Pay it Forward

Photo Credit: www.freedigitalphotos.net per franky242
Photo Credit: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net per franky242

I’ve made a pact with myself to never refuse to help someone who tells me they are hungry. If someone asks for money it will largely depend on whether I have spare change. However if someone asks for food I will do whatever I can to help them out. If it means that I’d have to buy something with money I had for my own lunch, dinner, snack or whatever – I’d do it. You see I know that even if I go hungry for a couple hours I’ll always return home to a house with food. Not everyone has that luxury.

Last Sunday I stood by a flower kiosk at Victoria Station trying to decide which of the flower arrangements I wanted to buy for the wonderful family hosting me this week. It was a dead set competition between white and understated, colorful and vibrant and green and earthy. While I was lost in my thoughts a man walked directly to me. I’m not sure why he chose to approach me but a bit of me believes that it was because I was quite possibly the only person standing still in his immediate vicinity. I figured he was going to ask me for money and I started saying no before he could ask. I will confess that it wasn’t even because I didn’t have spare change. I was doing the judgmental thing. I was sizing him up, wondering if he would take the money and purchase liquor or drugs. I’d decided that he was and I thought that I wouldn’t waste my already limited spending money financing a drug habit. I feel shamed just typing that but in the spirit of frankness I had to put it in.

He stopped me as I started saying I had no change and said he didn’t want money but was asking for something to eat. I realized that there was something more important to be done than selecting the perfect bouquet so I told the woman at the kiosk I would be right back. I asked him to point out what he wanted and he took me to a stall and requested a sandwich and hot chocolate but when I asked him if he wanted anything else he politely declined. In those moments it was obvious he was afraid of asking for too much. Eventually he agreed to a chocolate muffin and a bottle of water as well. I paid and instinctively handed him the change. I don’t know what he will do with it. He may have used it for lunch or for dinner or for what I first suspected. In those moments it didn’t matter to me because for money I’d have probably used for something frivolous I was able to help someone in a less than ideal situation. And we’ve all been there. We’ve all had situations when we desperately needed someone to help us out. I may not have gone hungry but there have been moments when someone took time and effort to help me out of a tough spot. He tried to thank me but I told him I didn’t need it. We shouldn’t be patted on our backs or congratulated for being decent human beings. When I finally returned to the flower kiosk I chose the colorful and vibrant bouquet knowing that our world could be colorful and vibrant if we were all more compassionate.

I challenge you to try to perform at least three kind deeds per day. It need not cost us a thing. The kind deed may be a smile, a hug or a listening ear. Come on… pay it forward. There really isn’t much separating those who need help from those in the position to give it. Desperation is always one life turn away.

Tschuss,

Rilzy

… to be or not to be myself – the never ending question.

Hey guys.

I have been missing. I know… I know, what’s new right? Except this time I’ve been working hard to get my first novella ready for publication. It should, hopefully, be hitting the Amazon US and UK Kindle Stores by early February at latest. In case anyone has noticed that Sail has randomly been removed from this blog – you now know the reason. I’ve reworked it; got some editing done; chosen a cover and all those fun stuff but I’ve been very quiet about it on this blog because I’ve been contemplating publishing under a pseudonym. Now, now… it isn’t lost on me that if I publish as Rilzy Adams, I will be publishing under a pseudonym (kind of). Rilzy is just an affectionate shortening (but not really) of my actual name, Rilys and has been so much a part of my writing life that I only think of myself in terms of Rilzy when I write. Plus, this is the name to which all of my short stories and blog posts for the past several years belong. Yet, suddenly as publishing becomes more real I feel (and I will deny this tomorrow) afraid to publish under my not-so-real-but-more-real-than-most name. I’ve gone through the process of choosing an appropriate pseudonym, setting up a blog, a twitter account, a Facebook page and the works in preparation for publishing. As I am about to send off the info to the cover artist to get my cover ready, however, I am not sure that I can publish this novella as anything but Rilzy Adams.

