Thursday, August 18, 2011

The High Desert

The past two weeks have been quite intense. I mentioned a couple of posts ago that I was taking part in an online course, Flying Lessons with Kelly Rae Roberts. You know when someone touches your life in a BIG way and opens you up in ways and areas that you know have been closed? Well, that's what Kelly Rae has done. Today, I need to share everything.

I moved from Ghana to California about four and a half years ago. I moved to be with my husband. It was with very mixed emotions, looking forward to marriage and looking forward to the promise of a new life. It was also at the peak of my career, after 12 years of designing and making clothes, designing interiors, events etc, I had plateaued completely, I couldn't see the future, all I could see was more of the same, it was exhausting, it wasn't exciting anymore. I couldn't take it anymore. This post gives some insight into how I felt.

So, I arrived in California, and my husband did what was 'expected'....he bought us a new home. For some reason, we ended up buying a home in the High Desert. A lovely brand new home, but in the desert.

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love green and how much I loved my plants and my garden. I used to call them my children.
I planted almost every single plant and tree with my own hands. My business was at home, and my garden gave me joy and peace, it kept me grounded. In times of stress, all I would have to do would be to take a walk in the grass barefoot, touch my flowers, and I would be fine. Towards the end though, I was too busy with work, I neglected my garden, employed gardeners to take care of the garden; they didn't love it as much as I did, and the garden did not hold the 'life' that it used to when I used to take care of it myself.

I know this post is beginning to seem disjointed.....but please stay with me, I know it'll all come together.

I arrived in California a confused and bitter woman. Yes, I was excited, but it was more of an escape, all I could do was focus on my failures, I had forgotten about all my friendships, ways in which I had touched people's lives with my work. I also virtually burned a lot of bridges, I just wanted to be left alone and wallow in my bitterness, sorrow, disappointment with myself and confusion.

I was in the desert emotionally, spiritually, creatively and therefore, physically. For almost a year, I wasn't even able to decorate, and till today, I haven't even planted one thing! I don't even water the plants which came along with the house, they're all dying.

I hate the desert. But today, I realize why I was put here. It was the only way to get my attention.

So, I arrived in California in April, and from April to December, all I did was watch TV and stuff my face. By Christmas 2007, I weighed 240 pounds. I had gained about 60 pounds. That definitely got my attention.

I made my resolutions for the New Year, I was going to lose weight and get out of my funk. I was going to do this by leaving the house everyday with my husband. He works about 50 miles away from home, down the hill, away from the desert. My plan was to go to the bookshop everyday, I love books, I'm an only child on my mother's side, next to her, books have always been my best friends, and I knew I would find something, anything in the books I would be surrounded by. I stuck with it, and for almost every day in 2008, I rotated three locations. Barnes and Noble in Rancho Cucamonga, Barnes and Noble in Montclair and Borders in Victoria Gardens, Rancho Cucamonga. My husband would drop me off in the morning, sometimes when he could, come and have lunch with me and then pick me up at the end of the working day. It got to a point when I thought the staff in those stores probably thought I was homeless, and in a way, I was. I stuck with it for the whole year!

I started with reading Christian books, soon I started getting angry with God and I moved to self help, and then New Age, then Psychology, then Philosophy, then more self help. Then I went on to Biographies and Auto biographies. Slowly, I was healing, slowly I was getting some answers, I was also getting the right questions so that I could get some more answers. Thankfully, I was losing weight in the process, I would get my coffee or tea in the morning and I was so engrossed in what I was reading that food was not my priority. My spirit and my soul were hungry!

Slowly, I started loosening up and I could start reading the magazines that I have loved forever, but in the beginning, I couldn't even go near the magazine section, it was that bad. But when I finally broke the spell, I devoured the magazines like textbooks for an exam. I learnt a lot.

I can comfortably say that I read over 1,000 books. I know this because I kept the titles in my journals. Oh yes, I did a lot of writing too, I went through six journals that year. The books which stayed with me, the ones I keep going back to (I bought a lot of books too....I wasn't just free loading....) are virtually all of Julia Cameron's books. Starting with The Artist's Way, which I actually brought with me from Ghana. The one that really really got me through that dark desperate time of my life was Answered Prayers. It made me know that one day, the pain would go away and life would be better.

