Feet

Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership over that free self was another. -Toni Morrison

Fun fact about me…I don’t like feet.  No matter how clean and groomed you may pride yourself on being, I think feet are the ugliest part of the human body.  There is just something very alien about feet.  The way the toes move on their own and almost have their own personality is like a never ending telling of “this little piggy…”

I’m 5’7″ so I have never had the luxury of “cute” feet.  I carry with my frame the necessary foundation to carry it without falling on my face.  I wear a sturdy size 10 shoe.  I try to stay “polished” (as my mother calls it when a woman is neatly groomed) so my feet are as “pretty” as they are ever going to get. Nevertheless, when reading, We’re Going To Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union I had to think long and hard about a reference she made. There is a point in the book where she discusses the intimacy and seduction involved in a foot rub.  It is a fleeting reference and not a topic she dwells on long.  It’s like when you are reminding a reader of the childhood affinity they may have with eating an ice cream cone on a summer day.  She just brings attention to connecting with a feeling that will place the reader in a subjective, emotional and deep sense of innocence. My first foot rub was not sexual at all.  There was no brown skinned R&B group reject boy massaging my big ass feet with oil.  There were no candles.  There were no dimmed lights.  There were no tingles up my spine.  There was only Matthew Franklin.*

Matthew Franklin was a friend I made my first year at Pace University.  He was kind, highly intelligent, well read, cultured, and slightly…off.  That’s what people would say.  Women would say he was “off.”  Men would call him “gay.” To me, he was no different than the other male friends I had in my music and arts high school.  Men who were considered “gay” or “effeminate” because they were “artsy.”  Matthew was definitely polished!  He was the first man to tell me about Vitamin E oil for my skin and hair and to point me in the direction of where I could purchase it cheap.  He saw right through my tough exterior the FIRST day of classes.  There I was attending a private university on a partial scholarship (I use this term loosely but I’ll save that for another post.)  Our school was downtown Manhattan post 9/11 and the campus was beautiful, elite, and predominantly white.  I grew up in Jamaica Queens. My parents were sure to place me in extracurricular activities where I was exposed to all cultures and most importantly vast socio-economic environments AKA what is now coined as “black excellence.” However, being in private school most of my life and the square of the hood I was determined to prove myself to be “urban” and accepted by my peers.  I went to college in flight jackets (Generation Z, you may have to Google flight jackets) of every color and fitted hats over my perfect perm. I looked the part of the character that was being cast in the John Singleton movie that only existed in my own head.  Matthew invited me to the cafeteria immediately after Anthropology class. There we talked about Franz Boas and pygmy colonies and every other geeky thing we could cover while eating very expensive croissants and drinking Alize out of Starbucks coffee cups to avoid judgement. It was so much fun! Eventually we attracted other closeted dorks and developed a crew of minorities.  We had two Haitian girls (one of whom I still keep in touch with), Jamaican girl, 2 Black American girls (one was me), a Puerto Rican, A Dominican, and later a Filipino friend.  As time went on we attracted more and we had some great adventures my freshman year.  There was another group affectionately known as G.P.A (The ghetto peoples association) and we became cool with them too. We never got too cool with G.P.A.  Many of them were men of color from Brooklyn who lived (how do I say this?) …lives that could be categorized as criminal.  Most of them majored in political science so they could beat their own cases should they end up in an unfavorable circumstance. THESE were the guys from the movie directed in my head.  These guys didn’t particularly care for Matthew Franklin.  So we were “cool” from a distance.

I remember being in Matthew’s dorm on Fulton street.  It had hardwood floors and stainless steel appliances.  We were all chilling in there watching a Mya performance with AJ and Free on 106 & Park (Again Centennials you may have to look this up.) Everyone was casually eating junk food and being intellectual or so we thought.  It was hot and Matthew didn’t allow shoes in the dorm so I left my flip flops at the door.  I remember him sitting on the floor next to my feet and looking at my heel inquiringly and saying, “Damn girl, your feet are ashy!!!”  I was so embarrassed but he quickly grabbed some cocoa butter and started to rubbing.  At first I was shocked and then I was immediately humbled.  Up until that point no one rubbed my feet.  It just wasn’t a thing. I guess, that’s why I neglected it too!  I remember growing up Catholic and seeing the depiction of the washing of the feet ** in church.  I would be so grossed out. “Ewwwww, I thought.  Look at them touching, washing and rubbing strangers feet.”  I lost the connection and the representation of humility and submission and service.  The whole 11-15 minutes that Matthew rubbed all the black girl magic into my feet (cliched cocoa butter and all) I felt real friendship and belonging.  It wasn’t sexual and sensual like in the movies.  It was just kind.

