A few months ago on a late winter saturday night, I went to a bar with my coworkers. If you're wondering what I was thinking, join the club. My underlying motive: my crush invited me to come hang at his venue, and I was all too eager to be in the same room as him, be around him--you know how it is when you have a crush!
My coworkers and I got off at midnight and we sped over to Bed Stuy where his bar was thudding on its street corner, guarded by burly security guards who took seeing my face on a plastic surface along side my date of birth with the greatest seriousness. As some female form in the cold stamped my hand I could hear the din of those contained inside just above a whisper telling me I had no business in such a place, at such a time. Nevertheless, I entered. As soon as my friends and I crossed the threshold I wanted to leave, but I encouraged myself to stay. They called me boring. They called me old. They said I needed to have the experience. I came into agreement with their statments and there I was in an atmosphere that assaulted my contents.
I don't drink. That, I'll never budge on.
My coworkers ordered drinks and we shoved our way through whining up and bumping and swaying of heavy bodies. Finally, we were squeezed onto the other side of the room. The bar owner (an acquaintence) invited us behind the fenced off portion of the floor where we spent the next couple of hours dancing in that 20 sq. ft. blocked-off area, safe from unsolicited approaches from men waiting their turn; safe from the commotion just on the other side of the barrier. Every now and then I'd stop and regard the packed room jirate and jive and push and thrust before me, thankful I was not in the midst of that storm. I'd never seen anything like it (my homeschooling is telling on itself here...). Drinks were all but being thrown into the undulating crowd as money changed hands with scampering bartenders. Cocktails and beer bottles ascended and descended in their owners' hands, held at enough distance from their pressing, heaving bodies. Men's eyes darted for unpartnered women. Women looked for their girls and handsome men. The DJ machinated the room with lyric after beat after lyric. And our shadows dancedddddd.
After 45 minutes or so the room became hot with body heat, eyes became redder, and large hands blindly reached into the sea of fleshy hips for another catch. The undulating bodies twisted and stomped on a spectrum of wild and pornographic. Clusters of heavy shadows encroached upon movement obeying lyrics' chants. More spirits spilled and dancers who aren't dancers danced and smooshed themselves against one another, guided by their attitudes, deep sensations needing to escape into a loud atmosphere, the beats pulsating from the speakers through their chests, and whatever was sloshing around in their cups. It became too much for me, but I suppressed the feeling, guided by the idea of my peers calling me "old" and "boring."
When I got home around 3am I played one of the songs I'd heard at the bar and danced around in my room some more. I didn't pay attention to what I was being told in the song, I just enjoyed the beat as I readied for bed.
That night I slept horribly. Missing the dawn and waking up late my back was sore, I felt noisy inside, I couldn't write, couldn't focus in quiet, ALL the songs' lyrics were repeating over and over in my head and and off, and I couldn't paint. My head was all over the place and I was good for nothing that required Divine inspiration. My mind was so crowded with scenes and songs from the night before that virtually everything that I contain--ideas, poetry, journal entries, etc.--felt safe enough to come out.
After a few hours of wrestling and begging my mind to be still, praying for the vomit from the night before to wash off from my insides, and feeling the heaviness of conviction, I heard the small voice: Was it worth it?
So often I get asked why I don't do certain things like drink, attend every party to which I'm invited, or go out to the club or see certain movies or listen to all the latest songs. This aforementioned night has become my latest, freshest reference. Now at the end of the day what happened? Technically "nothing." I went to a bar with some coworkers, saw my crush, danced to music, and then left. I didn't grind up on a stranger, nor did I drink. So why was I incapacitated the next day? I know why.
As you maneuver through the world everything you contain stays, comes, and goes with you, because...it's inside of you. The product idea, concept sketches garment design, Youtube series, book of poems, cookie recipe, business strategy, journal entries etc.--all of it experiences the world with you. Whatever you give permission to touch you, touches these things you contain. Atmospheres, environments, violent or sexual scenes, song lyrics+beats, alcohol, etc.--when these are taken in, they become "roommates" to what's within, aggravating, contaminating, wreaking havoc and tormenting until they violently take over, evicting what belonged to you in the process. The consequence: tainted impact*.
I know all of this, yet I still thought my quiet, sensitive soul could handle that bar's space and its energy. I was so, so, so wrong. It took me over a week to get that night out of my head and out of my body so that I could have the channel between my mind and Divine inspiration cleared again. It took me a week of being quiet and not listening to music to get those nasty lyrics out of my head, to unmemorize the association of those songs with various scenes of couples and crowds packed in a room bouncing against each other.
A night of "just hanging out" was more assaulting on my spirit than I gave it credit for, and I had the foresight of the consequences but chose to ignore it and go along anyway. Even more convicting was the stupid reason why I risked losing the treasures of my sacred headspace in a violent, optional event: I wanted to have the experience and see my crush and prove that I can be "one of the girls" or whatever.
As thinking teastained women our discernment is what sets us apart, enabling us to have clear heads for our storylines and our documentations. We can't do everything. We can't be everywhere. We can't hang out with everyone all the time. We have to guard ourselves with vigilance and honor, valuing the invisible things we contain far above the way we are perceived by those around us because we do so. Our decisions will make us look strange and maybe even awkward. We'll be called names and have words projected onto us because people can't figure us out. We'll be perceived as irrelevant because we are selective about what we allow to become a memory. More times than not we'll feel isolated because the list of "don't's" seems longer than what we can safely do without compromising the possibilities we hold.
And, like myself you may even be interrogated with "Well, why can't you do THIS? Your religion or something?" Haha. Preservation of what's to come from you isn't a religion, but it is a lifestyle. What's at stake with everything capriciously permitted to engage with our spirit+soul is our efficacy in existing in the future tense space of purpose. Whatever we expose ourselves to either enriches or compromises, nourishes or poisons. In a society that exalts moment over monument, we have to consider everything in this manner. It may make us seem boring and old but the long-lasting effect? Clarity and clear access to the work we were created to do not just for "now" and for ourselves but for the generations beyond us and the times and spaces they will occupy.
Keep this at the forefront and do the work you were created to do.
*Our culture values influence over impact. The difference between the two is that influence is temporary and topical whilst impact is multigenerational and resounding. You can see how you're influencing in the moment without knowing how that influence will impact that person in 10 years.