2017 Fall Reading List

I’m literally sitting writing this reading list in a Hugo Boss jacket that’s a bit too large for my small feminine frame. I found it barely worn in freshly dry cleaned in a “giveaway” box in my neighborhood. Everyone in the neighborhood leaves books, clothes and appliances out to share and trade. Some neighbors are a bit more well off than others. It’s not uncommon to find a wealthy student’s small collection of hand-me-downs that are clean, expensive and barely a year old. I almost like men’s jackets more than I like books, but as the season begins to change, and Fall makes chills the air crisp and chill, I can enjoy both at the same time. No need to choose.

These books are a combination of favorites, like my friend China Martens epic zine anthology, Future Generation and the enthralling Womanist literary effort, Hope is in the Holler: A Womanist Theory and a collection of books I’ve compiled while preparing for my feminist lectures and writing workshops like “Masculinity Studies & Feminist Theory: New Directions.” I rummage through libraries and independent books stores like Red Emma’s Books to find just what I need for my never ending literary pursuits.

The fall season is perfect for learning new things and growing our minds and perspectives, especially since school is now in session.

Future Generation: The Zine-Book for Subculture Parents, Kids, Friends & Others
By China Martens

One Dimensional Woman
By Nina Power

Role Models
By John Waters

Listen Up: Voices From the Next Generation
By: Barbara Findlen

The Concept and Measurement of Violence Against Women and Men
By: Sylvia Walby, Jude Towers, Susan Balderston, Brian Francis

Eros and Ethics: Reading Jacques Lacan’s Seminar VII
By: Marc De Kesel

A Brighter Coming Day: A Frances Ellen Watkins Reader
Edited By: Frances Smith Foster

Listen Little Man
By: Wilhelm Reich

New Black Man
By: Mark Anthony Neal

Masculinity Studies & Feminist Theory: New Directions
By: Judith Kegan Gardiner

Sex, Drag, and Male Roles: Investigating Gender as Performance
By: Diane Torr and Stephen J. Bottoms

Hope in the Holler: A Womanist Theology
By: A. Elaine Brown Crawford

The Violence of Care: Rape Victims, Forensic Nurses, and Sexual Assault Intervention
By: Sameena Mulla

Sister Outsider
By: Audre Lorde

On the Pill: A Social History of Oral Contraceptives, 1950-1970
By Elizabeth Siegel Watkins

High Lonesome: New & Selected Stories, 1966–2006
By Joyce Carol Oates

Shotgun Seamstress Zine Collection: Six Zine by and for Black Punks
By: Osa Atoe

Freedom Challenge: African American Homeschoolers
By: Grace Llewellyn

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Braving the Days: The Seasons Are Changing

 

It’s only early August and there’s a briskness to the air on the East Coast. Last year, there was blistering heat, and I craved the cool, foggy days of San Francisco, but this season has changed, and so have I. I mean, on a fundamental level I have not. I was talking to my mother about love, and I told her ever since I was a little girl, I never felt the need to prioritize love. I didn’t have the capacity to put friends before a pet, or lovers before colleagues or acquaintances before old friends.

It took me 30 years to learn the term “non hierarchical” in terms of relationships until I was 30 years old, but I immediately connected to the idea, because I’d been living it my entire life. I have always loved people, I’ve always loved life and books, writing and traveling but have never been able to say that I loved something more than the other. I understand that there are times in my life when I may be more comfortable writing a book than a music album, or when I’d rather teach than perform. There are times when I’d like to be alone, and other times when I’d like to be very social, but the emphasis of my feelings towards the phases of my life was never anything that caused me anxiety. Outside of earning a living, and work to keep social and relational conflict to a minimal, I never felt like there was something I needed to be doing that I was not doing because something came first.

A large reason for this is because I have chosen to not have children yet. I think a child is the only human being that I absolutely know would not fit into a non hierarchical structure. With this said, in my teaching career, I believe I have been successful because I treat adults and children as if they are equal beings. No, I don’t use inappropriate language, but I do not value children’s thoughts, presence and even advice over adults. I think kids give the best life advice. I think they are observant, and wise and enjoy spending time with them.

The seasons are changing and maybe I am on some levels, or maybe I am just refining what I’ve always known about myself. The weather and the Earth don’t function by the construct of hierarchy. All things are equal. I believe life and love should be fluid.

