As I sit in my bed, listening to Heaven & Earth by Leslie Odom Jr., sipping coffee with homemade caramel and oat milk, and writing these words, I feel one overwhelming emotion: gratitude.
I can feel it in my bones.
It’s a Sunday afternoon and I look around my apartment at the dust and dirt I need to clean up.
My dust and my dirt in my apartment.
I’m overwhelmed, tears in my eyes, as I think about what it took for me to get here.
The version of me that exists in this moment required a lot of death and rebirth.
I mean, I have spent years fighting and surviving, warring against doubt and fear, to make it to where I am today.
[If you’re new here, welcome. My name is Andra Renee and if you want to know what this blog is all about, read my introductory post here.]
So, where am I today?
I’m twenty five. I remember that day on campus like it was yesterday. I was 21, a junior in college, contemplating walking into traffic.
I was overwhelmed with anxiety, not sleeping at night, crying spells, and having panic attacks walking to class.
A few weeks later, I dropped out, to quite literally save my life.
“Surviving” gets a bad rep as the collective energy shifts to thriving, but I want to honor the fight and faith it takes to keep existing.
Thriving depends on surviving.
I’m single. I was married for almost five years and when the time came, I wasn’t sure I’d survive my divorce.
The fear of being physically alone and responsible for myself entirely felt like it might break me.
As it turns out, it didn’t.
It didn’t kill me either…but it also didn’t make me stronger. (More on this in a future post, maybe)
My point is, I’m existing on my own, something I never thought I could do.
I’m an entrepreneur. Being saturated in a culture of “more, more, more” and “what’s next?!”, it’s so easy to take for granted the abundance I have.
And I don’t mean that in terms of money.
I mean the people I connect and have relationships with.
The well of resources I have access to.
And the limitless hope that has allowed me to persevere through very hard times.
Navigating life with a chronic disorder could look so very different for me and I’m learning not to take it for granted that I pay my bills each month doing work on my own terms. Terms that honor my energetic capacity and allow me the time I need to do deep healing and resting—it’s a gift.
The list of where I am could go on and on, but I want to make this point:
There can be no pleasure without fear and risk.
Believe me, I want desperately to not feel fear, but experiencing fear is wrapped up in the nature of experiencing the unknown, of change.
This experiment is full of discovering what feels good, and exciting, and what lights me up, and I love that.
But the truth is, it’s been just as full of facing the depths of what scares me.
Let me give some examples:
I love meeting new people and I’m also deeply afraid of rejection.
The risk, then, is meeting new people anyway, knowing I could be rejected, but trusting that fearing rejection is very normal and it doesn’t have to be an obstacle.
I love writing and I’m also afraid no one will care about what I have to say.
The risk, then, is writing because it feels good in my soul, even if no one ever reads it except me.
I love feeling my feelings, going deep into the mysteries of emotion, and I fear being alone in my desire for intimacy and connection because it’s “too much”.
The risk, then, is having faith that I’m never alone, even when everything in and around me appears to be saying I am.
Experimenting with pleasure, means having to feel into fear, and surrender to the highest truth, that there is no place God is not, therefore, I am.
I am, even in fear.
I am, in pleasure.
I am, in joy.
I am, in grief.
I am, in heartache.
I am, when I have been hurt and wronged.
The beauty I’m witnessing on this journey is that there’s nothing for me to do.
And while that absolutely horrifies the little girl in me who was taught that I must work my way to love, acceptance, and safety…
It is gospel to the little girl in me who remembers what it’s like to be loved, safe, and accepted simply for existing.
I texted a friend this morning to express how grateful I am for the role she’s played in my life over the years and this is what she responded with:
Because I spent years and years believing I deserved punishment.
That I was inherently bad and wrong.
I believed that even if God was kind, I had to earn that kindness and prove myself worthy.
But, I know different now.
Not only am I worthy of kindness, I have the power to give it to myself, instead of expecting it, first and foremost, from other people.
There is pleasure in my kindness.
It makes me feel good to be gentle with myself.
It is the exhale I’ve so desperately longed for and now give to myself.
I’m afraid, yes
I’m also a risk-taker.
And the magic is that God meets me where I am willing to meet myself…
The name of the game is surrender, so let the experiment continue.
À la prochaine/Until Next Time,
I love this!
I love this! Thank you so much for sharing. This blog entry sparked a conversation between my husband and I about how I don’t take risks…Every time I claimed I was taking a “risk”, it was extremely calculated and safe. My unresolved trauma mixed with my perfectionism has basically held me hostage. Instead of saying I’m afraid to do something, I just say I’m not ready because I don’t know enough yet. I claim to appreciate critique criticism but the truth is, it just helps me buy into the lie I tell myself, which is I’m not good enough and/or I don’t know enough. No one will believe me and everyone will think I’m a fraud (Imposter syndrome).
I find it funny that all I wanted was dope hair. I just wanted to love my hair and be my fully black self….my last appointment and these few blog post have sparked a level of introspection I was not ready for… but here I am sitting with all the emotions and actually feeling them for a change because my normal coping mechanism (busyness) has been taken away from me. ❤
Natalie, thank you for sharing your truth here.
It’s the spark we’re not ready for that cracks us open and we get to experience the immense beauty and sheer terror of what we’re made of.
And honesty is what carves out our path forward and higher and deeper and wider.
I truly love all of this for you.
May you find yourself just being—that is enough.
This line: “ there is no place God is not, therefore, I am” really spoke to me. My husband and I are huge with affirmations and how powerful the phrase “I am” is. So much so that we named our daughter Zoi “pronounced soy, which translates to ‘I am’ in Spanish”
It’s such a powerful and wholesome truth. Thank you so much for this enlightenment and insight. It brings so much to my remembrance and inspired some amazing introspection.
Zoi, I absolutely love the intentionality and meaning you’ve spoken over your child. Chills.
What I love most about “I am” is the self-naming.
When we’ve endured being labeled and misunderstood, being able to give ourselves a new name is an act of resistance and radical self-acceptance.
May you remember more and more.
God is indeed with you and within you. The most beautiful place to be is to know that we are loved beyond comprehension without having to do a damn thang to earn it. I pray for you often and reading this has been an answer to my prayers. Keep going. Keep living. Keep resting. *hugs*