A poem by Jasmine Clark
A tightrope in the middle
Happy on one side
Sad on the other
You teeter on the balance with ease
I fall to either side
Unable to climb back up
Drowning in this emotion
I choke on its power
You see me down there
Impossible to imagine why I can’t get myself out
For I am stuck in the abyss of emotion
To strong to let me go
You reach out to save me
But eventually you tire
A mere bout of kindness is stifled by that abyss
It continues to cover me
And here I am left with a void
Alone, I find myself on the tightrope, the balance you once stood
Only to fall to another side
You reluctantly return
But like before, you leave
Exhausted and done, you never come back
And as a cycle always finding itself back at the same point
I repeat my climb to the tightrope
But it repeats, and I fall
Only, I am alone
Hello Groovy People!
I am a people pleaser. I am not sure when this started, but I wasn’t always like this. I do know that at some point in my life I began to emphathize with others. It got to the point where I’d change my thoughts, words, and even actions to make sure I did not offend or hurt anyone around me. This, as you can tell, is not healthy. Nor is it conducive for a fulfilling relationship with others. Yet, I did it any way. The issue is the fear of rejection if I offend or do something that someone doesn’t like. As you can also tell, this makes me very frustrated and often alone. You would think that being kind, nurturing, and always thinking of other people’s feelings would make people like you. It does not. If anything, people use it as a way to hurt you or belittle you. Not everyone is like this, but most are.
This leads me to my next tid bit about myself. As much of a people pleaser I am, I do have boundaries. This has been learned over time and it is not easy. In college, my first time around, I met a young woman who I believed was a friend. I had went out of my way to make new friends in college and was sucessful in that endeavor. I am, or was, good at making friends. Long story short, this particular woman was not a good friend to me. I did my best to be kind and enjoy her company, but she was often rude and told me to shut up. While some people may see this as normal for friends, I personally did not. It took months to gain the courage to tell her about my feelings and even longer to rid myself of her. This was because I was not used to revealing my feelings, for fear of hurting her’s. Granted to say, I did manage to tell her how I felt and how she made me feel when she used those hurtful words. She did not understand and did not care. Some time later I did manage to rid myself of the platonic blunder by ghosting her (a term not used until over 10 years later by social media).
This incident, along with others, made me realize that I needed to create boundaries. The idea of boundaries, to me anyway, is that you set a standard for how you want to be treated. This does not mean the other person can’t be themselves, but if their behavior is hurting you mentally, emotionally, or even physically, then you have the right to let them know how you feel. Any relationship is a two way street. Respect and knowing your worth is something that most people can understand. Now, if the other person is not in agreement with your personal boundaries, then perhaps that relationship is not worth it.
As far away as that college incident was, I was reminded of my journey of establishing boundaries when I recently went to visit blood relatives for a graduation party. Due to the plague, I only went because I was told the graduate would be there. The idea was to drop off my gift, say some parting words, and leave. I was told there would be masks, distancing, and the graduate would be there. To my surprise, the person I was there to see was not there. To make matters worse, the home began filling with others (one woman who did not have a mask along with my aunt). I remained calm and thought I’d wait a bit so that I can see the graduate off. Again my people pleasing took hold and I ignored my notion to leave. As more people entered the small dwelling, I decided to leave to not risk my health. I had on a mask, but the social distancing would be impossible by the time the graduate made it back home(he was graduating at his high school which was something I was told about once I got there).
Before leaving, his mother, my aunt, asked me to take a picture by the wall. I did not mind and smiled through my mask. The idea of smiling even though no one would see it was amusing and so I made a remark joking as I usually do. She then proceeded to ask me to take off the mask for the picture. I did not comply. Not only was this a small kitchen, but two people there did not have masks, and there were two others in the room as well. In this moment I had decided to maintain my stance. She did not like this.
