An Unexpected Summer

I haven’t had the summer I expected to have.

This past spring I was involved with a man. I was in a relationship. I was in love. Things were going well between us, (or so I thought), and had been going well for 8-9 months. We had started making plans for our first summer together. We talked about going on picnics and walks in the park and festivals and the beach and taking road trips here and there. In my mind’s eye I saw us spending hot days together – talking, laughing, holding hands, being silly and romantic and in love and loving and sensual and sexual. I love the summer, but I hadn’t had a romantic summer in years – the kind of summer where you and the person you love enjoy the sunshine, the weather, the heat, the activities that come with summertime, and each other. My birthday is in the summer (August), and summertime is my favorite season by far. So I was looking forward to spending my favorite time of year with my favorite person.

That all went down the drain– the relationship, my plans for the summer, all of it.

down the drain

He went away to work – far away, on the West Coast. The relationship wasn’t sustainable. I found myself facing Memorial Day weekend (the unofficial beginning of summer), and the summer solstice shortly after (the official beginning of summer) alone and lonely. I was very angry at him for the way in which he’d just abandoned me, abandoned us. Supposedly our relationship was important to him, we were building a future together, and just like that he decided we weren’t building anything. And now I was alone. I dreaded going to things alone, with no date, with no one to share good times with, facing another summer by myself. I braced myself for the sadness, and the isolation. I always isolate myself from people when I’m unhappy, which of course only makes things worse. But I always feel like I don’t want to be a burden on anyone, so my first response is to keep to myself. I felt alone in the world when he left

.

“A hand for each hand was planned for the world – why don’t my fingers reach?

Millions of grains of sand in the world – why such a lonely beach?

Where is the voice to answer mine back?

Where are two shoes that click to my clack?

I’m all alone in the world…”

But the strange thing is – I didn’t keep to myself this time. I faced the summer, and my fear of being alone, and my sadness of how awful I was anticipating my summer to be.

The summer started. I went to a cookout on Memorial Day very unexpectedly and had a pretty good time. But that wasn’t the only surprise the summer had for me. I had wanted to cut my hair for quite a while, but I was very nervous about finding a barber shop I was comfortable in and a barber I could trust who would do a good job on my hair. But I reached out to some people and I found a shop and a barber who were both very cool. I love how he cuts my hair and we have nice discussions as I’m getting shaped up to distract me from the process of getting my hair cut – I’ve even found that I need less distracting because I’ve become comfortable with him. Now I’ve been keeping it short, and I really like it. I think it gives me more confidence; I find I walk taller and prouder.

barber shop

I’ve been eating healthier, have lost a few pounds, and I’m feeling good about how I look. I had a really nice 4th of July with some great people at a cookout, just eating, drinking, listening to music, watching fireworks and talking about everything under the sun. I performed at a couple of really fun burlesque shows and had an awesome time – those things are so much fun, for the performers and the audience. I had a ball, and got to re-connect with some really cool individuals that I think the world of as performers and as people. I hadn’t performed in a little bit, and I’d forgotten how much I enjoy it, and how good I am at it, so that was an added bonus. I became closer to some of my female friends, especially my best girlfriend Ama Chandra, thanks to some long in-depth conversations. I’ve been helping her give her music career some direction and focus so she can move forward as quickly as possible and gain the acclaim she truly deserves. I got to perform with her at one of her shows, which is always so cool.

VALENTINE'S SHOW 2011 DC ME AND AMA 2

Me and Ama performing a couple of years ago.

She and I went to a Grammy mixer together that was a blast. I went to one of Femi The DriFish’s shows, which is always a high energy blast.

femi the drifish logo

I went to The Paradox with one of my best friends and danced my ass off to some of the house music from my partying days way back when, getting my life until I was sweaty and happy.

Then he and I sat together talking about music until the wee hours of the morning and I staggered in as the sun was coming up, which I haven’t done in forever. One night a couple of people just came by and scooped me up and we ended up in a bar in Fells Point talking about the moon and mystics and spiritualists and the products they sell on infomercials late at night.

the point in fells

I went to Poets in the Park and reconnected with several old friends who were truly glad to see me, and I was glad to see them. The energy I got was gratifying and I was honored by it. I’m planning to have an awesome birthday next month, either at my beach house in Annapolis or in Atlanta with a whole bunch of my friends. I’m taking a road trip to Jersey in a week or so with a couple of other friends to hang out at a house music party. Another one of my best friends has finally decided to revive something he and I built together a few years ago that very abruptly came to a close. (YAY MIC LIFE MAGAZINE RELOADED!)

