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Alexis Belon

[Blog] No One Chooses To Be An Artist

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No matter the medium they’re deciding to dabble in, I can’t help but find it slightly comical every time someone declares that they want to be an artist.

It’s become a subtle way of chasing fame and fortune while still maintaining some element of depth. They can bask in the glory of narcissism and boast proudly under the guise of substance. Which is obviously much more dignified than merely being an instagram model. And I resent that something so innate for me has been reduced to just another career path anyone can choose.

But then I remember… that it isn’t. And even if it was, no one would willingly choose a path that has been proven to pan out tragically almost every single time. Just show me your favorite artist and I’ll show you a calamity.

You see, I don’t just feel compelled to self express, I’m downright tormented by the urge. And it is not fun. Or prestigious. Or even worth it.

The work itself is the easiest part. It’s the suffering I’m obliged to dive head first into that sucks. As a writer, I’ve been given quite the fortunate life. Unlike Bukowski, I never sought hardship and adventure to write about – it was just given to me. But I still need to feel it all. I don’t run from the extreme ends of my emotional spectrum, I go towards them. I embrace adversity, heartache and grief with open arms because an artist is just the sum of their experiences so the more, the merrier.

It’s a subconscious act, of course, because doesn’t my style of writing conflict with my belief in the law of attraction? I feel compelled to write my darkness but doesn’t that act in itself evoke more? However, even when I acknowledge that no writing ever done is worth being at the mercy of my emotions and refuse to participate in this self sabotage any longer, it is still at my very core.

And that’s what I think separates us from the folks just looking for an aristocratic hobby to disguise their narcissism with. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned from studying all of the creatives I admire, it’s that we all do it. We refuse to deprive ourselves of any experience, no matter how much it might hurt us. We are compelled by our pain and chase any thrill that may ignite it. We are slaves to confronting ourselves . No one with any common sense would choose this.

[Blog] Our Fire, Another Letter To My Grandma

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I had to turn my floor heater on this morning after I woke up to an unreasonable chill. The zapping sound it made upon being used after so long made my overly cautious brain immediately look for an escape on the slight chance it happened to provoke a fire.

Which reminded me of our fire….

I was about 15 or 16 and had left school early again for no other reason than ‘I feel like it’. The lack of academic supervision in my life caused me to have a severe truancy problem and I had created a habit out of coming and going as I pleased. I was halfway there before I got a phone call from Mario telling me ‘the house is on fire’. He had started it. But this time, my brother’s arson was pure accident. You had given him permission to let off a smoke bomb to get rid of the squirrel who had moved in to our attic and without reading the directions, he just lit it and threw it up there. My slow frolic quickly turned into a sprint home.

I started the shower and undressed remembering how I slowed down as I approached our home to scan the crowd of neighbors that had formed looking for you.  I could finally breathe again when I spotted you near a couple of police officers in the front of the crowd.  You looked back and saw me and pointed up at the ladder that stretched from the fire truck to the attic window and could barely murmur the words through the tears you were fighting, ‘…my house’.  I just froze and stood there.

I hadn’t understood what you needed from me then but I could see it so clearly as I recalled those events today. I could suddenly remember the expression in your face so sharply now. I closed my eyes to condition my hair and there you were. In that wheelchair. Looking back at me. With panic, desperation, fear and grief over watching a home you spent your entire life curating burn written all over your face. And you needed me. But I dropped the ball. I just stood there. It wasn’t until our neighbor Lamar coaxed me towards you, ‘go comfort your grandmother’ that I walked up to rub your back. And even that was for the sake of all the onlookers around us.

The memory in itself made me so weak that I just leaned against the tiles on my shower wall and wept…

‘I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.’

My eyes competed with the stream of the shower head as I became overwhelmed with guilt. I couldn’t stop apologizing. For every time I blundered when you needed me even though you had never failed me in my moments of weakness. For having the responsibility of taking care of you when I didn’t know how to. For any moment that I showed you anything but pure appreciation. For how differently I’d react to these situations as an adult than I did as an angsty teenager. And even now… for pushing the memory of you to the back of my mind just so I can cope with my day-to-day life. For forgetting. Because the truth is, I need you now just as much as I did then. And I love you more now than I ever did. And it kills me that I never properly showed you.

Please forgive me.

[Blog]The Workforce Is Modern Day Slavery

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He knew what the answer was going to be when my father asked about my new job because it was the same as it’s been for the past 10 years. I’ve never been able to fight my innate repulsion for the work force. Incessant small talk with clients and comrades all day drains the life out of me. Waking up before the sunrise feels unnatural. Having to feed into hierarchal positions that allow people to gain dominance over their betters is ego crushing. Witnessing someone power trip because of some nonsensical authoritative title is horrifying. Compartmentalizing myself so that the person I am at work is so far from my actual self just kills my spirit. And participating in this idea of capitalism and consumerism goes against everything I believe in.