I remember how lonely I was, I would PRAY that someone would just come and talk to me. Once in a while someone would smile and say hello, but that would be it. A Mary Kay lady approached me once and I thought I had found a friend.....I didn't really know about the whole Mary Kay thing. But I did find one friend, and she has been a wonderful part of my life to this day.

Today's lesson in Flying lessons is about community. And that is what has inspired this pouring out of my soul. Back in Ghana, I had so many people around me, my family, my staff, my clients and my friends. It's not that I didn't appreciate them, I did, but it's life, and cycles and re invention. It had to happen, life needed to be re invented. I really do miss my life, I miss being in charge, I miss having control, I miss earning my own money, I miss making an impact on my clients' lives, I miss my friends. Most of all, I miss me.

So, back to the story. At the end of 2008, I had completed my 'bookstore healing', lost the weight and I was ready to take the next step. The next step was going back to school. I mentioned Julia Cameron being a big part of the healing process and I knew that Art was going to be a big part of the next phase of my life. So I went to Community College. I took classes in Art, Fashion, Interior Design, Floral Design, Photography and Yoga. It was the absolute best time of my life. Yes, after a twelve year career in almost all these areas, everybody wondered why I needed school, but it was the best medicine ever. I made new friends, between my fellow classmates and my professors. I had the freedom to create without the fear of a client criticizing me. I got my 'mojo' back! It was wonderful. I also became part of a new community and while it was great, I also knew it was transitional, I still hadn't found my tribe.

I mentioned that I miss my friends, and I really do. My best friend and my mother called me practically every day. They kept me alive. My husband supported me the best way he knew how, he is the love of my life, my best buddy, and a good provider with a kind, gentle and generous spirit, but I know he was frustrated because he alone was not enough. I still needed to find my tribe, people, women who were just as complex, sensitive, emotional, creative beyond measure like myself. I have to be honest, there were a number of my professors who I really clicked with, but we had to keep the professor/student protocol going. I haven't been able to reconnect with them, now that I'm no longer their student.....I have to work on that.

At the end of 2009, it was time to 'get serious' about the future. I thought I was fine, I thought I had healed completely from my life of self abuse, doubt, insecurity, mediocrity and all those other demons which are part of the creative soul's process. In hind sight I hadn't. The practical thing to do was to get my MFA in Fashion Merchandising. I told myself that there were a million other designers who were much better than I was, so since I still wanted to work in Fashion and since I thought I was such a disaster business wise, I made a decision from the 'head' and not from the heart. I was going to learn the business of finding and promoting other talents. I was going to find a way to sit front row at the Paris couture shows like Anna Wintour. I obviously still hadn't found the courage to bring forth the best of my creativity to this new world I had found myself in. I still wasn't good enough. But I was going to 'learn' how to be good enough. I didn't know I was enough.

I started the MFA and it was great. When we were asked for a minimum of two page papers, I would write ten pages. I was really excited about what my life was going to be like, finally, I had found my way....or so I thought.

In June, I was wondering why, after three plus years, I wasn't getting pregnant, I knew I wasn't ready, but I was just curious. So I went to see my doctor and after an ultrasound, she said it was very unlikely that I could get pregnant because of uterine fibroids, and that even if I did, I couldn't carry the baby to term. Here I was, I thought I really didn't want children, or that I wasn't ready, but the news was devastating. You know how when you're told that you can't have something! That's when you want it even more!

And in the 'wanting it more', I became pregnant a month after I was told that I couldn't. I was happy, but all my plans had been seriously disturbed. I thought I could be superwoman and still take 8 classes per semester; 3 for the MFA and 5 in Community College. Prior to this, my goal was to have three certificates; in Interior Design, Fashion Design and Art alongside the MFA in Fashion Merchandising. I was fighting hard to keep things normal, but it just wasn't going to happen, I had to drop the classes I had enrolled for one by one.

This is when I met Kelly Rae, finding her art is just like meeting the artist. My friend had told me about some art she thought I would like so she took me to a shop in Upland. It was love at first sight, I wanted them all. After going back and forth, with the shop owner smiling, I'm sure she had seen this happen so many times, I finally decided to pick one of the dolls. Her name is Faith. The lady in the shop also mentioned that the artist was pregnant too, and that she had heard that she was a really nice person. I felt an immediate connection.

