It's a New Year! What 2017 Taught Me

"Her Dragons Fly" by Shanna T. Melton

Transformation has been one of the biggest wishes that I've cast into the universe in the last year (waaayyyy longer than that to be honest). To know me is to know that I've been quite specific about what I want to transform. The truth about being specific, is that there can still be angles that you don't see. I wanted a new job and God pushed me entirely into my art. I wanted to clear energy that hurt or felt neglectful and God pushed some of the closest relationships I had away. I wanted my grandmother to be healed or stop suffering and God took her home where she would be healed and stop suffering. I asked God for a financial increase too, we are still in the lab on that part.

In the beginning of this year, I found out that I would receive three major awards! The first was The Ijlal Muhammad Humanitarian Award from the Al-Aziz Islamic Center, Bridgeport. The second was The Arts & Culture Empowerment Award (ACE Award) from the Cultural Alliance of F airfield County. The third was a Bridgeport Girls Rock Award from The Polished Pearls Foundation in partnership with Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Theta Tau Omega Chapter. Each ceremony was exquisite in ballrooms and a theater, lovely food, music and other honorees who have changed the culture in powerful ways. More than honored for the award, I was honored by the company I was among. These institutions that were honoring me deserve recognition beyond words for the ways they consistently impact the community. These were a reminder that despite the way my world was unraveling, I am surely being moved into a better position in art and life.

The Bridgeport Girls Rock Awards
The ljlal Muhammad Humanitarian Award

Arts & Culture Empowerment Award (ACE Award)

The strange thing is that I've put a lot of effort into applications and networking so that I can find a new way to manage my life. None of those things came to pass. It is the things that I have not put effort behind that have come and enhanced my life. It is complicated how I believe that faith without work is dead while still believing that this is a season when I am being forced to submit. It is a season to be humbled and allow other people to work in my life. It has been a challenge to me because I feel extreme guilt and restlessness when I am not in control.

The messages that keep coming to me have been in the same theme. Things do not break so they can be thrown away, they break so it's contents can be poured out and to make room. I could easily feel broken and there are many days when I do, but not without the knowledge that room is being made for a greater experience. If we do not change, we are not living. Nobody said it would be easy but I admit to wishing it could be a bit smoother.

My grandmother has been one of my greatest teachers. She was delivering silent lessons simply by existing and allowing me to witness the journey. She was delivering loud and intentional lessons with every word. I remember her being at the height of her confusion from dementia when we were at her bedside at hospice and the only thing familiar to her was our family. She had transcended beyond her pain and confusion and instinctively went into her art. My grandmother was a seamstress. She had labels with her name, Lucille M. Liburd on her clothing and dolls. My cousins and I, like our parents, were walking advertisements for her creations on different occasions throughout our lives. As we stood by her wondering when and how this would end, praying it would be peaceful, she began to sew. She held pins between her lips, she pedaled her feet and pushed fabric through the sewing machine to make dresses for us. There were no pins or pedals and the machine was her hospital table. Her art was sparing her from pain. All those years of losing a days in her sewing room and keeping her needle and thread ready for a rip, tear or burst of creativity held her when she needed it the most.

"Grandma's Coffee ~ Lucille Mildred Liburd" by Shanna T. Melton

Artists often think of how their art will impact the world. We hope that our stories, images, dance, compositions will tap into the human experience of another and help them feel connected. Even if it is just for a little while. It wasn't until I witnessed this experience with my grandmother that I realized how much this art is for me as well. I can easily lose a day in a zone where I feel no pain, contemplate resolutions to problems or dreams, have conversations that I might not have been able to articulate in the moment. I add time to my life by creating art that will exist beyond my short time on earth. It is a gift to discover your passion and do it so much that your body has memorized it well enough for your instincts tap into it to protect you.

In a moment of clarity, my grandmother realized that she was in transition. A week later, we were in the hospital watching her fight for her life and win. We had a whole added year of memories to share with her, hard and soft, all necessary. The lesson, God has more say than man about the direction of your life. She would randomly begin to sing "Hallelujah". The lesson, praise God anyhow.

People stop hurting you when you realize that you are a gift. When you realize how precious your time is and how little value they have for it if they are wasting a second of it by treating you poorly. That you are not appreciating your time by showing up to places where you are not honored. Not just physical places, spiritual places as well.

The new year puts us in a lot of places where we are encouraged to make resolutions. I do not do those, they quickly get complicated. I set intentions and I really consider my needs. I will be intentional about moving beyond mourning because it does not honor who I love. I will be intentional about moving beyond the bubble I have found safety in because it is when you are challenged by vulnerability that you find your blessings. I will be intentional about letting people love me instead of trying to do it all myself. I will be intentional about singing "Hallelujah: and praising God anyhow because even in this time of discomfort, I have so much to be thankful for...blessings upon blessings upon blessings! I will be intentional about encouraging those whom I love to do the same.



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