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Manifesto: Growl at the Bear

Over the last few months I've allowed myself to be more vulnerable than ever. I've let some things slip past my lips and said them, quite assuredly, to the universe. The universe responded by shaking things up and unsettling my bones. There is a lot of Newness in that and I am, naturally, very afraid. 

I've gotten some of the best advice from women. Some are powerful women who take the business world by storm and some are powerful women who run their households as stay-at-home mothers. In the last 6 months, I've written a lot of things that I've been keeping to myself. But that was before the Manifesto bug bit me. What I realized is that this Manifesto that I'm writing is really just all the good advice I've ever been given that I'm finally starting to take in by swallowing it whole and allowing it to just wash over me. 

First, my friend Karen told me this: write down everything you want and don't just be specific about it, but get it down to the last detail. What do you want your days to look like a year from now? When you wake up in the morning, what will you do next?

The answer to that was this: I want to wake up and write, but first I want to have coffee with The Cuban and talk about the news of the day and go exercise with him to get my body ready so that my mind can create. Maybe I'll draw or repurpose some old junk I have. I might paint the bathroom or move the bedroom furniture around. Then, I'll go out and interact with people and laugh and talk and then, maybe it'll be time to write. I want to be living a full life first before I should write.

The key word that I got from that was "create". I said it aloud after writing it down. "Create. I want to create."

Second, my friend Lesha said this: "What are you doing here and I don't just mean in this space. What are you really doing here?"

That is an answer I'm still coming up with at the moment, but I can say that I am creating here and I will create some more and always work at creating. Like this Manifesto. It was born out of a desire to hear the stories of being a girl and listening to that girl living inside of me who hasn't told them all just yet. My daughters have heard my stories so that I can teach them to be stronger as women, but I know that a generation of girls are listening, too, and they want to tell their stories. I'm talking about a global generation. My scope widened when I traveled last year and I feel like whatever stories we think we'll hear from girls in our own circle really doesn't even scratch the surface. Who are these girls, all of them, and what are their stories?

Which brings me to Elan, the very gentle soul and creative designer behind my new site. When I started to work with her she asked me questions about what was important to me and about something I said aloud that scared me after I got a reaction from the universe. It was right after I got home from Africa and saw the mud huts of the women living there and it wasn't pity, but a very common response to taking trips like that. I said, "Well, I can give up this big house now because I don't need it."

And then I took a huge hit to my paycheck. It was swift and immediate and I had the very real thought that I could lose my house.

I have to tell you about my house and only because it took so long for me to have something this nice. The first apartment I had was really tiny, but it was mine and there is something precious in that. After that I lived in apartments until I got married and saved up a couple thousand dollars to buy my in-law's house. It was supposed to be a starter home for us, but it never really became mine. It seemed like all my friends were building houses or buying nice ones and I, foolishly and jealously, wanted the same thing so I told my husband we should work harder and save but that wasn't in his plans for us. When I finally moved out of it and ended our marriage, I moved back into an apartment. 

My first thought was that I was never going to have a house and certainly nothing very nice. 

And then the divorce proceedings began and I wasn't sure who he was anymore. You know who you marry. You don't know who you divorce. You'll meet that person before a judge and in front of laywers and witnesses and you won't recognize them at all. 

He sued me for the house and all the contents and he won. All that equity. Gone. So, I started over, saved up again, and bought the house of my dreams. 

Then, I went to Africa, told the universe I didn't need it, and was late on a payment. Do you see how tricky the universe can be? Crafty minx. 

A month after that, my job was in jeopardy in that I wasn't going to be able to stay in my position at my school. Budgets are in a state of emergency, layoffs are imminent, and change is coming whether I want it to or not. So, I said this aloud to the universe. 

Fine. Then, you tell me what job to have. You tell me what to do.

I focused on that for too long and stopped creating. It stalled me until I spoke to Elan again and she asked me about my future. I rattled off some ideas and dreams and some wouldn't-it-be-nice fantasies. But, I told her, I'm really scared. I'm the breadwinner in my family now and I can't let anything change or mess it up because I have worked too hard to have this so maybe I should just settle into a nice position and stay put.

"Sometimes, excitement is just fear dressed up in a bear suit."