I know where my fear is coming from. Fears, really. There is the big one – fear of failure. The fear that despite me giving this my best shot, I was still not ready and the world will declare the novella a failure and me someone who should just give up the jig and spend my time being a good, little lawyer. And then there is the fear which is a bit harder to fix. I am a black woman from the Caribbean. Whilst growing up, I was told repeatedly that I should write about Caribbean things, from the point of view of a woman and about black people because that was the only way to be authentic. I hate following instructions. And, so I’ve made it a habit to write books about whatever and whomever felt appropriate at the time which has resulted in me having a diverse collection of “finished” novels and novellas which I will now start working on getting out. However, despite all of this I was quite determined for the first novel / novella I put out to be set in the Caribbean and focused on a black couple. Unfortunately, the novella I selected for that purpose – Will You Be Mine? isn’t nearly ready for publication. The first reason is that it was completed six years ago and needs at least two rewrites before it matches my current growth in writing. In addition to that, I also because I now want to locate it in the middle of my Johnson Family Series – you might or might not have noticed that The Gift has gone missing from this blog – now you know why :). Sail With Me (the novella I intend to put out), was the manuscript most ready to be published. It was written last year and needed less rewrites. It also focuses on a white, American (previously British) couple because I was inspired by a photo of a couple on a beach and I went with their attributes.

So what now? Do I publish as Rilzy and deal with the possible flack (assuming that anyone gets reading the novella at all :P) for not writing about people who look like me or live where I do? Because I know that is what people will see — they will not see the four yet-to-be worked novellas and novels sitting on my computers featuring those people and the tens bouncing around in my head. Do I explain myself? Do I give this speech – “this is my novella but…?” or do I publish under another name with no photo attached so that no questions can be asked or opinions formed?

I don’t know what I will decide but I’ve taken the first gigantic step to making my dreams come through. So, despite my internal conflict: Rilzy is pretty damn happy.

Tschuss

Rilzy

For My Mother on Mothers’ Day

 

They say when you put something on the Internet it is forever. God, I hope so. In centuries to come, long after we are gone I hope that someone stumbles across this post and remembers the name: Gwendolyn C. Ralph-Browne. She is undoubtedly the most perfect human being to walk the face of this earth – but I am biased: she is my mother.

I know there will be a lot of people who will say that they love their mothers every day and as such they don’t need to make a big production out of it on one day. This is true, I love my mother day in – day out – everyday – irrevocably and I do try to make sure she knows it. This is me attempting to explain my love for her on a random day at 11:47:

IMG_20140312_114926

However, I see nothing wrong with making a spectacle today and for being grateful that I have an amazing mother and that she is still around for me to make a spectacle for. So… here we go!

 

Rilzy

TO MY MOTHER ON MOTHERS’ DAY

 

I love you. I love you to the rhythm of my heartbeat. It is this unconscious thing, that I just do… and I couldn’t stop it if I wanted to. And without it, I’d die. You see, ma, my heart does not just pump blood but also the adoration I have for you.  Yet, if I were being completely honest I would tell you that I don’t just love you… I live for you. Each breath I take is filled with gratitude for the woman who took the child that doctors said “wouldn’t make it anyway” and willed me to live with your love. You, ma, are my superhero, my wonder woman and I am awed at you. I am awed that for the months you spent on that hospital bed sustaining the life that seemed intent on taking yours, you thought that I was worth it.

 

And, for twenty-four years you have showed me that I am. I am filled with gratitude because through you I know that I can be loved not for what I can do or what I know but just for existing. I am filled with gratitude because I can say, without a flicker of doubt, that there is nothing in the world that I could do to make you love me less or love me more… because I can see the boundless depths of your love for me whenever I look into you eyes.

 

I’d like to call you my best friend but that doesn’t fit. Yes, we can spend hours laughing and giggling like teenagers until we fall asleep. Yes, you are still my favourite teddy bear and the keeper of my secrets, my picker-upper, my biggest fan. But you are more than the best friend a girl could ask for, more than the best mother a girl could ask for… you are my soul, my heartbeat. My heart physically hurts as I try to find the words that would possibly give an inkling of how much I love you. But, I realize that I can’t. And I realize that even though I try to show you every day that I would most definitely catch a grenade for you 🙂 – my actions can never be enough. The sun rises and sets on your smile. I hear angels sing in your voice. You are my everything. The Universe shone brightly on me the day you were made my mother. And,  although these words will never be enough or ever say enough they will have to do. I love you – beautiful, amazing woman! I loved you before I took my first breath and I will love you beyond my last. You are the best thing to ever be mine!

