I had been wanting to do something to challenge and nourish my craft in writing for quite some time. I was becoming aware of a yearn in me for expansion and a need for connection. My spirit was starting to feel a sense of entrapment. This particular feeling prompted me to think about Anaïs Nin’s quote,
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
Through reflection and honesty, I gained cognizance that I myself had been getting in my own way. If I keep it real and take it a step further, I had been getting in my own way and was well aware of it. I just simply allowed it.
Because it kept me safe. The refusal of taking risks meant eliminating the possibility to fail. That felt good for a while but then it didn’t. Limiting myself and allowing fears and doubt to control me evolved to an acute sense of unnaturalness. So, I made a decision to take measures towards my expansion and growth.
I didn’t have a definitive answer. I just knew I had to move and take steps.
Who knows? I just had to start trekking these steps in a forward direction.
I logged onto facebook and browsed through my notifications and took notice I had received an invite to the ‘Live Big Girl’ workshop by the beautiful, poet-sister Vanessa Chica from the ‘Live Big Girl’ play, which also features Karina G-Lopez and Rebeca Lois. The workshop was commencing on my birthday weekend and I figured what better way to treat myself than this time to write, learn and share. The only possible obstacle would be, getting the day off from work because I work every weekend. I’m glad to say, I got the day off quite effortlessly. I attended the workshop and was elated to give myself that time. It was my first writing workshop. From there, I started planting seeds, germinating with a vision board. In the midst of creating this vision board, I was reminded of the importance in finding my voice. Not only to find my voice but to be active in using it.
A few weeks later, I received an invite from Alicia Anabel Santos, the CEO and Founder of NYC Latina Writers Group, to the 4th Annual Sankofa Sisterhood Writer’s Retreat. I smiled hugely when I saw this invitation, knowing that it was the universe communicating with me. I viewed it as a response to what I had been meditating on. The universe was handing me a direct link to my next step. Now, it was a matter of saying ‘YES’ and showing up for myself. I had no idea what I’d be getting into, I just knew I had to go, even though I’d have my fears and doubts in tow.
The retreat was being held in the Catskills, upstate NY for Memorial Day weekend and I was afraid that would present a challenge with my job being that I was scheduled to work the weekend, including the Monday holiday. The retreat was months away. I figured I shouldn’t have too much of an issue getting approved for the time off. So, I filled out the ‘request off’ sheet and handed it in to my boss.
I was denied.
She said ‘no’ because I was already scheduled to work and that it was my responsibility to work it. She went on explaining that there wasn’t anyone to cover me. Typically, in a case like this, I’d accept the answer, be disappointed for awhile, and then move on with my life. But for some reason, this time was different. My spirit didn’t allow me to accept her ‘no’ so conveniently. At that point, my internal dialogue reminded me that I was responsible for my efforts. So, I asked myself had I put my best foot forward in making this happen for myself and if so, then perhaps at that point I’d let it go. That wasn’t the case though. So, I took some initiative and started personally going around the department asking other technologists if they’d be so gracious enough to cover my shifts at the hospital. I explained my situation in detail to them. Understandably, many declined. I received ‘no’ after ‘no’ after ‘no’. They went on telling me they were going to a bbq, or one had to work at their other job and another was going to Lake George. As I was hearing these varying responses, there was a voice in me, whispering “you’re going to this retreat”
In the meanwhile, the non-refundable deposit’s due date had already passed and I had not submitted the monies. For a moment, I got a little nervous because in the physical realm, it appeared as if I wasn’t going to be able to attend. Then, there was another part of me that was refusing to accept that as truth. I cautioned myself to walk by faith and not by sight and consequently, I kept hearing that little voice, “you’re going to this retreat”.
I then began negotiating with a coworker (which is not like me), offering to work her holiday, if she’d work mine. To my surprise, she came back to me a couple of weeks later and accepted the offer. Then, I had another coworker agree to cover the Saturday and Sunday shift. Apparently, he needed the extra money.
And just like that, I was relieved of my duties for that weekend. I was so proud of myself for not settling for that initial ‘no’. My spirit’s ‘YES’ superseded my boss’ and everyone else’s ‘no’. Hooray to me for being relentless about the situation! Hooray to me for believing in myself and honoring myself with the things I deserve!
Anaïs Nin’s words resonated,
“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.“
I had the honors of attending the retreat after all. My persistence paid off and my ‘YES’ felt so good. Alicia Anabel Santos even emphasized the gravity in saying ‘YES’ and showing up for ourselves. She’s a New York-born Dominican educator, writer and healer who cares enough to create a safe space for women of color to become empowered in writing their stories. She facilitated the ‘Strengthening the Writer’s Core’ workshop, in which she guided us through self-revelation and fortification through scenes, music and the 5 phases of movement. She also held a guided meditation every morning at 7:30am. We stretched, breathed and wrote. It was the perfect way to start the day.
Yoseli Castillo co-facilitated this retreat. She is a Dominican poet-activist-teacher who is funny and full of life. She’s passionate about her work and of the lives she inspires. She facilitated the ‘Closing Reflection on Movement’ workshop and prompted reflection and presence. She also served as the emcee for the Sankofa Open Mic, in which I will never forget. One of her missions was to keep it culturally enhanced, as she accomplished with her plantain microphone. It was such a fun night!
Alicia and Yoseli co-created this space for writers, women of color to partake in the prioritization of our self, our mind, heart and pen. They created a space intentionally set for sisterhood and humanness. They created a structure of support. They created a space free of judgment. They created a space to nurture the spirit and the temple. All of this amounts to a space of healing, which is the ultimate bestowal.
The retreat’s keynote was New York-born Honduran Boricua, Vanessa Mártir, educator-writer, who was published in the recent NY Times Bestseller ‘Not That Bad’, edited by Roxanne Gay. She facilitated the ‘Writing and the Body’ workshop, in which she holds a mirror prompting us to look within, to peel the layers, as painful or uncomfortable as may be and then write. She also guided us to connect and release to the earth, which was very homey for me. I felt lighter after it.
The last workshop facilitator was Bronx-born Puerto Rican poet, performance artist, activist, teacher, Reiki practitioner, Mariposa Fernandez. She facilitated the ‘Feeling & Healing’ and Performance workshops. Both were extremely beneficial. She provided tools and tips on performance, which I’m so grateful for and performed Reiki Medicine on us, which brought a nice balance to the environment and the work we were doing.
The physical body was prioritized by having the amazing Afro-Dominicana, Chef and owner of Woke Foods, Ysanet Batista, to feed every temple there with healthy and conscious meals. She prepares sustainable foods that keep close to ancestral eating, with high consumption of plant based meals. She’s an educator, organizer and farmer-in-training who nurtures with love ingrained in her hands.
Since the retreat, I am a changed woman. There has been a shift in my heart, my soul and my womb. I have gained new tools, a rejuvenated spirit, new sister-friends and a different outlook on this work. I am super grateful for the encouragement and inspiration. This weekend will forever be treasured.
If you’re a woman who writes, looking for inspiration and connection or just a space that reminds you ‘you’re not alone’, consider attending the next Sankofa Sisterhood Writer’s Retreat. I promise you, you won’t leave the same.
The lesson here: never give up on yourself. You deserve the best of you and whatever it takes to get there.
© 2018 Liza Morales