So when my father, a man, who spent his entire life coming up with hustles to help him avoid ever subjecting himself to this type of environment started trying to convince me that I should somehow be thankful, I was a bit offended. ‘BE THANKFUL FOR WHAT?!’ It had been statements like his in response to my expressed disdain that made me spend so many years wondering what was wrong with ME. Why couldn’t I just grin and bear this like everyone else? Why did I want to reject such a necessary part of life? Was I just being lazy? But this wasn’t an aversion to work. Because if I had it my way, I’d be spending my days painting, maintaining my own home, growing my own food, and offering my skills and talents to my community. All of which, would entail a lot more effort than the mind-numbing way I spend 10 hours of my day now. This was an inability to conform.

Because when people say these things, like ‘Alexis, this is just part of being an adult‘, ‘it’s just what you have to do‘, what their inadvertently suggesting, (but refuse to openly admit)… is that you simply do not have a choice. And therein lies my main problem. This guise of freedom that doesn’t even fucking exist because freedom would mean free of coercion. But what if I don’t want to spend my life selling my labor to get by? What are my other options? Homelessness (which is essentially illegal), jail, a nuthouse? Having to choose between starving to death or selling your self isn’t exactly a decision. We are being forced into this.

Because the truth is, our country relies on the working class to thrive. And the only way to get us all to volunteer ourselves was to make the incentive basic survival. Otherwise, who would subject themselves to this? Having to be around people you would normally never choose to be around. Ass kissing. Obeying people that are not as intelligent than you. No one!

Will I continue to participate in it until I find a way out of indentured servitude? Much to my own dismay. Because like I said, there really aren’t any other choices. I have to. But will I continue to feel ashamed for my insubordination and inclination to reject it? No. And having to participate in it doesn’t mean I can’t recognize it for what it really is – modern day slavery. Sonny was right, the working man IS a sucker.

[Blog] But Sometimes I Need to be Ravished

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Any conversation he attempts to make with me is drowned out by the sounds of my own thoughts, which are always elsewhere. The small talk is pointless anyways. Liam knows that I’m not here for love. Because if I were, it certainly wouldn’t be here and with him. He can only seem to handle me sexually. When it comes to emotion , conversation and affection, he’s lost and I’m bored.

But I was hurt by the harsh realization that this is going nowhere fast with the one I actually want. I can’t compete with the women who are actually in his presence during our distance and honestly, I’m not sure I’d be able to even if he were near. He once told me about the reaction he seeks from the people around him when he appears with a girl. ‘Damn, what you ‘bout to do with THAT?’ He needs a trophy; not a free thinker. As most basketball players do. A woman with a price tag on her, consumed by superficiality, not someone too invested in a book to wash her hair. He shames me for the few things I find attractive about myself, my intensity, my passion, my tenderness with words like ‘too sensitive’, ‘too dramatic’, ‘too emotional’.

I feel so stupid about it all. Living my life in a way that considers someone else. Something I’ve never done before. Something that completely backfired as I’m certain it is what turned him off. So I am back here, in Liam’s Bed-Stuy brownstone, trying to rid myself of how foolish I’ve been to be so devoted to someone who I’m likely not even compatible with in an attempt to regain my hedonic nature.

His need to please me allows me to relish in being a lazy lover with him. He’d be wholly satisfied with just tasting the nectar between my legs for a few hours which is usually all I allow him for the mere sake of feeling worshipped. But sometimes I need to be ravished. And he, being far more experienced than I am, understands and takes heed. He can’t bring me to climax, because.. well, because I don’t love him, But I’m fulfilled enough. I wonder if this sort of animalism  is reserved for the men who I don’t see a future with. I imagine being too timid with the man I actually liked to be this uninhibited.  Too  concerned about his pleasure instead of my own. I wonder if love and this sort of sexual indulgence can ever go hand in hand.

But I suppose I’ll never know.

[Blog] Another Entry About Unrequited Love?

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And alas, I’ve run into a boy who is too wise and self aware to manipulate. Which, if I’m going to be honest here, is exactly what I was trying to do. Because an ‘I like you enough to see where this will lead’ seemed like uncertainty and doubt in comparison to the maddening, spirit engulfing love affair I had always envisioned for myself. So I coaxed him to express himself in the ways I needed him to to validate me. I threw bitch fits with the intent of him chasing me and consoling me. I demanded answers he sincerely didn’t have. I pressed him for a guarantee he honestly couldn’t provide. Until finally, he just couldn’t take it anymore.