ME AND FRED CITY PAPER AUGUST 6 2006

mic life magazine new logo

It is going to require a lot of work and I’m looking forward to every minute of it. It’s going to give me the opportunity to write, help produce shows, be involved in the entertainment/arts/culture scene I love, and to reconnect with all those things I haven’t felt as connected to recently. I love working with my friends as we all reach for our dreams, and helping them as they help me is amazing. I love feeling surrounded by our collective creative energy and focus. My summer has been enjoyable so far, much to my surprise.

Of course the summer hasn’t been all fun. I’m still unemployed and looking for work. Money is still tight in my world. The violence in Baltimore has been staggering. On some days scores of shootings have taken place, and on those days often half of those shootings have resulted in fatalities. The Travon Martin verdict was definitely devastating (more on that in a separate entry for another day). So many emotions for me and everyone I know of different races behind that miscarriage of justice, from rage to hurt to feeling lost and impotent and then feeling angry all over again.

the whole system is guilty

But I was so very glad to have people around me that I could talk to about how I felt, about how so many of us feel about the violence surrounding us. The tragedies make us hold onto each other even tighter. It has also strengthened my resolve to do more than just ensure the well-being of my own two children, though that is certainly important. It has truly motivated me to look outside my own personal responsibilities to see how I can make a positive contribution to society at large. It has made me seek out opportunities to mentor young people. I’ve dusted off my grant-writing hat and have offered my services to a couple of non-profits who do the work on the front lines to help disenfranchised youth who could greatly benefit from the financial support that a grant could give them. I’m working on a couple of grants, because these types of grass roots efforts are crucial to uplifting our communities, and the best use of my skills is to help these organizations get the money they need to run. So that’s what I’m doing. And my friends have also been helpful in motivating me and helping me find ways to use my talents to help. I have been gratified to see how much genuine love, affection, respect, and even admiration surrounds me.

finger friends

The funny thing is that IF my summer had been what I planned, all wrapped up in the man I was with, chances are I would have missed at least some of these experiences. Though I’m sure I would have enjoyed a “summer of love” with him, and it would have strengthened our relationship, it definitely wouldn’t have allowed me the opportunity to strengthen all these other relationships that are just as important. I would have happily spent my summer building us…instead I’ve spent it building me, and truth be told, I’ve enjoyed the hell out of it. I was really lamenting the fact that the summer me and my ex were planning to have didn’t happen. I was angry about it frankly. Somehow, in spite of that, good times have still shown up for me. I didn’t isolate myself this time when I didn’t get exactly what I wanted. Instead I allowed myself to be open to what was around me, even if it wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. I allowed myself to be open to people around me and whatever they had to offer, and I’ve accepted them and whatever they had to offer gratefully. As a result, I have gotten what I wanted in the first place – a summer of fun times. Has it been romantic? Not really. But has it been worthwhile, has it enriched me, has it made me feel good about myself and my life and the people in it? Definitely! It has gone a long way to build up the best parts of me. I feel good, I look good, I AM GOOD. I have even started to think I’m pretty fucking sexy again. (But I have promised to use my sexiness for good and not evil this time.) To use a very overused phrase that is still accurate — I THINK I GOT MY SWAGGER BACK! (Disclaimer: I really don’t like that phrase but its just so applies in this instance.) I feel smart, attractive, accomplished, beautiful. I have ALMOST become the woman I always wanted to be.

TULA2 2013

So the saying about making lemonade with the lemons life gives you is definitely true.  Life handed me a huge bag of lemons this past spring when my ex got on the plane and left. I drove him to BWI, and tears rolled down my face uncontrollably as he walked away into the airport. In fact I cried so hard, I had to pull over as I drove home to get myself together. I didn’t understand why this was happening to me, just as I was finally with someone who I was happy with. But the happiness I’ve found without him has been just as fulfilling, and just as necessary. And as we move into August, my birthday month, I look forward to lots more bonding, building, good times and sharing. And I’m hoping you too are making something useful out of whatever life is throwing you that you don’t want and didn’t plan for. If you continue to stay open to the possibilities, and believe that they are out there, trust me, you’ll find them and you’ll build something fabulous. If I did, I know you can — the lemonade I’ve made is some of the best I’ve ever had!

Bring on Leo/Virgo season, and enjoy the rest of your summer!

Peace!