In the meantime, I had my first 'episode', I was contracting and I had to be admitted into the hospital. The pain I felt was like nothing I had ever felt before, but the fear of losing the baby was even worse. I was in the hospital for about a week and when my doctor released me, he said, the only hope I had of doing this was that I was going to be on bed rest for the rest of my pregnancy. I had six months to go and I had to give school up completely.

So, here I was stuck in bed, the internet and television my constant companions. But I had a new best friend. Faith. And these were the things Faith said to me every time I looked at her.

Believe in healing.
Trust the possibilities.
Embrace your truth.
Release your fear.
Celebrate the love that exists in your life.
Ask for what you need.
Listen to forgiveness.
Be yourself. Always.
Nurture your soul.
Hold onto your hope.

These were the words that stared at me every moment of every day. When I asked how I was going to stay sane in bed. Those were my answers.
When I asked if I could be strong enough to carry the baby to term. Those were my answers. When I asked how I was going to be a good mother. Those were my answers.
When I asked what i was going to do with the rest of my life. Those were my answers.

So, soon, the questions began to change.

I asked, how can I be a good mother, a good wife and still honor myself, especially my creative self. Faith gave me the answers.
Then I asked, do I really want to be this business mogul and sell other people's designs? Faith gave me the answers.
But I've made so many mistakes and disappointed so many people, my family, by walking out on them and leaving them to fend for themselves when I was the primary provider? Faith gave me the answers.
I left my clients and my staff in the lurch, clients who depended on me, staff who had worked for me for so long. Faith answered.
Do I dare bare my soul and create once again? Faith answered.
Am I good enough? Faith answered.
Can I do this is America, when there's already so much out there? Faith answered.

And then came better questions and declarations.

I still want to make women feel and look beautiful. Faith smiled.
I still want to build my own empire and leave a legacy. Faith smiled.
I know I can do this, I have been called! Faith smiled.
How can I not do this! What was I thinking??? Faith smiled knowingly.

In the meantime, I had been following Kelly Rae and her own experiences through child birth, I have to say, she prepared me even more than any book could have through her writing on her blog.

So, here I am today, on that journey. Stepping out in Faith. Flying in faith.

So, back to the desert. (I told you it would all come together!). I have come to respect the desert. There is no other way that the Universe could have been able to get my attention. The desert has been a mirror of my soul. And now that I have come to this point, I don't know how, but I know the days of dryness, the days of the desert are almost over.

As I continue to 'howl loudly, so that my pack can find me', as I continue to stay true and authentic, as I continue to embrace all the complicated parts of myself, as I continue to be the best woman, wife, mother, daughter, friend, artist , designer I can possibly be, the life of green nature will find it's way back to me and I know it will manifest very soon. In the form of moving back into green, fresh nature, in the form of a community of strong women, in the form of authentic success.

I look forward to green. I look forward to becoming a part of something bigger than me. I look forward to doing my part and doing it excellently and with a heart full of love.

I have so much to look forward to, and for that, whilst still in the desert, I have found a way to be thankful.


  1. Wow, what a story and journey you have. You are a brave, strong woman. Thank you for sharing your Renaissance. Incredibly inspiring!

  2. Thank you Deborah! That really means a lot to me!

  3. I love it up here, and will be sorry to leave soon. Isn't it funny how we are all so different, even when we have so much in common? I was happy to read the ending -- that you found a way to be thankful while here in the desert.

    Looking forward to actually meeting you next week, friend!

  4. Yes Cindy, that's the beauty of it all, we're all so different and yet the same. Thank you for reading! And I'm looking forward to meeting you too!

  5. Your story is both beautiful & incredible. Everything truly does happen for a reason--this I know. In some ways your story reminds me of my own. Although I am still searching ways to be actually get to a level when I can sit back and say that this is "it" this is what I've been trying to feel---content. Until then I look forward to connecting. Thank you so much for sharing. XO

  6. Thank you so much Sara! When I was writing, I had all these insecurities but the force that was driving me to share was much stronger. I'm so happy I had the courage to stick to the end. Your comment means so much to be, I feel I have 'connected' by being honest and's a wonderful feeling. It took me a long time to get to this point of contentment, I wish the same for you and so much more!

  7. Well girl, you have me! I felt your heart and soul pour in this post! I have moments of tears, and joy for you! Thank you for your courage to share your story, your fellow flier!