And I’m sorry. I’m sorry for ruining us before we could even start. For letting my ego and expectations push him to a point of no return. Until I made that ‘I like you, let’s see where this could lead’ turn into a ‘let’s end this now’ followed by a silent treatment. I was so concerned with the idea that he wasn’t completely enthralled by me and might be just tolerating me that I made it so he couldn’t even do that anymore.  I pushed him to the point that the person he has become is so far removed from the person I initially caught feelings for that I don’t even recognize him anymore. He’s just a hard shell of the man who I used to exchange movies and books with. He’s this new guy who gives me the cold shoulder. And who could blame him?

Sure, he could’ve ended it more amicably, as his harshness hurt me beyond repair. But that’s the thing, I don’t choose how he reacts and me trying to dictate that is how we got here in the first place. If I could control his reactions, he wouldn’t be him. And the reason I felt so strongly was because he’s him; not me.

I could’ve written him out to be a villain. I could’ve pulled the same victimized crap that I usually do. And I was going to. I was going to write another entry about unrequited love and all the effort I put into this person who ended up not appreciating any of it. That’s the thing about being a writer, I always have the advantage because it’s my perception. But I didn’t do that this time. For the first time, I looked for the fault within myself. And I hope that means something. That I’m learning to love maturely. Even if it’s not going to be with him.

[Blog] Breaking Up With Friends

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My best friend in middle school was bullied for being ugly. And maybe she was. But I couldn’t notice. All I could see was how much she understood my sardonic sense of humor and that was enough to make us inseparable. That was the last friendship I had where I laughed from my belly, sat in comfortable silence and didn’t have to get ‘cute’ just to go over to her house. Because back then, I didn’t care whether someone was attractive or ugly, rich or poor, smart or dumb; if they gave me their heart, I gave them mine. But somewhere along the lines, society taught me to stop being drawn to others for who they were and instead… what they were.

If envied something about a person, I wanted to be near them, and therefore, I began befriending people for the most superficial reasons. Because they were thin and tall and beautiful. Because they were “poppin” amongst the NYC scene. Because they were privileged and could spend frivolously. Because they were extroverted and wouldn’t hesitate to hop on the nearest table and dance. It was as if I subconsciously believed that surrounding myself with all the characteristics I wanted to have, but didn’t, would somehow make those things rub off on me. And sometimes it worked… but for the most part, these “friendships” made me feel insubordinate, awful and downright oppressed. Except I didn’t know that they were causing me such inner turmoil because certainly, a friend is someone to help you through your sadness, and never the source of it. Right?

So I continued these friendships that didn’t operate on the basis of reciprocity. With people who were too self absorbed to bare. Who always seemed to be in some unspoken competition with me. Who’s basic morals and principles just didn’t align with mine. And eventually, with each invite, I started coming up with any and every excuse to avoid my “bffs”. And finally, last week, I was confronted about it…

“Why are you so flaky?”, a friend demanded to know.

I fell silent. I sincerely didn’t have an answer. But the question alone provoked my own curiosity. And just like that, the answer dawned on me. How had something so obvious escaped me for such a long time?

“Being around you just doesn’t make me feel good.” I responded quite frankly.

I immediately felt relief. Acknowledging and accepting that being around certain people just doesn’t make me feel good liberated me. Alas, I can begin to heal and connect with individuals who’s energy (not looks) appeal to me. I can start to cultivate real genuine friendships. Which, unbeknownst to me, is something I’ve been longing for.

[Blog] I Wish I Were A Rapper

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I wish I were a rapper.

And not just because I envy the way music resonates with it’s audience in comparison to others mediums of art. (Oh, how I regret that I will never experience a room full of people reciting and relating to words that I wrote.) What I envy most about musicians, particularly in hip hop, is the allowance to be as honest as you so please. I’m sure you’ve all seen it. Everyone in the club singing along to ‘How Many Drinks Does It Take Til You Leave With Me?’ as if the lyrics alone aren’t date rapey. Because let’s face it, being birthed addicted to drugs, the product of a prostitute and pimp, in and out of abusive foster homes sounds like perseverance when you say it with cadence and add a catchy hook. But in a blog entry, those things just look like a pity party.

Sugarcoating my life so that others don’t feel any discomfort has become too exhausting to bare. Not only does it stifle my creativity, but there’s also something that feels inauthentic about watering down experiences that had such a vital influence over my essence. And that’s not to pretend my life has been entirely full of hardship because we all know I was raised with the help of a a woman who made my childhood damned near magical, but omitting the adversity, which helped shape me, feels like I’m exuding a facade.