My offense was not taking off a mask during a plague for a photo opt. Her tone changed, she ridiculed me for being scared and asked why I would even show up. Perhaps many would agree with her, but I found the display of her words quite rude. I was not afraid to go to a small gathering of four people (initially the aunt, the graduate, and my father who I live with). I was not afraid to give a gift and leave quickly. The point I am trying to make is that I was fine with the idea of showing up as long as the number was small, masks were worn, and I did not stay long. This however was not the case and I had been misled multiple times. The issue was that there were several people there and two without masks. I did not want to risk exposing myself or others to a pathogen. Was I wrong? Still refusing to remove my mask I told her that I was not comfortable taking it off and that I did not want to risk infection. I also answered her very rude question of asking me why I even came if I was so scared. Humiliated, I laughed it off to not continue the uncomfortable situtation. She insisted I take a plate and passive agressively asked me to wash my hands. Funny how she just berated me for being cautious and not understanding why I was refusing to remove my mask. But she wanted me to cleanse my hands. I complied, and once I had my plate I left.
I am very sensative and felt utterly shocked and exhausted by the entire ordeal. I played it over multiple times in my head and cried on my drive home. Was I being too sensitive? Did she have a right? The point is that boundaries are about your comfort and well being. As long as your boundaries do not impead on the life of another, it cannot be bad. The most you do is risk going against someone else’s way of thinking. I was proud of myself for not risking myself and stood by the firm belief that going to the party with the lies told to me was not a risk, but it had become one once more people gathered.
I had a clear boundary of not risking my health and when someone challenged it, I stood firmly in my stance. Refusing to take off my mask was not going to hurt anyone and the risk of infection outwayed any faux pass that my behavior caused. Yet, the aftermath was a nightmare. Sometimes your boundaries and what you are willing to allow don’t fit what others want or expect. Regardless, if your boundaries help your state of mind or health, then there can be no wrong. I know it is hard to have boundaries. If I didn’t develop strong boundaries so long ago, I would have caved and took off my mask. Sure there could be a chance that I did not get sick, but the point is why risk it? It matters to me.
What are some of your experiences with boundaries? How did you feel when you made it clear to others? Did they accept or did they ridicule you?
Hello Groovy People,
So I wanted to make a post about my hair. Years ago I stated I wanted to go natural. For a few weeks I did. However, it didn’t last because it was really difficult. I had no idea how to braid my own hair and I didn’t want to rely on anyone to help me. After all, in the past I had to rely on others and when they fell through, my hair suffered.
Can I tell you a story?
As a young black girl in the 90s I had my natural hair. It was done up in cornrows by my mom every week. Lush and strong, my hair was one of my strongest attributes. Around the age of twelve I noticed a shift in hairstyles. Girls stopped wearing cornrows and started showing off their chemically straight hair. Boys were now growing their hair out and wearing braids. Perhaps it was an observation that only I noticed, but nonetheless, it bothered me.
It wasn’t until I was in the eight grade when a woman at the store mistook me for a boy. I was a tomboy. Hurt at the misunderstanding, I asked my mom for straight hair. She also had chemically straight hair, although that was not the reason I wanted one too. Growing older I wanted a more feminine and grown up hairstyle. Reluctant, but finally worn down, my mom paid for a stylist to give me straight hair.
I marveled at myself in the mirror. My long straight hair made me look 13 and feel like a lady. When I debuted my new style at school, I basked in the praise from my peers. Feeling confident and assured by others, I was certain this style was a good choice.
Years into my high school days, my hair went through a perpetual hell. Swimming class in 9th grade was terrible for my hair. The chemical mixture that made my hair straight was not well receiving of the chlorine from the pool. As a result of being ignorant of proper hair care, my hair fell out. Damaged, I continued to change up my styles to hide my insecurities. Braids, faux pony tails, weaves, and whatever else I could try. By the time my twenties came along, my hair was not the same as it once was when I was a young child.
As much as I wanted my natural hair back, I felt the strong sense that it would not be accepted. So for years I tried to keep my hair up myself. But something changed.
It was the year 2018, I was substitute teaching in a first grade class. I noticed that many of the black students, girls, wore their natural hair in braids. Perhaps it was nostalgia that hit hard, but I was reminded of my once beautiful full hair. In that moment I had enough. I was tired of chemically straightening my hair, breathing in those nasty fumes, having my mother breath those nasty fumes in an attempt to help me. I was done. So, I put aside my insecurities and started braiding my own hair.
It was not easy, and surely was a mess. However, I continued as my natural growth took over. After months, my hair was growing. It was stronger, fuller, and most importantly, easy to deal with.