In 2004 there weren’t as many discussed titles.  There wasn’t unclouded science to human sexuality.  At that time, (to my knowledge) you were gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or straight. Or at least that’s what was commonly discussed. As I continued getting to know my friend Matthew, I know he would be considered today as pansexual.* There was no released pansexual flag he could have waived in front of his traditional Caribbean  parents then.  There was no sexual identification that G.P.A would have accepted.  He allowed “off” and he dismissed “gay” as the titles people found necessary to identify him with. He continued being himself.

I didn’t stay at Pace.  The tuition was a little too pricey for me to continue being a Pace Setter.  I became a Stony Brook Seawolf my sophomore year but I lost touch with Matthew Franklin long before I transferred.  All we know is he just didn’t come back Sophomore year.  A part of me thinks he was tired of the crap.  A part of me re-visits the day we saw the news headline about a gay student who committed suicide on a nearby campus.  According to the note, he would rather fly out of that window than tell his parents he was gay.

My thoughts on human sexuality are to be determined.  I consider myself liberal, open-minded, Christian and human.  I always want to be understanding of the humanity in everyone and I want to be compassionate.  I am also a parent and I wouldn’t want my children to experience the scrutiny and violence that oftentimes affects that community.  It’s a sensitive topic (to say the least.)  At Stony Brook I remember watching television one day while supposedly studying and seeing Matthew in a commercial.  I was elated!  He wasn’t dead, beaten or some loser somewhere.  In my young naive mind, he was successful because of that commercial and he was okay.

I don’t think I ever thanked him for that foot rub.  I don’t think I ever thanked him for being my friend and truly hyping me up and telling people I was this brilliant poet. I never thanked him for sticking pepper spray in my coat pocket one night when I left campus a little late and I was taking the J train home. Its funny the memories a random line in a book can send your way.  Thanks Gabrielle.  Thanks Matthew.

 

*Name changed for privacy.

**Jesus washing the feet of the disciples (John 13:1–17) occurred in the upper room, during the Last Supper

 

By: Shaun Liriano

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RIP Toni Morrison, the woman who unapologetically told stories whether we were ready to hear them or not.

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Highs and Lows

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Ms Hulis Mavruk Black Artwork

I begrudgingly worked for a prominent insurance company for 2 years. It had highs and lows. I was taking a gap year from Stony Brook University.  However, in my twenties we didn’t call it a “gap year.”  There was no cute term for leaving school or taking a break from school.  I was tired of working 3 jobs and being a “broke college student” so I chased the money and I chose the industry that my mother worked in.   I liked the company when I first started but as time passed it became stale.  The main attraction to the position was the money I was making and the annual profit share.  On another note, I was in a relationship and admittedly I was more focused on that. Young and dumb, the man I was with at the time had a driving restriction.  Trying to literally be a “ryde or die,” I would pick him up in the mornings and bring him to work on my way to my job.  Some mornings it was pretty tight trying to get us both to corporate positions that both carried a dependability clause. That basically means…”If you can’t get your ass to work on time, you’re fired.”  I was on a written warning and on a rainy day/snooze my alarm 2-3 times day/traffic/ can’t find a parking space day, I arrived to work a critical 9 minutes late.  Well, it took a few weeks to notice but shortly after presenting me with an award for my call quality and after receiving a congratulatory email from my supervisor for being a “team player” I was called into the main conference  room. I remember feeling incredibly calm.  My supervisor and my manager told me they had no choice but to “part our professional ways.”  They asked if I had any questions and I told them I didn’t. I stood and shook their hands and wished them both an early Happy Mothers Day.

