First we accept. All definitions will do. Formats and styles that worked previously too. We accept things as they are. We pray they accept us too. They don’t. We try and try and still we remain unaccepted.
Then we begin to look inwards. We begin the work of looking at ourselves through their lens. A double consciousness of sorts. What do they see in us? What don’t the like about us? Are we too ambitious? How do we stay ambitious without offending them? All the subtle ways to act or not act are part of stage 2.
Then we act. If we are going to remain true to ourselves we might as well be ourselves. Or there will be no self. So we redefine ourselves and them. Choose their language carefully but redefine our own. We unname things that we know won’t work. Unname the process to. We give up parts of self that stand in the way. Give up stories and questions that paved the way. We build nests in windy places. We fill our emptiness with things hollow. Then risk it all for the beginning of truth.
The fourth stage is where we learn to rename ourselves. It’s where we learn the hidden lives of trees, the lessons of the fallen leaves, learn how every leaf too is a hallelujah. We learn the blessings of boat, learn to carry water, learn about the light within, learn all that we carry, learn how to seat at our table, know who prepared it too. This stage is where we reclaim ourselves, begin our dreaming, reclaim our mystery, know our history, so we severe our misery.
Finally, we rename our world. When eyes have seen oceans, lagoons will never do. Rather, we bring all dreams to the ocean, we bring our fears too. We connect the two and dream beyond our fears. We know the force of our lives. We know the source of our lives too. We dance, we love, we work, we dream. The possibilities of a self renamed and reborn, resisting and reimagining all obstacles along the way is rewarding. The freedom too, from being defined is pure joy. All the ways you rise like a bird in flight. All the ways you peel things off like an onion, down to the core of you, is sublime.
These days, I have given my name and my life, freedom, my history and dreams, a new medium, all the misery from things and people, a deep hum, while I press forward to a new dawn. All the trees inside me have moved into the forest. Roots are connecting deeply with other roots, as leaves shout hallelujah. The sun and moon are me, forever hungry, forever sharpened, like the edge where day and night meet. When you know you were never meant to survive. Know too that the battle is on.
There are five stages to becoming a soulful grant-writer. I listed them above. One steeped in storytelling too. These lessons personify how I do more than survive the grant writing process, survive academic setting too. Last week, some things tried to break me but truly failed. From the those who only see what they want, to those who follow without spine, some things tried to hold me back that all they did in the end was remind me of my dreams. Hold on to your dreams. It is a matter of life and death these days. They will come for you in subtle ways, ignore and dismiss you in big ways, but their ways are not your own, you who dream dreams that dream their own dreams. Know this and know peace. You are divine.