Braving the Days: Stand Back

The question is: is there a separation between life and the liver? Lately, life has been happening to me. Every day has brought an acute opportunity for me to take a path of action or caution. Caution would allow me to withdraw from opportunities to interact with invitations, opportunities to travel and moments to bond and break bread. I have the choice to write or to sleep. I have the choice to touch or to sit alone, I have the choice to relate with my family or to never call.

Specifically, in the arts there are two phases of one’s career:

The season where you pursue and the season where you are pursued.

These seasons after the first inception become interchangeable. Many times a new or emerging artists much must pursue opportunities to create their art before they are offered opportunities to create, simply because the initial pursuit affords an artist the ability to be seen, thus attracting the result unsolicited offers.

Maybe I am in a phase where I have chosen a formidable aloofness out of a fierce attempt to maintain privacy in a culture and governmental structure that find public behavior and interaction to be a new, usable and profitable way of interacting.

This is all okay. I don’t mind receiving opportunities. In fact, I quite appreciate them, but there is this light amount of flailing I experience. A quiet flailing. A flailing I find to be natural as a human being who took much of her life to pursue and now finds it appropriate to stand back.

If I do not stand back, and take stock of my position in the balance of the experience of “pursuing or being pursued,” I can never truly understand who I am as an artist. One who drives forward without reflection will not likely find themselves in a position to be pursued.

____________________________________

It’s been 12 days and I am returning to this piece to complete it.
I feel the same way I did two weeks ago.

There have been times when I’d take a break and return to my writing for the column and I’d feel differently. Today, I just feel like moving steadily and privately, and maybe I’ll live my life that way, forever.

 

 

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2017 Summer Reading List

Summer of 2017 seems like a surreal season of confusion and great opportunities for new beginnings. It’s been a rough few years. America has morphed into a country that cannot decide whether it wants to evolve or stay the same. For me, books have been a comfort. Books have been a staple for my stability and understanding. This reading list consists of books that can help you focus on your own consciousness, one’s relationship with racism, morality, feminism and utopian concepts. I think it is most important to understand that his list is completely organic. This list was compiled since the Spring as I’ve cruised materials for classes I am teaching for my own practical intellectual expansion.

I am sharing this list for no other reason but to give access to a collection of books that are intriguing, and maybe, hopefully the combination of these pages will incite growth in you. I can say that they have served me well.

Negative Dialectics
By: Theodore W. Adamo
The Use of Pleasure: Volume 2 of the History of Sexuality
By: Michel Foucault
As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks, 1964-1980
By Susan Sontag, Edited By David Rieff
Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Modern Era By: Anthony Giddens
Vulnerability in Resistance
Edited by Judith Butler, Zaynap Gambatti, Leticia Sabsay
Aesthetic Justice: Interesting Artistic and Moral Perspectives
Edited By: Pascal Gielen, Niels Van Tomme
Towards Collective Liberation: Anti-Racist Organizing, Feminist Praxis, and Movement Building Strategy
By Chris Crass
The Heidegger Controversy
By: Richard Wolin
Race Woman: The Lives of Shirley Graham Du Bois
By: Gerald Horne
The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning
By: Maggie Nelson
New Heaven, New Earth
By: Joyce Carol Oates
The Prophet
By: Kahlil Gibran
Black Reconstruction in America 1860-1880
By: W. E. B. Du Bois
The Human Condition
By: Hannah Arendt
Beyond Respectability: The Intellectual Thought of Race Women
By: Brittney C. Cooper
Against Purity: Living Ethically in Compromised Times
By: Alexis Shotwell
The expanding circle
By: Peter Singer
Practical Utopia: Strategies for a Desirable Society
By: Michael Albert
Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious
By: Sigmund Freud

 

 

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Braving the Days: Political Ethics and the Desire to Heal

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Photo credit: Matej Michalik

“Our culture can starve and condemn one another in relationships.”

(Feminism and Intimacy)

How far do I go with judgement? How far do I go to use my best judgement? What does a “best judgement” look and feel like? How does it translate in relationships and my interaction with my external circumstances?