My mother isn’t big on “Hallmark holidays.”  Yet, being fired for the first time seemed more of a failure because it happened the Friday before Mother’s Day.  How in the hell was I going to tell her?  My parents got divorced my freshman year in college. When I left school, I moved back home with my mother and baby sister. We would lean on one another a lot. We sometimes would affectionately call our trio “The Three Musketeers.”  It had highs and lows. This was going to be a low.  My mom was reliable and responsible.  She was learning how to fit into a fairly new role.  I was supposed to be a help and not a hindrance. I felt guilty, careless, and ashamed. So I chose to omit my termination.

This is where there is some pixelation in my memory reel.  I don’t remember how my mother found out I was no longer working but she did. What I do remember is her acceptance.  I remember her reminder that this was a temporary setback and I would quickly find something else.  She didn’t remind me of all the sacrifices she made for my sister and I.  She didn’t shove private school bills in my face.  She definitely didn’t tell me I ruined her Mother’s Day.  She simply moved on.  Many of us can forgive but forgetting is the true challenge.  Many of us try to provide everything our children want and need but we have a cerebral calculation of every dime spent and every minute served. Parenting is about highs and lows. 

Thank you to a mother that came to every concert.  Thank you for buying patterns and sewing Halloween costumes and dance costumes.  Thank you for exposing me to Broadway plays.  Thank you for a standing hair appointment beginning at age 3.  Thank you for the lows too.  You taught me how to survive them.  How to be strong.  How to pray before I speak.  How to think with my heart and ignore the noise. How to ask for help.  How to try to come to terms with the things I cannot change and still don’t fully understand.  Thank you, Mom, every day.

 

By: Shaun Liriano

 

Don’t Snooze The Alarm

Just smile.jpgIt happens every year.  New years resolutions, dream boards/vision lists, gratitude jars, and planners.  We are bombarded with ways to make the new year count.  “New year new me” is a popular headline.  Social media timelines are inundated with new looks and haircuts and matching pajama sets. We sync into the idea of needing a “fresh start.”

How necessary is this?

If you simply don’t snooze the alarm and you answer the alerts the Creator is giving you daily, can’t you make the most out of every day?  Can’t you make each day productive and prosperous and consequently become a new version of yourself?  My 5 year old has a habit of saying, “I trust my promise.”  We used to correct her. Now we’ve adapted to it. We all say it now.  It means, I’m giving you my word and I know you’re trusting in me to keep it.  We have to teach our children the importance of responsibility.  There are times when there is no one to blame and no one to point a finger at.  You are responsible for the way you respond to situations and you are responsible for doing what you say you will do.

Lets be really REAL for a moment.  You know there are about 5 things you could have responded to differently this week.  There are at least 5 times you could have ignored the trolls and the nuisances. There are at least 5 times you could have stayed focused on your goals. There are at least 5 customer acquisitions you could have made. There were 5 new followers you could have had in the grocery store or the nail salon this week. Each day could have been “new day, new you.”

You fail all the time but you aren’t a failure until you start blaming someone else.-Bum Phillips (football coach)

I posted on Instagram in December that I will be posting on ShaunLiriano.com once a week and/or releasing a new YouTube video once a week. Why?

Calling:  The intentional use of our specific gifts to influence God’s kingdom.-Mike Todd

What you do is bigger than you! Every person you come in contact with is an opportunity to make an impact.  Furthermore, I do not delete old posts.  Why?  Transparency is important! Yes, you used to curse like a sailor.  Yes, you used to drink like a fish Sis!  Bruh, you were “sexually free” allllllllll through college! Share your story and stop letting the devil delight in exposing the things you keep trying to hide so you can seem self righteous.

Finally, humble yourself. Do what you have to do until you can do what you want to do. Realize that you are flawed.  If you didn’t get that raise, what could you have done better?  If your child isn’t flourishing academically, what can you implement at home to strengthen their scholastic confidence? This one is good -> -> -> -> If there are aspects of your life that you skimmed through and you half-assed, can you revisit them and do them right? Can you be more mature?  Can you submit in your marriage more?  Can you submit in your Faith more?  When’s the last time you read a book?

Discern the difference between daily goals and annual goals and Don’t Snooze the Alarm!

By: Shaun Liriano

IG: @ShaunLProductions

Check out my newest You Tube video:

 

Walk Through

I’m thinking of lines to transform minds for generations

They thinking of clever Instagram captions

Flamboyant poses and libations

All I know is the status quo isn’t working

So I’m collecting reparations

Give me your intellectual property

Or I’m taking it

I’ll file my own report at the police station

Money ain’t enough

Gotta keep a remarkable reputation

Street cred ain’t enough

Need more than being a hood sensation

Meditation ain’t enough

You can’t just be great in your mind

At some point tangible success is all that’s left

After you grind

-Shaun Liriano

Okay Mr.West…

…don’t make me regret this.