 

"The sun rises and sets on your smile. I hear angels sing in your voice. You are my everything."
“The sun rises and sets on your smile. I hear angels sing in your voice. You are my everything.”

 

Happy Mothers’ Day.

 

Your Ril-Dil

(and you know its the real deal for me to be putting that nickname out in public 🙂 )

An Open Letter to My Grandmother (On the Anniversary of Her Death)

My Grandmother died five days before my seventh birthday on the 23rd of April 1997. These are things I would say to her if I knew she could hear me.

Dear Granny,

Seventeen years. Wow. Nearly two decades. You’ve been dead almost three times as long as I’ve been alive and I miss you. I miss you so much my heart is sore and I can’t stop the tears from welling in my eyes or the pain I feel. And I want you to know that every person who told me that my heart would heal and that the pain would stop was a liar. It has never stopped hurting. It just hurts differently.

I don’t regret many things in life but I regret that my seven-year-old self did not realize how serious things were when I saw you that last time. And, I’m sorry Granny because I spent the entire time in that hospital room being slightly awed that I’d finally seen an oxygen mask in “real life” for the first time. You see I thought in no time you’d be home and everything would be alright. I couldn’t understand why the aunts were crying or the cousins or my mum so I didn’t try to understand. I just kept focusing on that stupid mask. And, I’m sorry because when ma called me into her room the next morning and told me you had died I was too busy watching the sunlight filter through the window. Now that I have had years to think about it, I think I just didn’t want to hear. I’m sorry that I didn’t cry then. I’m sorry that I didn’t cry in the days that followed and that I still managed to be excited for my birthday. I’m sorry that the highlight of the day of your funeral was that I got out of school early. I’m sorry I didn’t cry then either. But, seventeen years later, I still see your casket being wheeled up the aisle sometimes when I let my guard down. And I’ve cried so many tears since then that my teardrops should be enough to build me an ocean to swim to wherever you are. I cry whenever I see an old woman walking down the road because I wish you were still here. And I cry because I hate the world for having the audacity to keep on spinning without you in it. You’ve missed weddings and graduations and the birth of great-grandchildren. You’ve missed a black president and iPads. You’d be so surprised to see how big we’ve all gotten now. And, remember that time I convinced you to give me your grape soda and have my orange juice instead? Remember how I pointed out that sodas were unhealthy and you were old so you needed the Vitamin C more than I did? Yes, I know I argued more than most kids my age. And yes, I know sometimes I was probably a little bit (read: very) annoying. Well, you’d be proud to know that I’ve figured out a way to make arguing a job. Let’s hope the Courts are ready for me.

I panic sometimes because it’s getting harder and harder to remember your face. You’ve become hazy in my mind. Forgive me but I don’t remember your voice or your laugh. I can’t remember your smile. I’ve not forgotten everything, though. I remember that you were loving and kind. I remember that you were really, really patient when I got into trouble wandering off like some wild-child when everyone else my age was stuck in pre-school. I remember your favourite hymn was the Lily of the Valley. I know we sang it at your funeral. And, although it may have been a big stretch to think that Lilies were your favourite flowers too – I’ve assigned them to you. In a couple years from now (many, many, many), some little girl will bear the name Lily in honour of you.

I can’t remember everything, Granny, but I remember the love I felt for you. And, even without you here it continues to grow, because neither time nor the icy fingers of death can dislodge the torch I will always carry for you in my heart.

So sleep on beautiful soul.

I love you.

Photo Credit: www.freedigitalphotos.net per kongsky
Photo Credit: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net per kongsky

Rilzy

PS: If you and Uncle Joe are together right now tell him I’m still here, holding the fort and stirring up enough trouble to make him proud.

You’re Doing Better Than You Think

In the introductory class of one of my new courses the lecturer spoke of reading widely in these terms:

Reading widely is like walking along the beach in the sun. You get a sun tan slowly even though you don’t realize it is happening.’

As my skin complexion is way deeper than tan under normal circumstances I’ve edited it to suit my preferences. Thus, ‘You get sun espressoed even though you don’t realize it is happening.’