To be honest, I am learning judgment doesn’t have a place in my feminism or reality.  In my quest to heal emotional wounds I’ve obtained from past relationships with cis men, yet continuing to agree to interact with them in friendships and intimate partnerships, I found myself faced with an existential dilemma: making a choice between my ability to maintain relationship with imperfect people which of whom I care for, and maintaining my diligence as a feminist. I hadn’t had to make these choices until recently because I am not sure if my awareness and education was where it is today, but even more so, I believe I have protected myself from relationships that challenged me and my political comfortability.

Abstinence is a way to protect the comfortability of feminism, particularly reproductive health in one’s personal life. As soon as intimacy is brought into the mix, a female identified being with a womb has many more choices to make. This can also be said for  non-sexual close relationships with cis Western men. To look into a man’s thoughts and life, to be brought in, there is also a responsible to protect them and ensure safety. This is outside of the guise of patriarchy, a woman taking responsibility to acknowledge the trauma of men while balancing a radical feminist outlook.

To be impatient with a man’s unpacking and deconstructing of their own sexist behaviors and colonizing after agreeing to enter a  relationship is unproductive and can quickly become wounding, not to their ego, but to their hearts.

I’m learning.

I’m learning that I should not agree to a social contract with men if I am not willing to balance my feminist ethics with the compassion of a human being I chose to bond with.  Me, choosing grew into my work towards balancing my feminist politics and beliefs with my relationships with cis men.

I was asked to do a workshop some months ago about forgiveness after surviving sexual assault, and I deeply feared backlash from other feminists, feeling that I have become overly sympathetic to patriarchal patterns in intimate and close relationships. But I have to learn that I cannot live completely guarded behind my strict beliefs. It’s okay to open to people who I care for, even if they are imperfect, even if they are men, even if they make mistakes. I don’t believe this makes me a bad feminist, I believe it makes me a human being who is attempting to be well-rounded, compassionate, flexible and able to bring healing to relationships.

How can I ask a man to be my ally when I condemn him? He would certainly be justified in finding cracks in the feminist system of thought if I did not afford an ally the ability to learn and grow.

How controversial.

 

 

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Braving the Days: What a Culture. What a Conundrum.

Photo Credit: Breck Brunson

I don’t want to do anything right now. I was born into a culture of the work-a-holic, the indentured servant, the slave with no wages, the wage slave and more currently, the hustler. You want to eat in America?  You want to go to the beach, and eat avocados and play sold out shows, you have to push your body to the brink. It’s not like that everywhere. Mexico invented the pastime of the siesta and Jews don’t work on the Sabbath. People need to rest.

And I don’t have to buy in to any pressure, now that I’ve worked almost half my life. I can take half days on Fridays and pull all-nighters to pick up with my deadlines if I want to sleep in, but I paid a price: my teens and 20s. While kids were partying, I was listening to Malcolm Gladwell books on tapes, reading, studying, traveling and developing.

I couldn’t get by like other kids who went to art school and worked 10 hours a week. I wasn’t privileged and worked to compensate.

A Grade A hustler, I am.

But you know, after 13 years, I’ve learned that it all means nothing unless you have a relationship with the world as an environment, as an independent entity. I take long walks and look up at the moon, and lately, I’ve been taking afternoons off the hike and go the beach (it takes effort to do this on the East Coast) – but not in a privileged way, on the contrary, it is all still for survival.

Not only does America push you to the brink at work, but at the same time it forces you to be “nice”, easy to get along with and compromising, while you win, succeed and standout. If you’re not likable, doors close. If you’re too confident, you’re a threat, if you aren’t attractive, you’ll “never get far.”

What a culture. What a conundrum.

I won’t buy in…because I’ve already paid. My mother asked me after I was published in the Village Voice what will I do if I hit my bucket list goals early in life. I told her, I’d go swimming for a few years……

Stage fright

Depression

Exhaustion

Lost Years

Lost Time

Learning How to Love

Eating What Sustains

Vitamins for Health

Garlic for the Heart

Moisturizers to Stay Young

Pedicures to Heal the Effects of Miles

Flat Shoes for the Knees

Reading Glasses for the Aging Vision

Light Makeup to Cover Dark Little Circles

Dinner Parties to Figure Things Out

Responses to Questions Because It’s What I Do

I still have a long way to go.

