enemy. What kind of person are you dealing with? Is he/she easy to talk to? Irresponsible? Irrational? Stubborn? Get to know your enemy. Come up with a plan of attack and then proceed. Speak with a mentor or a life coach for help figuring out different scenarios. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, especially when dealing with difficult personalities. Remember, people can be trained. People will always treat us exactly the way we tell them we want to be treated. Understand what your enemy likes and dislikes and use those things to your advantage. Stand up for yourself. Say or do the unexpected thing. Do what you can and must to restore the balance of power- so you’re not giving your personal power away in exchange for a paycheck, or a roof over your head, or an external feeling of validation. Do not be afraid of people. People are all the same, and sometimes even the most ridiculous ones simply need someone to stop them in their tracks and remind them (ever so nicely) to get their heads out of their butts!

Oftentimes in the midst of problem solving, we realize the problem isn’t necessarily the other person- it’s our perception of the problem and the way we are choosing to handle it. Here’s where asking for help is  of benefit- sometimes after having the opportunity to vent and get all our negative feelings out in the open, we can clearly see what steps we can take for ourselves so as not to further complicate the situation, and to make ourselves feel better. Talk to a friend, a close relative, a mentor or sponsor and ask for guidance or feedback, or at the very least, to be heard. Don’t practice keeping your feelings bottled up, otherwise you will drive yourself insane!

If the “enemy” is a situation- a job where you’re no longer comfortable, or a living situation that is no longer ideal- the approach is two fold: 1: Understand what it is about yourself that needs to change so you don’t repeat the same pattern again in the future, and 2: Carefully plan your exit, knowing that this is not where you are supposed to be. Don’t feel badly about it- you do not owe anyone an apology for your happiness! If you make your desires known to the universe, it will conspire to bring you exactly what you are looking for- the new job opportunity, new living arrangements, a new-found respect for single-living- whatever it will take to restore you to your happy, balanced self.

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For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill

The entire point of life is not to go through it fighting battle after battle. Some people take great joy in being the warrior type and in truth there are some of us who are destined to be such. For the most part, however, I believe we are created to work past that part of our nature where we always respond in either fight or flight. If we train ourselves to know ourselves and understand others, we will get to the point where these fights become more and more infrequently; the place where we live and maneuver our relationships and situations as skilled generals, where we earn respect from others because we have mastered ourselves.

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I’ve decided to call this series Lessons From The Lighthouse, in homage to the imagery found in the film, Life Of Pi. These lessons have served as an inspiration to me in my personal growth and development in the past year and half, and now, I’m sharing them with you. I hope that they are instrumental in helping you find your inner ability to create miracles in your own life.

Light & Love!

To find the entire series, click here.

Love Conquers All

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They spent all night in each other’s arms, talking, laughing, pontificating, snoring, cuddling.

By the time the sun came up, she realized what a fool she’d been. She’d spent all this time broken and angry- so broken and angry that she couldn’t see the good in what was being given to her. She’d instead projected all her pain upon him, labelled and judged him and blamed him for things that were not his fault. And through it all, he still chose to love her the best he could, the best she would let him, even though he knew she couldn’t see it.

The morning sun’s rays cracked through the dark as she lay her head on his chest and broke into sobs, tears running across his skin and onto his sheets. He already knew she was “crazy”, and he didn’t mind. This may have sealed the deal. This time she wasn’t crying because of him. She was crying because of herself.