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The Cougar Chronicles – Part Three: A Man My Age

So, I’ve been “cougaring” for about a year now I guess.

welcome to cougartown

This whole cougar thing has been kind of cute. It caught me off guard at first, but I eventually got over the shock of it. I’m one of those people who is all about the experiences in life, so if the opportunity to do something I’ve never done presents itself, chances are I’m going to do it, so this “cougar” thing has been no exception. Like most new things I’ve tried, I have embraced it with open arms, and I enjoyed the embrace. In many respects it has been good for my ego. At a time when I expected to find myself being pushed to the sidelines of the dating/romantic world, very attractive men younger than me were expressing an interest, and I even dated one semi-seriously for a while. I didn’t think I’d ever be one of these women, but I am. But now I’m starting to have that feeling you get when you’ve stayed at a really good party a little too long. It’s not that I’ve had bad experiences so far – my “cougaring” has been a hell of a lot of fun. But I think I should let it go while its still fun, before hard feelings and bad times set in. Play hard, then leave them wanting more.

I also think I’m feeling especially weird about my cougarness right now because my birthday is in August. I wish I was feeling brave enough to say how old I’ll be, but today I’m just not up to it; please forgive me. Because my birthday is coming, I’m very aware of how old I am and how young I am NOT. I will share a bit about who I am astrologically, if you’re into that kind of thing.

virgo_symbol

Virgo Power! (Though technically I’m on the Leo/Virgo cusp.)

LEO VIRGO CUSP

Leo-Virgo is a hard worker and a logical thinker. They are earthy. They are very persuasive, which makes them good lawyers, physicians, and teachers. They are tactful, and don’t often offend others. They appreciate the outdoors. Individuals born on the Leo-Virgo cusp may be very popular, with a crowd of followers all of their own. To create a good balance, they need to fulfill their own needs without losing any of their abilities to give to others. They are strong and tenacious. They may be artistically or musically inclined, and they may enjoy traveling. Decisive and direct, Leo-Virgo is sure they will succeed. They can exaggerate or overreact sometimes, but they are positive for the most part. They have a good sense of timing. They have an innate sense of when to speak and when to keep quiet. This talent can be used to manipulate, wound or dominate others when needed Leo-Virgo needs to let people really get to know them. Hiding away won’t get them the recognition they long for. They need to let others into their lives to share their feelings and experiences.

I am very glad that I’m still here to complain about getting older. Truthfully, I really don’t want to be younger if it would mean sacrificing the wisdom I’ve obtained. The things I’m missing when I lament my age are very cosmetic, surface things like a more attractive, youthful body or face. I miss the energy I had in my youth, and the ability to be spontaneous. I feel very fortunate that I’m still here, and more importantly, in pretty good health. Many of my friends in my age range are having all kinds of health issues, and when we get together for lunch or drinks, a good portion of our conversation is about their aches and pains. In recent times I’ve become more mindful of what I eat, how much I eat and when I eat. I’ve cut back on meat quite a bit, I drink lots of water (which I’ve always done), and I stay reasonably active. When I’m being “bad”, I do so in moderation and don’t eat, drink or party excessively. With all those things in place and a blessed gene pool, I’ve managed not to fall apart. I’m not skinny, but not obese either. And thankfully, my looks haven’t all slipped away. I still have my dry sharp wit and my considerable intelligence. I’m still looking forward to accomplishing more in my life. I still can do pretty much anything I want physically without much difficulty. I’ve raised my two children and that experience didn’t totally take me under. I have a good relationship with both my son and my daughter and even with my mother most days. I’m currently single, dealing with a breakup, but still hopeful about my romantic future and open to whatever life brings me in that respect. I have a healthy acceptance of myself and of others, and don’t take either of those too seriously. All things considered, I guess I’m “winning” as they say.

ME ON THE BEACH AT WMC

But while I’m very grateful for all I’ve been blessed with, one thing that has confused me has been my social life. I don’t have the social life most women my age have. Since I’ve been involved in endeavors that put me in the company of creative types (including pursuing my own writing and performing), I spend a lot of time with a much wider variety of people than I did when I was in the more corporate workplace. When I worked 9 to 5 gigs, most of my colleagues and co-workers were very similar in beliefs and attitudes and even in age. Now as an “artist”, as a “creative” who also is involved in part with the local entertainment scene, I find myself with all kinds of people whose ages, life experiences and personalities range very widely. This extreme diversity has made its way into my circle both professionally and socially.

beware-of-artists

Yeah that’s me. Mixing with all classes – but dangerous though?