 

 

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Braving the Days: Permission and Decision

Photo by Tim Gao

I have been maintaining that the day I turned 30 was the first day of my life. I felt my first 29 years of life were just about me getting my feet wet and learning the systems of my culture, of metaphysical realms, of behaviors and relationships – and age 30 was when I began applying all that I’ve learned in order to morph a life I want to live.

My unraveling and deconstruction of forced constructs like judgmentalness, monogamy without commitment, feminine behavioral expectations and racism is just something that is going to have to be worked through with conscious effort.

The confusion only comes when I try to apply myself to analyzing these major constructs with idealism.

It all isn’t going to happen in one day, and I believe this realization comes as a benefit with age. I am not as hard on myself, and I have learned that other people’s mess has very little to do with me. Karma comes when you immerse yourself and intermingle with the spirits, realities and consciousness of others. If someone is behaving oddly and you know for a fact, that you have no desire to or have not even inadvertently tampered with someone’s reality or emotions, it is best to not take their drama to heart.

Adult life is a tangled web of complexity if you choose to be aware, and if you work to be aware, you can work to create peace in your reality by sidestepping the attraction of inner and outer turmoil. This is not to say that life doesn’t at times, grab us by the hair and whip us too and fro without our existential permission…

At this point, I don’t even care for the word “permission” and have been slightly avoiding the word “decision.”

Permission and Decision

You get old enough permission becomes a bit of a moot option when it comes to relationships. Permission turns into conversation, understand and compromise…hopefully. And decision can turn into intuition. 

I am not wise, I’m just trying. There are a lot of people in this world who give up trying to better themselves, to understand themselves, their environments and relationships. I hope I don’t ever get to a point where I don’t try to get by, to get along, to grow, to chip away at the crust of normalization and the force of the status quo in order to live more comfortably in a very tense and terse world.

…but maybe, if I moved to Figi, and buy a bungalow and cook what I grew and fished for, I would not be living in a tense and terse world. Life is what I make it…maybe a part of me is clambering to find nature inside and out.

 

 

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Braving the Days: The Hermit

jordannah1

Well, Marlana, our editor in chief, sent over some topics to consider writing about last week. It is not that I don’t have a well of thoughts to share at the moment, but I decided to take some time and review Marlana’s thoughts and input before I went off on my own tangent.

The thing about aging while being a fiercely independent person is that I’ve learned to be a bit more collaborative – maybe collaborative is the wrong word. The better term is “creative consideration” and having regard for other’s intellectual needs or guidelines, even when things are free form. When someone extends a large amount of creative freedom or leeway, it takes time over the years to understand that that freedom is coming from a leader and you learn to remember that they exist…at all times, and learn that it is important to keep them in the corner of your awareness so that you don’t go too far out.

Going too far out doesn’t really serve anyone….not even yourself.

One of the topics my fellow colleagues and I were asked to consider was “The Hermit.” Now, I didn’t reply to Marlana and say I was going to write about this topic because I didn’t decide to do it until I wrote my second word, so it may be very possible that another columnist may write about “The Hermit.” This is ok with me. Like I said, sharing creative freedom is important.

The first thing that came to my mind was the higher arcana tarot card, The Hermit. The tarot has been a fascination of mine ever since I was a little girl. I had a natural affinity for the deck and they seemed to like me as well because whenever I gave a reading, even in my pre teen innocence, the understanding and advice I received through my interpretation  of the cards seemed to be very accurate, and there were times during my reading that I was able to bring people who were 20 years older than me to tears. I kind of lost my connection with The Tarot when I became a teenager, and kept my connection with mysticism very private until a few weeks ago when I stumbled into a lecture in a tiny DIY space hosted by the a local tarot club.

The lecture was an overview and history of the tarot. I remember being very tired, while on my way to the event. I walked about 9 blocks in the blistering cold, but I endured the track because I’ve learned that personal education is very important. I like to immerse myself in something outside of my work to keep myself stimulated. The lecture was fascinating and I was glad I had gone. Since then, I allowed the founder of the group to lightly guide me and take me under her wing and read me – teaching me about the meanings of the cards. 