I just want to say that regardless of why you go natural, do it for you. Don’t be deterred by the misconception that 4c hair is impossible to comb. If you condition your hair, keep it moisturized throughout the week, and comb it twice or so a week, then it’ll be soft. Yes, 4c hair is soft. It is beautiful, strong, and can be shaped into any style you want.
I want to end this post with a few pictures of my progress. It was not easy at first and it was truly difficult emotionally to go to work with “crazy in progress” hair. However, the end results are so much better. Not to mention, chemical straighteners are just so damaging to your lungs and scalp. My journey is not done, but my transition is complete.
The midday sun illuminates the lids of my eyes, beckoning me from my dream. As my vision, partially distorted from sleep, clears, I see my young lover. Her mouth is slightly open, perched lips and scrunched nose. I turn to lay for a few more minutes. Now fully aware of my reality, I reach for my phone on my nightstand. No messages. I place the phone down and turn toward the sleeping beauty. Nudging her shoulder, she stirs from slumber. A bit disoriented she finally comes to and smiles. She reaches for my head, to kiss me I assume, but I push her away. I am in no mood for any more rounds.
We wash up, separately, and get dressed in silence. Like a used toy so once loved by a small child, I discard her without care. If the circumstances around my sister weren’t so dire, I’d keep her like a pet, having her tend to my needs and I to her’s. But, my sister is hurt. So with mutual understanding conveyed in silent stares, we part ways outside. She goes off to her rich family and friends, and I to the hospital.
At the hospital I see my sister. She is awake and eating pudding. Her face is full of disgust, but she has no choice. When she notices me, the face of disgust turns to happiness. I know she is grateful that I am here, to rescue her from the moodiness of our parents, but her glee is partially from the fact that I snuck in a brownie and latte from her favorite coffee chain. Removing the contents of the dreadful hospital food, I replace it with the savory treats. Clapping with joy she reaches over to me. As we embrace she whispers. Our parents return and aren’t exactly happy to see me or the contraband I brought. With the voice of her words still lingering on my ears, I don’t notice my father removing the food from the tray.
“Why can’t I have what I want!” my sister screams.
“You’re still recovering from your incident” my father pleads.
The fake concern in his voice was honestly more shocking than what my sister had said earlier and I was just too taken back from it all that I stood there stunned. Silence filled the room and for once I saw true concern on my mother’s face. Perhaps it was what my sister had said, or the oddness of my parents’ parental affection for my sister, that I felt so deeply disturbed. I left the room and didn’t look back. Even as my sister’s sweet laced voice cried out for me.
I was back at the resort and stood by the banquet hall. This was what I needed, a moment of silence away from them and away from that damned creepy house. As I was taking a moment, I saw my young lover. Was there something in my face that prompted the look of concern on her’s I wasn’t sure, but she came closer and held my hand.
Sitting side by side on the marble steps, I kept quiet. After all, she was just a fling. I didn’t exactly want to tell her about the random things happening to my family. Of all the rich, as I am sure her’s was too, my family was the richest. Well, wealthiest. Our fortune was like the Sun to everyone else’s Pluto. And although I didn’t want to involve her into my personal affairs, I needed help. If my sister was here I’d have her to listen to my concerns, but she wasn’t. So, in the end, I told my lover what happened. I left out what my sister said in the hospital.
I was relieved to know she understood, or a better word would be accepted. Together we went back to my grandparents’ home and to the junk room on the second floor. There we walked closer as I passed my sister’s room. From the door I could see it open a crack. Odd, I thought it was open from the previous day. Regardless, I continued to the junk room. Pressing my palm against the door knob, I wrapped my fingers around and squeezed. Behind me my young lover gulped as if her throat were dry and she mustered up all the moisture in her body to swallow. I too was trembling as the door opened. A waft of air pressed against my nose as a familiar smell entered my nostrils. My sister’s perfume!
Part four coming soon!
Author is Jasmine Clark. The work is fiction, and shall not be published, or sampled without the author’s permission.