Everyone’s all like ‘your struggles shouldn’t define you’… but don’t they? How can my resilience and strength shine without acknowledging the odds I had to fight? I may have a long way to go but I’ve also come a long way and continuing to sweep the obstacles I overcame to get this far under the rug invalidates me. Because those things made me, me.

And personally, I am not the slightest bit ashamed of them. I’m proud of them. In fact, there’s not much that I enjoy more than the look of disbelief on a persons face as this poised and innocent faced intellect speaks from first hand experience about rape and drugs and homelessness and child abuse and domestic violence. Talking about those things doesn’t make me uncomfortable, it makes others uncomfortable.

With that said…. mix tape dropping in 2014. I’m only half way joking. Send me beats.

 

featured photo by Ravie B.

[Blog] Taking My Inner Child; I’m Fighting For Custody

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As I watch the colors in my cup of coffee swirl, I longingly remember a time when life was so simple. My 9 year old self would be deeply disappointed in the vanity slave held captive by technology that she’d grow up to be. She’d feel downright betrayed by the amount of time and money I invest in things that would never matter to her like make-up and hair. She’d laugh in my face at the opportunistic relations I have the nerve to call “friendship”. And if someone told me to ‘either stay out or stay in’ the way my grandmother used to yell, my younger self would never believe that I would opt for the latter. I was told that it was foolish to compare myself to and seek validation from an entity within me that had not yet experienced life. But is it?

I stood for things back then. I remember feeling so one with nature, (as it was the place I spent most of my ‘playtime’ after-all), that when I found out the damage pollution was doing to our planet, I immediately went on a recycling kick. I didn’t have to ‘ween’ myself away from drinking squeeze-its or using styrofoam cups in the way that I have to ween myself off of meat now. Right and wrong were right and wrong and I stood by my beliefs firmly. If I witnessed a classmate being bullied, I defended them… not slyly disappeared into the crowd afraid of what might happen to me if I dared. I showed off my poetry, stories and drawings with absolutely no regard for what others might think because I was sincerely doing it to self express… not for some sort of commercial gain. My ambitious nature had me participating in every athletic from basketball to tennis to ice skating and everything in between. Not to be slim but because I didn’t shy away from competition the way I do now; I enjoyed it. My morals and values were clear and I didn’t need society to determine them for me… I just knew. Because it was all based off of how EYE innately felt.

Now I feel so inveigled by all the drastically different surroundings I’ve had to readily adapt to over the years that my sense of self has completely diminished. Instead of experiencing growth, I feel like I’m regressing. So why is it foolish to yearn for the person I used to be? Especially when she was just so much… better.

A lot of people think that we get better with age, but I think that maybe we were already born perfect and complete. And over time, the harsh realities of our world plagued us with self doubt and stripped us of the innate confidence and child-like wanderment we came into this world with.

Are there any characteristics that you used to have that you wish you still possessed? And then, how do we reverse all the conditioning that made us rid ourselves of that? Because at this rate, there won’t be a trace of myself left in a few years.

[Blog] Letter to my Grandma

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See, me and you, our relationship was different. Calling you my ‘grandma’ almost devalues it. Like you were merely some lady I visited every other summer. But you are the woman my father took me home from the hospital to, the person who raised me, the ONLY constant in my life and essentially… you are my mother. Although your other grandchildren, each of them having their own special relationship with you, are in just as much pain as I am, they still get to go home to their moms and have that maternal guidance. Your actual children; though they could have never been ready to lose you, had the privilege of embarking on adulthood with the support only a mother could provide. But me, I’m at the ‘in between’. Where I’m just too young to be losing my mother. And I just feel so robbed.

Because when that time comes, I can’t call on you to find out how you make your laundry smell like perfection. Or how to cook a Thanksgiving dinner fit for a king. There is no one to make proud. And the thought of having children without you there to show me how to be half the mother you were is downright unbearable. Every woman gets help from their mom when they have their first kid. But I won’t. And honestly, if my children have to be deprived of your gentleness, then I don’t want any. Even now, I am so conflicted about the direction my life is going, and I know you’re the only person who would listen and guide me the right way. You used to sing to me ‘the best has yet to come’, but it’s hard for me to believe that, Grandma. Because no matter what I accomplish or how much of the world I get to experience, it will never compare to the times I had with you. That was ‘the best’… and it has already passed. I’m 20-something and I already believe there’s nothing to look forward to.