“The Hermit” is not a card I pull very often in my personal readings, but that might be the problem with me at the moment. “The Hermit” represents a time of soul searching and self reflection. It dignifies a time of contemplation. That is exactly what I’ve needed lately: some time to meditate and get in touch with my soul, but my mind has been overcome with worry.

With all this said, the card I have been pulling has been “Temperance” which represents the need for balance, patience and moderation.

I’m not sure which is more appropriate at this very moment: soul searching and self reflection or balance, patience and moderation. I have no problem making the assumption if not the general declaration that I need all of these attributes and actions in my life right now.  My guru says “You’ve got to let your emotions play out. You shouldn’t push them away, they are a part of being human.”  I understand that, but my natural reaction to tough emotions and behaviors like impatience, worry, paranoia, pain and sadness are to push them away. I seem to believe I can meditate anything away – but lately, the more I push emotions away, the more intense they get.

Last month, it was of no consequence…now, I guess I’m feeling a few consequences from attempting to feel “ok.”

The Hermit and Temperance

If I may, I’ll refer to my last entry, It is of No Consequence and express that I was feeling like I wanted to leave the public eye. I’m sure “The Hermit” ties into that desire.  I’m sure it ties into the desire to want to get away, and obtain my privacy, to find a safe quiet place to think and live without the pressure of persona and anything else that has to do with presenting myself to people I do not know. 

Anyway, maybe there is a consequence this month from attempting to believe that there was no consequence last month. With everything there is an equal and opposite reaction. So on some level, there is always a consequence.

 

 

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Braving the Days: It is of No Consequence

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I’m sitting in Boston, holding my palms to my chest.

I pitched this column to be of the existential persuasion, which brings a slight bit of pressure for me to insinuate something deep – every month.

I tried to write this piece a couple of weeks ago, referring back to the debut essay, “Braving the days: using a few words devoid of superfluity” to pick up where I left off. Unfortunately, I realized that I cannot deliver what I promised: to follow up that essay by writing on the topic of “Giving people a loophole to demoralize you.”  I realized I didn’t want to write about that anymore because I am in an significantly better state of mind then I was in December.

I had gone through a heavy bought of holiday depression. I always go through holiday depression, but last year’s experience was different. It felt forced upon me as I have grown old enough to not internalize my sadness, but to let it go, allowing it to run its course. 2016’s holiday depression took a couple of months to run its course, moving in on me from when I returned home from an extensive tour in early November right on up until New Year’s Day. I felt helpless with this depression because I couldn’t shake it with my optimistic powers. Coupled with me dawning on my 30th year of life, I went through a “What is it all about??” phase for a little while, questioning the path I had taken in life, wondering if taking on a public career was the right decision as I was craving privacy, a quiet cabin in Aspen and the warm breath of a horse’s moist nose touching mine, breathing with me, giving me love and energy of its quiet wisdom and ancient responsibility.

I didn’t want to be Jordannah Elizabeth anymore. I had fantasies of moving to another city and changing my name and never mentioning my books, articles, travels, modeling photo shoots, Rolodex of successful musicians, publicists and artists. I fantasized about being a school teacher – and even more so, I wondered if I would be able to make friends easier and I wondered if people would treat me differently, knowing I had nothing to offer but just some simple company. I wanted people to love me for me. And it was a very scary feeling because I felt my actual life was very so far from that reality.

People say I’m “down to earth,” but where am I supposed to go? And with the power I do wield, I don’t feel it is an excuse to for me to be in any way rude or abusive to people. Being rude or abusive comes from deeper issues, not a fancy job.

On top of all that, my tour had battered my body and I came home with high blood pressure and a couple of other issues. So, the whole mortality thing was going on too, oy.

Nonetheless, I had worked through all that once New Year’s came, the weight naturally lifted off of me and I had changed my diet to essentially nothing but avocados, granola, oatmeal and almond milk for two months, so once my second’s doctor’s appointment came around, I was healthy again….

So, my deadline for this essay was January 15th and I wasn’t angry anymore. Suffice to say, I had to think about what I wanted to write about…now my deadline is 17 days late and all I have to say is that:

I went through all of that and I sit here writing, essentially the same as I was last fall. I don’t even know what all that stress and anger was for – except for my anger with Kanye West. That has waned a bit as well, and morphed into more of an understanding and even validation.