The following is a fictional story. It may not be suitable for children under the age of 18.For part one: A Stranger Upstairs
The sun is particularly bright on this summer day. The heat is in the air, but so is the coolness of the wind; brushing up against my skin like a thin shawl. The feeling, even with the heat, brings my skin to a chill. The grounds surrounding the old house are still. The garden to the front, the lonesome pool to the back.
A mile or so away is the country club where all the rich or slightly rich families go to bask in each other’s wealth. Close to that is a retreat with cabins fit for snooty elites that come for the stories to tell and not the vacation itself. I guess I am apart of that group, but I don’t care for it or any of them. While the families talk by the poolside and play various games, I search for my sister.
Her presence is not there, but someone else catches my eye. A beauty, a picture of youth itself. Small frame and firm in all ways. Her hair thick and lips to match. We share a glance, and for a moment, I forget about my sister entirely. I go to walk to the young woman, but another rich guest stammers in my way. A friend of my father’s I assume, I never care to remember any of them. As he talks incessantly, I look around to see the beauty is not there. Damn!
After nodding and pretending with earnest that I am following the conversation, I am released. I decide to go back home and see if my sister has returned. Through the gate which takes me to the pool to the back of the house, I see someone at the edge. For a moment I catch the sun’s glare and mistake the figure for my sister. I go closer. To my surprise it is the young woman from the other pool. She is but a few feet away as I walk closer. Now we are inches apart, I crouch down to get a better look. Her face is a soft oval, eyes the color of bamboo in the sun. We share a smile, and like that I take her upstairs.
I don’t know her, but after two hours, I knew more about her body than I probably should. Together in bed I caress her skin, soft, lush, firm. After resting from the plateau we silently agree to go for round three, but a loud thump from the wall stirs my calm. Her eyes widen at the thought of someone else being in the house. Quickly I rush to put on my clothes and run next door to my sister’s room, the origin of the sound. The young woman following me like a shadow at mid day.
I enter my sister’s room and find her laying on the floor, her head bleeding from the top, eyes glazed over. The young woman screams, my mind empties as my hands frantically find their way over to my sister to cradle her limp body.
Hours later and we are at the hospital, my parents are there, hovering over my little sister like two wraiths ready to take her soul. They look so forlorn. I’ve never seen them so concerned. I walk up to the bed to hold her hand, but my parents push me away with their eyes as if this is all my fault. I leave and go to the waiting room. Holding my face in my hands, I ponder the reason for why she went missing in the first place.
Midway into the night I leave and go back home. Beside the pool is the familiar girl who I shared time with earlier. Her eyes are downcast, but yearning. I go in closer as she asks me if my sister is okay. If she were a few years younger, they could be friends. Seeing her silhouette with the night framing her gave me a chill. Or was it because I felt eyes on me from the house? I guess I was quiet for too long and she embraces me, our lips firmly pressed together, tongues like wriggling eels. So much passion for a stranger.
I could not shake the feeling of that chill, even as other places warmed. So I looked up to see if anyone was watching. There in the highest window, the attic I presume, nothing; but eyes were watching from that blackness glossed over in glass. She tries to turn my head for more, but I tell her I have to go home. She insists that she stay with me. I honestly don’t want to be alone, so I let her.
We pass the kitchen and up the stairs. Down the hall I see the door and it is slightly open. Odd. It is a junk room that I never visit, and the maids have no reason to clean. My heart feels like sand heated by intense fire. I go forward, but she pulls me back. She has a bad feeling, but my curiosity is too strong. I am at the door, but something inside me says don’t go inside. After a deep breath I go back to my room, my new lover in tow. Under the sheets we go for that round three. As I drift into sleep, I feel the eyes are on me, watching, waiting.
Part three: A Stranger Upstairs
Author is Jasmine Clark. The work is fiction, and shall not be published, or sampled without the author’s permission.
Hello Groovy People!
Now that the summer has officially arrived, I am working towards my first love, writing. Although the last few months have been difficult, to put it mildly, I feel that it was not all for nothing. Others may see my change in passions erratic, and yes, I do seem to be going from one big adventure to the next. However, I believe that it is important to focus on what makes one happy. Writing is the thing that always put a smile on my face but was never given my full attention. With teaching completely behind me at this point, I want to go towards what I know I can accomplish.