As a result, I often find myself spending time with people who aren’t my age. In fact of late, in most social gatherings I have participated I was the oldest person there. I try not to feel uncomfortable when this happens, vainly reminding myself that I don’t “look my age” and that I’ve “very youthful” and so on and so on, but the fact still remains I’m often in a roomful of people who were born during the decade when I graduated high school. After all, I remember clearly when there was no hip hop, no cable television, no wi-fi, no cell phones, and no Internet. And even this would perhaps not trouble me, except that inevitably, one of the young men in this circle will decide to express a particular interest in getting to know me better — sometimes socially, sometimes romantically, and sometimes sexually. Many days all I want in my romantic life is to have a “man my age” take an interest in me.

experienced cougars

Have you noticed cougars always seem to have really nice boobs? (Quickly glancing at my chest…)

This “man my age” is quite elusive. Most of my close male friends who are my age are married. When I ask them about single male friends, they usually are very uncooperative and won’t introduce me. Other male acquaintances I have who are my age who are not married are always doggedly seeking women significantly younger than themselves – typically women in their late 20s to their mid 30s. Though they seem to like me well enough, they have absolutely no interest in dating me. When I ask them why they’ve never been interested in me I never get a straight answer. They laugh me off, making comments about how I’m always busy, wouldn’t have time for them, or that I’ve always got 50 other men after me – which is not the case.  Occasionally they’ll express that they simply prefer the younger woman, which I don’t necessarily take issue with. In some cases these men are childless and want to become fathers, something I’m not offering a man. What bothers me is how it seems that ALL the men who are my age WITHOUT EXCEPTION are interested in younger women. I would even accept the idea that as an older woman I simply am not as physically attractive as a younger one, but then I find so many younger man who insist this is not the case. So I talk to them, hoping to get some insight.

older black man younger black woman

When I talk to my “cubs” about their interest in me, I get a lot of different responses as well. Some are seeking the stereotypical overwhelming sexual experiences an older woman can provide. I don’t get involved with these cubs, because their attitudes make me feel like some kind of sexual science project. I’m looking for an experience is based in shared interests and mutual like, respect and fondness for each other at the bare minimum. Many other cubs allege that women their age these days are extremely immature and self-centered. They say women their age don’t have the qualities they are seeking in a woman, and that typically they find these qualities in women older than then. In a couple of cases my cubs seriously misjudged my age, and by the time they found out how old I really was, they found they really didn’t care and they were cool with it. At times I find myself wondering if I come off as immature. I wonder if I seem like a desperate old broad who is looking to wile away this period in my life with a tender young thing.

surrounded

I don’t know when I became the woman that I am now – the one that only attracts much younger men and repels much older ones. When I was a younger woman, I remember those older women I’d see occasionally with younger men in bars and clubs, and I would wonder to myself what that was all about. I didn’t really understand all of it then. I do remember seeing different types of older women with younger men. Some of those women seemed so poised and together, so graceful and self-assured. Their sensuality wasn’t jumping up and down begging to be noticed. It was definitely there, but it was subtle and quieter, which in many ways caused you to notice it more IF you were an observant person. I also remember seeing the older women who were very sexily dressed and very overtly and blatantly sexually aggressive. They seemed so self-confident, but they were always the ones that struck me as inappropriate. They were the ones my girlfriends and I would make fun of and laugh at, swearing that no matter what none of us would be caught out in a club chasing men who didn’t want us when we became that age. Now it seems I’ve become that woman, and I still don’t know what it is all about. I wonder which one of these women I am. I remind myself that a lot of people my age simply don’t go out as much as I do, so I’ll be hard pressed to find them sometimes. I remind myself that many of them are married and less social. Many are working hard at their careers, and right now my combination of freelancing/writing/unemployment gives me a lot more time on my hands. But I still come back to wondering what it is about me that has caused such a shift in who I attract, and why I can’t seem to find a man my age to spend time with.

So here I sit in Cougartown, checking the train schedules to see when I might leave. While I’ll always remember this period fondly, it is finally time for me to go.

Unless I get a really good reason to stay…

Much love,

Tula

Today’s Guest Blogger – AMA CHANDRA

As I complete my next chapter of  “The Cougar Chronicles” which is called “A Man My Age”, (yeah, that’s definitely gonna be funny!), I thought I’d let you check out the musings of one of my VERY BEST FRIENDS, singer/songwriter AMA CHANDRA!

AMA FACE 2

Ama Chandra

me and ama

Me and Ama onstage. (You can tell she’s my friend because she’s wearing a corset — I helped her pick that corset out in fact.)

Ama has just launched (well technically, re-launched) her blog, which is called “Ama-izms“. She wrote her first entry today, and I really was feeling what she had to say. In fact, I decided that what she had to say was something you could use as well, so today’s blog entry for you is actually her first blog entry, which is entitled “The Land of The Free”. Freedom is NEVER EVER free, but you often have NO IDEA how much it really costs until you try to get free from whatever is holding you down, holding you back, keeping you from where you know you should be — hell, I’m still paying on my freedom BUT I’m almost there. Please enjoy Ama Chandra’s first Ama-izm, and join me back here in a little bit for “The Cougar Chronicles — Part Three: A Man My Age”!

CLICK HERE TO GO TO AMA-IZMS.

Much love,

Tula