I was able to foresee his entire episode play out, right up to him taking photos with Donald Trump, sending prophetic revelations of idiocy to my editors. None of them actually wanted to admit Kanye has become a right-wing poster boy and that he is the epitome of male privilege, so maybe I’ll write my thoughts on that next month. Maybe I won’t, because next month, I’ll probably be the same person… going through some existential issue only to realize it was a waste of evaluation because we don’t change.

Our core, our purpose, our relationship with God.

It is of no consequence.

Jordannah Elizabeth is an writer, musician and educator. She’s the author of Don’t Lose Track Vol. 1: 40 Articles, Essays and Q&As.

 

 

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Braving the days using a few words devoid of superfluity

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In thinking about writing this piece I went through a series of thoughts, ideas and processes to create a potent and intriguing piece of writing. I sat and looped around ideas, emotions and thoughts which whooshed and swirled in my head only to realize a) I’ve had a very long week and felt spent of emotions and honest realities b) I may be experiencing writer’s block c) I am going through a deep bout of insecurity (only for about 48 hours), and figure I might as well expose it here.

And in discovering those small beacons of truth within my inner self, feeling as though I could experience some slivers of cognizant feelings, I went a little further and began to open up to myself. I decide to go straight to the meat of my discomfort and ask myself if I am angry. This question was close to the surface because I had just had a telephone conversation with a friend, expressing that I was, in fact, angry.

To be more specific, I was telling my friend I was angry with Kanye West. I was angry with him as a man and, of course noted how I understood that we as adult human beings all have histories that move us to react to things that can seem aggressive or obscure, but it was still the truth that my anger was acutely directed at him. I further expressed in the conversation that I felt he had done so much damage via his blatant self absorption and eccentricities to a generation’s psyche, to our culture’s psyche that I felt angry, that seemed to be completely aloof to the affects of his behavior.

So, I am angry about that. I am angry with his entire being and existence, and that shouldn’t be a thing, because no one is perfect, but when I speak with this particular friend via telephone I know I can tell my truth and I can analyze as little or as much as I’d like to. She gives me that free reign to say exactly what I need to even if my thoughts are not formed, not that the reality of this anger is not formed. It’s been seething, bubbling, growing and adulting for some time now…which is why I am writing about this within a public forum. Whether others think I am write or wrong, or whether my anger is appropriate, valid or well formed is not my business. I can’t do anything about what others think except sincerely respond, hoping the reader and I can come to some understanding with grace, as a conversation about anger can easily begat more anger, so it will take some finesse and sensitivity to keep a conversation about being angry with a loved music icon cool and at bay. I guess, I would just look at it like, I am not angry with my readers for having thoughts, not can I be angry at a reader for being angry at me for being angry at someone they feel that they love and should protect. I ask for it by writing words. I must find a way to accept and understand potential consequences, negative or positive.

Anyway, going even further with my truth, I paused to take a broad look at the purpose of this column and the title of this publication: TERSE.

What is the definition of TERSE?

TERSE: Using few words devoid of superfluity.

I’d only heard the word in passing – as a professional wordsmith I can admit that I learn new words everyday, words that may be very normal for certain be can be foreign or unknown to me simply because of every morsel of the experiences I’ve been through in life have never called for me to use, encounter or understand countless words.

Anyway, in learning the definition of TERSE, I asked myself if I should write a brief column entry and if all of my column entries should be brief, to pay homage to the name of this website, then by adding the title of this column. “Braving the Days” I began to think:

“Braving the days using a few words devoid of superfluity.”

How would one do that or how would that sentence be acted out in real life? Yes, this is how my brain works. Between my thought journeys I write notes. I scribble thoughts and ideas and sew them together hoping to God they make sense. Who in God’s name would give me the opportunity to write free form? Should a messy thinker like me be permitted to write without direction from an editor or without a tightly fleshed out theme?

Braving the Days?

The only bravery in me is the ability for me to say, “yes” – yes to opportunities like this. I don’t take it for granted.

Next month I will write about:

“Giving people a loophole to demoralize you.”

I had this thought within my meanderings but I didn’t have time to explore it now as my work here should be brief, lest I go off topic and drown in a sea of listless bumbling sentences. -Jordannah Elizabeth

 

 

 

 

 

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