  8. Wow, thanks for sharing your story. I don't feel strong enough yet to share my whole story (or maybe I do, we'll see) but I too found a creative life after taking the Artist's Way class about 5 years ago. I never made anything before taking that class, and a whole world opened up to me after that (I just had my first solo art show in May!) However, it hasn't been such an easy journey for me. I have been chronically ill for 8 years, which can be very isolating. Kelly Rae's post today really spoke to me too. I have shied away from reaching out to people because I've had some tough experiences feeling like people don't understand what I've been through, but this great community of women in the flying lessons class is helping me to change my mind :) So thanks for sharing your story, you really inspired me! Abby

  9. Beautifully written. Thank you for sharing your story.

  10. Thank you so much for your inspiring story. I am moved and so very touched. I look forward to your future success in life and art!

  11. What a beautiful story - told beautifully. Thank you for sharing so intimately with us!

  12. Looking at the pictures of your garden took me right back! It reminded me of cuttings you gave me from one of the plants. It was resilient!!! I planted one of them right outside the house and the other inside. The one outside caught the eye of a passer by, who helped themselves to it. I was NOT happy. But guess what? The last time I went home, it had survived! And was thriving!!! You should see it in full bloom!!! I am sure you will appreciate the symbolism of this. I didn't, until I read this blog post.

    So, I am looking forward to the continued growth and peace as you continue to discover the person God made you to be. That complex, brave, sweet, uber-talented woman! Happy blooming!!! I have NO doubt that you'll continue to inspire.

    God bless.

  13. Leonarda... WOW, you opened up, BIG TIME! And as scarey as it may have been for you to put this on virtual paper, for everyone to see... it was undoubtedly the most Freeing experience for you! I applaud your courage, thank you!

    I also bow - to the YOU that you have always been and have reconnected with!

    Life has a way of throwing obstacles in and on our paths... but it comes down to those who see the signs and act upon them - they are the people we look up to, trust and rally along side with... they are fellow sojourners... they are Our Tribe! >hugs & smooches, Denise< ;-)

  14. Thank you so much Brenda! I don't know where the courage came from, but I'm thankful, beyond words!

  15. Dear Abby, thank you too. I don't like it when someone says'I know how you feel', so I'm not going there, but I do know isolation is not good for us, I pray that this e-course, this wonderful experience inspires you to open up and give people another chance, and to find absolute joy in being the artist that you are! Love and light to you!

  16. Thank you Sofia, I hope we stick together as a tribe and celebrate each other as we go along!

  17. Thank you 'A new creation'! I'm following your blog too!

  18. Thank you Anonymous E! Thank you for all your support on this journey I'm on, especially on FB! The best is yet to come....for all of us! And don't we miss South Odorkor? :)

  19. Thank you Denise! Yes! This has been freeing! In ways you can only imagine!!! They say the best gift you can give someone is to understand them, but how can we ask for understanding if we don't open up? That has been the biggest lesson for me, and I am truly thankful for this experience! And for meeting all you lovely people!

  20. I really appreciated reading your God has plans for each of us, so He also has plans for you! (as you know).
    God bless you.

  21. Thank you Carolyn! Yes! And it's wonderful to allow those plans to unfold! God bless you too!

  22. Leonarda, I was reading your story last night with tears in my eyes. I've been there, it wasn't an identical place to the one you described but it was excruciatingly lonely. I absolutely could not write about this time on my blog, so I have an inkling of the enormous amount of courage it's taken you to share your story here. I hope it frees many a soul of the shame they feel at their own experiences of loneliness, displacement, and depression, as it has me. x

  23. reading this made me feel so hopeful and loving. inspired by YOU! thank you for your bravery. i know it has and will pay off! x0

  24. The first wall is been broken!I pray GOD gives you the courage to trust yourself more and more; because you have no idea how talented you are...

    This is just the beginning for great things if you adopt the can do attitude.

    Proud of you girl, and am blessed you are a part of my life.

  25. Dear Katherine,

    I don't know what to say, I didn't know what to expect when I was writing this, I had no expectations really, I just had to get it out. Thank you for sharing your own feelings. It makes us know that no matter what we're going through, we're never alone. Thank you.

  26. Oh Emily, thank you so much! You have spoken to my heart! Thank you!

  27. Dear Bobo, what can I say....the walls really are coming down, and we're all waiting to see what's been hiding behind them! Thank you so much for your belief in me. I promise, this time, I won't let you down! Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

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