I’m grieving the loss of my mother, except the world isn’t as forgiving when the title is ‘grandma’. The same friends whose aid I ran to when they lost their parent, the same ones I listened to cry in my ear for hours on end about their hurt, were nowhere to be found when I was bedridden and not eating for three days. I wasn’t granted the 2 weeks ‘bereavement leave’ allotted to those who lose their parent at work but was expected to be there, smiling and greeting. I had to save my tears for the train rides home. And it hasn’t even been a month since you’ve been gone, yet everyone is treating me like I should be over it by now. But really, I just want to fall out on the floor, kick my feet and throw a tantrum over your absence. I feel guilty for even continuing to live in a post-you world. There are even times when I’m downright angry at you for leaving…. and I hate myself for that. But most of the time, life just feels like this surreal lucid dream that I’m waiting to wake up from. Because… this, this can’t be real life. My psyche just won’t even allow me to grasp the concept that I will never see you again.

People tend to romanticize things when they lose someone they love, but I don’t even have to. Sometimes just reminiscing about you hurts because it brings me back to a time when life was damned near perfect. My childhood with you was truly magical. The way I’d go to sleep on Christmas Eve in a tree-less house certain that the next day would just be another regular day and wake up with an 8 foot, fully decorated Christmas tree surrounded by a train and a plethora of toys. The way you’d have a glass of cold milk waiting by side when I’d randomly wake up in the middle of the night. The smell of your house during the summer. The taste of the tomatoes you grew in your garden. The sounds of the pool in the backyard. The comfort I felt whenever I was in your presence. I knew that I was in the presence of someone who truly and utterly wanted what was best for me. No expectations, ulterior motives or egoism. This was someone who loved me unconditionally. It was nurturing. You were my safety net.

Even when my father would move us away from you, you remained my best friend. Until I reached middle school and became old enough to make the decision to stay with you for good. It didn’t matter if my father and brothers moved a few blocks away, to the next town, or to Georgia, I stayed with you. We were inseparable. I grew into the type of teenager who would prefer to stay in on Friday nights with you, talking or perusing your music collection. And then your disease came. Except, none of us recognized it for what it was. I remember when you first started hiding stuff, misplacing money, and lashing out. I once told you, ‘I never know how if you’re going to wake up angry at me or laughing with me.’ I didn’t realize that all of this was a part of your disease but I regret that I didn’t. Maybe I could’ve stopped it.

Once your Alzheimers got to a point that you couldn’t remember my name, I was heartbroken. But there were times… these times when you would talk to me thinking that I was Aunt Endi or one of your sisters. It allowed me hear stores you never shared before and to know parts of you I had never known. Which felt good. The last day I saw you, I immediately broke down. You were in so much pain and it killed me. I started apologizing for every little argument and telling you how much I missed you and needed you. You stepped out of your dementia, looked at me, cried and said ‘I love you’. I was in complete disbelief. It was exactly what I needed to hear. And even in your final days, you were still protecting MY heart. You were hurt by MY hurt. You were so selfless.

Your memorial was the hardest day of my life. Just seeing the family, the pain in their faces and realizing what we were all there for made me burst into tears. I barfed twice before we even got to the eulogy. But hearing what everyone had to say about you, Grandma, truly warmed my heart. Everyone talked about how you had an open door policy, how many kids you raised, how you’d take in a stranger, how you accepted everyone as they were, how you had a way of making each and every person feel like they were special and just how significant the impact you had on their lives was. They weren’t just idealizing you because you were gone… because as their stories of how you impacted their lives unfolded, I remembered….

I remember Rory coming to stay with us when he was facing adversity and how the two of you would stay up all night playing cards and talking. I remember Uncle Arthur stopping by every couple of weeks just to sit on the couch and have a talk with you. So many people did that. People around the neighborhood, distant relatives, even my friends, would just stop by our house to talk to you because your spirit was just that uplifting. I witnessed you take in complete strangers. I saw you stick up for the underdogs and love the outcasts firsthand. People didn’t have to embellish because you really lived that way. Not because you wanted some sort of recognition. Not because the bible told you to. Not so that they would return the favor. Because that was just your nature. And to think that all I’ve witnessed was only ? of your life…

I love you Grandma and I yearn for you every second of every day. While I work. While I eat. While I play. While I sleep. It just never goes away. I literally can’t go a day without recalling something you’ve taught me or said to me. But even your passing makes me stronger. Because the thing I feared more than anything in the world has already happened to me. Everything that is good within me, from my inner egalitarian to my free thinking comes from the values you instilled in me. Not by telling me, but by genuinely living that way. I can’t even believe someone ever even loved me as much as you did. But I’m honored to have felt something so pure and unconditional just once in my life. If you’re desire to be with your mother is as strong as my desire to be with you, then I’m happy for you. I love you.