Things looks really scary right now. Where will I be for my job? What will I do to make a living? Where will I live? What will happen with all the stuff I've been working to replace? Will I ever be a published author? Questions circle around in my head until I'm dizzy or have a headache. All of the possibilities of this elation are a buzz and I'm drunk on it now that I know I don't have to be afraid of it. What about just creating for creation's sake? What if I just commit to writing the stories of a girl? 

When I'm alone at home and have to get things done I tend to procrastinate by cleaning the kitchen. It's a mighty clean kitchen I have in this house. Part of the reason I clean so much is because it's the nicest place I've ever lived in so I want to take care of it. But, when the cleaning is tedious I start to think and then I start to listen to music and then, quite often, I start to dance. I dance around the house and sing into whatever is in my hand (except a toilet brush because I don't want it near my face and that is just gross) and I act like I'm making a music video. But not one of the new stupid ones. One of the old ones from when everybody danced and sang. Maybe I'm confusing that with a musical, NO MATTER. The point is that I was dancing and thinking and I wasn't scared for just a moment and I remembered that fear that put on a bear suit and zipped up the back and looked frightening and I growled. 

Right into the air. I growled and bared my teeth and stopped singing long enough to say, "I'm not afraid of you." I imagined the bear suit unzipping and dropping to the floor and then I imagined myself. I was a girl again and I tried to remember what that childlike confidence felt like. I decided, after hearing Elan describe it to me, that excitement was actually quite likeable and not at all a predator and certainly without any teeth. There's no bite to it.

You're not afraid, girls. You're excited. Growl at the bear if you have to let go of something holding you back, but make it take off that ridiculous outfit and then envelope it. You have some creating to do.

« On Manifestos: Create Something | Main | Manifesto: That Thing You Want To Say »

Reader Comments (11)

Sister. Sister. Sister.

We are traveling miles together.

Keep going.... I am hanging on holding my breath...exhaling and holding on.

January 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLovebabz

While you and I don't always see eye-to-eye on things like politics, I admire you, respect you and look up to you in so many ways. You're an incredible blogger-story teller and I love how you put it all out there for us to be a part of your world. Thank you for sharing so much. You are a true educator- the more I follow, the more I learn from you.

January 3, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterkatie

I like this new/old you. Love these posts- I'm inspired (always have been by you but even more so now).

January 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSizzle

Kelly, we met in boston briefly a few years ago. I have always been a fan of your writing and was so excited to meet you that day. This manifesto of yours is speaking to me in profound ways. I too bought an inlaws house that never felt like mine. I am getting divorced and am shocked by who he is becoming. I am in the middle of moving my children out of that house, and into an apartment, and trying to reinvent our lives, while maintaining their sense of stability. This scares me, in more ways than I am willing to admit or think to deeply about. Time to growl at the bear! Thank you for always being you and being strong enough to share these thoughts.

January 3, 2013 | Unregistered Commenteralison

I'm inspired to create my own manifesto.

Growl On!!!

January 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDawn

How I adore you.

January 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKjirsten

you are motivation and light.
I clean my kitchen alot these days.
The kitchen that is mine that I never thought I would have.


January 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLiz

This manifesto is quite becoming of you. You are so inspiring to me. I've been stuck and plowing through absolute nothingness. Your words, your passion are encouraging me to be a better me. Not the shell of total blah.

January 3, 2013 | Unregistered Commentergorillabuns

Kelly, I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy reading your blog and the fire that it is beginning to ignite in me. I am staring into the eyes of a "bear" and sometimes feel I feel like I'm looking right into the belly of it, but your words are keeping me from being swallowed whole. I knew you when we were kids (since PFS days), but through your writing it's been nice getting to know you as an adult and a true inspiration.

January 4, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterkim t.

It reminds me of the quote by John F Kennedy (a quote I think I needed reminding of myself): "When written in Chinese, the word "crisis" is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity."

Life has a tendency of throwing stuff in our faces. These objects don't carry any inherent emotion or outcome...that's the stuff we provide.

January 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterClaire J

You are a published author. I don't know how wordpress works, but when I post something--I have to push a button that says, "Publish"

I'm digging your manifesto.

January 6, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermyblackfriendsays

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