The people who know me best will tell you that I put immense pressure on myself. I blogged a couple years ago about the way I tend to feel like all my writing opportunity is slipping through my fingers and very soon there will be none left. I know it is silly but everyone has those little, irrational fears that seem to persist despite logic.

I currently write around 14 000 words per week on my current projects. I’ve been beating myself up about it because I know I’m fully capable of writing over 20 000 words per week. I guess you can imagine how annoyed I was with myself when I realized I was going to have to cut my word count from 14 000 per week to 10 000 because I also need to edit the first piece I’ve finished and I’ve said: ‘This is the one I need to publish.’ I wish I could just add in an extra hour per day for editing but I can’t. I still need to focus on my LLM and so that extra hour needed to come from currently slated writing time.

Every day I’d meet my 1500 word count goal and be vaguely ticked off with myself that I wasn’t writing 3000 or 4000. This has been going on for a couple weeks and in all of the anxiety and pressure I’ve managed to convince myself that I was at a standstill in my writing.

Then, something amazing happened.

About fours weeks ago I stumbled across an Amaryllis bulb in Tesco.  I impulsively (especially because I was so broke) spent 5 GBD to purchase it. My name, Rilys, is derived from the flower and so the idea of growing an Amaryllis from the bulb was symbolic for me. According to the instructions, the flower was expected to bloom in 8 – 12 weeks. I thought I’d use the weeks to work on myself as well and fix some of the things in my life needing fixing.  For the past week I’ve been looking at the plant thinking ‘Have I managed to kill my symbolic self? This thing looks the same way it did when I bought it.’

This morning, in frustration and slight panic, I pulled up the photo I’d first taken of the bulb and compared it with the plant in front of me. It was only then that I realized the flower was growing slowly, but steadily, all this time. I was so impatient for results that I missed its steady progress.

In an instant I realized I was doing the same thing with my writing and to a smaller extent my life.  I know many people do this do. It’s the real reason many people fail to achieve what they set out to. Not because of lack of talent or capability but because we give up. We often believe that slow progress isn’t actually progress. And, if we can’t see the progress it isn’t happening. Sometimes it’s necessary to let go of the panic and the pressure and trust that you are being sun espressoed even if it is happening slowly. Sometimes we’re blooming even though we can’t see it. Remember this whenever you feel like throwing in the towel: you’re doing better than you think!

So today I promise to let go of it all and have faith in the fact that as long as I work at this consistently and steadily I’m one step closer. It’s not a sprint. It’s the life I chose.

The Amaryllis' Progress
The Amaryllis’ Progress: In retrospect I have no idea how I thought it looked the same. 🙂

Tschuss

Rilzy

It’s That Time of Year Again…

 

In a couple of hours 2013 draws to a close.

I could write an epistle if I were to detail all the cool things that happened to me this year, all the lessons I’ve learned, the times I’ve cried and the times I’ve laughed until I thought I would suffocate. But I won’t. Firstly, because I’m also posting a short story (which is what I REALLY want you to read) and secondly, because I think my year can be summed up in thirty six words:
I dared. I stumbled. I fell. I hoped. I fought. I laughed. I cried. I lost. I accepted. I loved. I took. I gave. I dreamed.  I danced. I burned. I rose. I stood. I flew.”

I sit in Starbucks (because when am I ever anywhere else really? 😀 ) and I tally up all the times I’ve won this year and all the times I’ve lost. I make mental ‘chicken scratches’ of all the times life kicked me hard to the ground but got back up and learned to dodge similar blows.

It is clear that even though there were days when I felt otherwise – I’ve won more than I’ve lost. I’ve spent more time on my feet than I did on the ground. And most importantly, a lot of the time I’ve spent on my feet I’ve spent them dancing. They say life is not about finding yourself but creating yourself. Well this year I did both. I found all the bits of me I loved and wanted to keep close and I found the bits of me that hung off my spirit like rotten pieces of meat and I started ridding myself of them. Then, I settled in myself who I wanted to be… what would make me happy and I’ve been crawling, clawing my way to it. I will continue doing that next year. Heck, I’ll continue doing this each day for the rest of my life.