You’re still here right? Ok. So back to what I was saying about writing. I love it and I have so many things planned for the future. This year I want to truly focus on marketing my book, Journey’s End. I also have a short story that I will copyright and post by the end of the summer.
I want to make more posts on my experiences in Japan that can really help the avid traveler. Is there anything you would like for me to share? Also, I want to start a travel series of the places I visit. My next destination in a few weeks is New Zealand! So look out for that too.
My biggest downfall is myself, so this new change and hard work will be very stressful. I have to remind myself that I can do it, so please stay tuned!
Hello Groovy People,
So I wanted to make a post about how I kept up my hair while I lived abroad in Japan. In 2016 I wanted to go natural, but at the time I was too impatient. The idea of doing my hair in a foreign country was terrifying, especially since I was going to keep it permed. The thing about permed hair on African American hair is that if you don’t keep it up, it falls out or has tremendous complications. However, I wasn’t sure if I could find an adequate hair dresser in Japan. After all Japan is known for being homogenous and lacks diversity.
So I began researching before I left America. There weren’t too many places, but from what I saw online they all seemed good. When I went to Tokyo I decided to go to one salon and see how it faired. I tried the first location on my list, called The Room 806. Before I travelled there I called first to ask a bunch of questions. It is always a good thing to ask before you go to establish the tone of the personnel.
I see it this way, are they able to give you honest answers and are they polite? If they are, then that is usually a good sign that you can trust them. I also asked about my hair and if they had staff who could do it. I was assured that the hair stylist was the best and that he could perm my hair with no problems. Now the reason I was nervous was because of prejudice. You often hear people saying that certain people can’t do certain other people’s hair. And for the most part that may be true due to many factors. However, never let such things stop you from giving people a try. So I made the appointment and went to the salon!
I went with my friend because it was my first time and I believe in safety first. Also, if you are alone in any country and it’s your first time going somewhere new, please go with someone!
Getting there was an adventure because it was located in Roppongi. Although not a big part of Japan, it was hard to find the salon due to it not being on the main road. If you have ever tried finding a location with google while in Japan, you may notice that reading maps are ridiculously hard. (I can make a post about that if you’d like!)
After getting lost twice, we finally made it! I met my hair stylist Ico-san (ee-co-san). He was a cool Japanese man who know exactly what I wanted. He took the time to make me comfortable and was so meticulous in trimming and styling my hair. By the time I left it was a few hours, but I did not have to wait for another customer. The great thing about getting my hair done in Japan is that I never had to wait for other customers. No double bookings or late starts! Anywho, Ico-san was wonderful and I gave him a tip (you don’t have to tip in Japan, but I could not hold my gratitude. Also I am very American so Ico-san accepted.)
I must say that before going to Japan I hardly ever went to the salon because of the long waits and not being able to see the stylist I wanted/needed. Luckily during my year in Japan, I was able to see Ico-san on multiple occasions and as a result, my hair was healthy. Well, as healthy as permed hair could be.
So if you are ever in Japan and want to get your hair done, please see Ico-san and say Jazzi sent you!
Room806, 5 Chome-16-52 Roppongi, Minato City, Tokyo 106-0032, Japan, phone number: +81 3-5545-5486, Hours: 11am-9pm Sunday-Saturday
On April 19 I had an interview in Brooklyn New York. I spoke about my book Journey’s End. This is the first of many great things happening! Enjoy.
The interviewer is Marilyn Silverman who is the Assistant Vice President, Marketing of the New American Chamber of Commerce. The radio show is called the Writers’ Café which can be reached on their website www.chambercoalition.org
Hello Groovy People!
It is May and in a few months I go to New Zealand. I’ve always wanted to go, but the lack of money was a constant buzz kill. With proper planning, and time, a lot of time, I made it a reality this year.
Why was New Zealand on my bucket list in the first place? Well, why not! It is a country full of natural beauty and the filming location of some of my favorite movies and t.v. shows. Those shows were Xena and Hercules, and the movie was the Lord of the Rings (the good versions).
I have a serious case of wanderlust so that is another big reason. Whenever I am in one place too long, I feel the urge to leave and travel far.
I certainly will take pictures to document my time there for you to see.