I could write a list of resolutions. I could say that next year I plan to lose weight, write more, do better in school, fall more deeply in love … with myself, dance more, laugh more, be more open to possibilities, dream harder, fall harder, flying higher. But I won’t. You see, I’ve realized something. Fireworks might usher tomorrow in but it will just be another damn day… and, yes, I’ll get another chance to start afresh but not any more so than every day in this year and every other day in the year to come. Because with each new sunrise comes a chance to fight for your life to be exactly the life you’ll love to live.

So Happy New Year. Happy 2014. Happy Living.

And these are my wishes for you.

Love deeply for it is the First Magick. Laugh yourself hoarse and breathless. Lose often for it means you’re taking risks. Let go of anything that doesn’t make you happy or grow. Embrace the bad days and tears because a phoenix isn’t always born from the ashes but sometimes from the cleansing river poured forth from your soul. And remember, always, that you are worthy and you deserve to live the life that makes you happy.
So, do as I did. Take a couple minutes and think of that life… that life which would make you most alive, most happy and most fulfilled. Now, tomorrow and every day for the rest of your life do every damn thing needed to get it.

Photo credit: www.freedigitalphotos.net per Naypong
Photo credit: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net per Naypong

Tschuss
Rilzy

Death’s Outside Your Door

It is 5:20 AM in good, (c)old London. Outside my window the blackness of the morning is dispersed by street lights and the headlights of cars and buses going up and down the street. At this very moment there are millions upon millions of people preparing to go about their day and for some of them (quite a lot of them) this day will be their last. Even as I type this I realize that I might be one of ‘them’ (I hope not) and it’s quite chilling to write that but I guess this is the point of this particular post. Between the helicopter that crashed into that pub in Glasgow and Paul Walker’s death, I can’t help but ponder on how random and unexpected death often is.

Beyonce is encouraging me through my headphones to leave my mark on this world and I can’t help think about this moment and about all the moments I have left. As much as we hate to think about it, Death is waiting … for everyone. He doesn’t respect gender, race, wealth or frankly, good timing. He stands outside the door of our lives and he is unbuckling his shoes waiting for the time when he can walk in.

So the question is what do I do with the moments in between this breath and my last? What do you do between that breath (yeah, the one you just took 🙂 ) and your last. Life is finite. Yet, we don’t often think of it in that manner. Trust me the Days of Our Lives has been trying to tell us for decades that life slowly runs out, “Like sand through the hourglass so are the days of our lives”… and although on some basic level we know this – we rarely act like it. I’m not encouraging anyone to YOLO (you only live once) because although that’s quite true I think Drake forgot the rest YOLOWTC (you only live once with the consequences). But… with consequences in mind the fact that we only have a finite amount of time to make our mark on this world and to live the life we want, we need to stop dreaming and start living. I spend a lot of time with my head in the clouds (they’ve granted me indefinite leave to remain); lots and lots of time thinking of what I want to achieve and how I plan to get there that at times I forget about this moment, these moments. And trust me at the end of the day all these moments add up. It’s about finding the balance.

If you’ve had four New Years Resolutions that you would: lose weight, go further in your career, get that damn book published (this is for me :D),, tell that guy / girl you’re attracted them, be more consistent, be kinder to yourself … to everyone else, go skinny dipping or whatever it might have been, it is time to realize that you have four less years to achieve them. I’m not saying that there won’t be disappointments. To lose the weight you’d probably have to give up your sushi addiction (and by you, I mean me ;)) and to get that book published there will probably be quite a few rejection slips along the way. That person mightn’t feel that chemical reaction :P, but that’s fine… five years from now you might realize in true Beyonce style that they were the best thing you’ve never had. But, there’s a lot to be said about putting yourself out there… the bruises that you might get and all! 

When Death finally steps through my door (and, I hope it is a long, long, long, long time from now … but who knows, really?) I want to be able to go without thinking of all the things I wished I did. I want to be able to be happy and grateful for all the things I’ve done. Then, well, I want to punch him straight in the face. So it’s about time for me to start doing everything I can to make that happen. How about you?

Photo Credit: www.freedigitalphotos.net per smarnad
Photo Credit: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net per smarnad

Tschuss,

Rilzy