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Photo credit: https://fineartamerica.com/featured/kanye-west-graduation-portrait-acrylic-painting-junko-abe.html?product=fleece-blanket&blanketType=blanket-coral-50-60

Let me start by saying, I am writing this as an artist. I am writing this as a student of life. I am not a political blogger therefore I am assuming you are already abreast of the controversy surrounding one of the greatest hip hop artists of all time.  I do not usually provide commentary on societal trends. I am writing this as a tortured creative soul.  I am writing this as a lover of hip hop.  I am writing this as an optimist.

I love hip hop.  I will not mourn Kanye West.  I do not agree with his political views. I am not even sure Kanye West agrees with his political views!  I’m celebrating the parts of him that I can morally subscribe to…his genius.  I will even go so far as to say that I am astounded by his acceptance of himself and of others. He has been saying that he is “leading with love” and that he loves every creature who walked the earth.

I am perplexed by the dichotomy dwelling in Kanye West.  He is talented and articulate.  He is a wordsmith.  Yet, he is thinking clearly (kinda) and he is not successfully conveying the true intent of his actions and thoughts.  In fact, when one mentions that he may be “hurting others” you can see the distress and the SUDDEN awareness on his face as he carefully chooses his words.  How does this happen?

People will take something enlightening, put it in a different context and then call it crazy.  To try to diminish the impact and the value of what I’m actually saying. -Kanye West

 

I was born in 1985.  The artists who have impacted my generation in an astounding way all had a common motif …they were “crazy.”  I don’t even have to mention their names.  You’re thinking of them right now: Michael Jackson, Prince, Left Eye, Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston…

They were judged when they were alive.  They were called icons and legends when they died.  Food for thought:  We studied the poetry of Tupac Shakur at Pace University post his death.  We studied the lyrics and videos of Lady Gaga in English Literature at Stonybrook University.  Her “enlightened viewpoints” were compared to the great Edgar Allen Poe.  What measurement do we use to distinguish the difference between brilliance and insanity?

But I know the view is that I’m emotionally unstable, which is reality. Like you aren’t?-Lauryn Hill

One of the most terrible things we do to artists is forget to separate their human form from their ethereal imaginative alter egos.  We have to consider that in order for a person who is of this world to create something out of this world, he or she has to remove their consciousness from the boundaries and constraints of what is accepted as “normal.”  

Bravery is more important than perfection.-Kanye West

I am actually scared to publish this post.  What will you do tomorrow, Mr. West?  What hat will you wear tomorrow, Mr. West?  Will you forget this girl from South Jamaica Queens who bumped “The College Dropout” in my 1980 Pontiac Grand Prix? Will you forget this wannabee rebel who had “The wise man say, you’ll find your way
The wise man say, you’ll find your way” scribbled on the back of my favorite denim jacket?*  This fake actress-Spike Lee geek was glued to the computer screen when you had the balls to release your own full length film, “Runaway.”   I’ve never considered myself a “fan” of anyone really but the respect I have for your talent and perseverance is immeasurable.

I see your pain but I see your passion.  I can disregard the blond hair and the liposuction because that is just a physical representation of a spirit who is lost on a level that he wasn’t fully prepared to ascend to.

We don’t want to mourn you, Sir.  We want to be moved by your music and motivated by your mystique. Get out.

What I see here is nothing but a shell…what is most important is invisible.- Antoine de Saint Exupery (The Little Prince)

By: Shaun Liriano

*Lyrics from Pinocchio Story by Kanye West (808’s & Heartbreak)

 

Never Explain

“Never explain- Your friends do not need it and your enemies will not believe you anyway.”~Elbert Hubbard

I have always been a person who sees the good in people (most of the time.) I am also someone strangers sometimes feel comfortable enough to confide in. These attributes can be seen as liabilities because there are some who will take advantage of a kind heart. There are those who will exaggerate and manipulate you and assume you are weak. Silence and showing restraint in times where you could justifiably “clap back”, build character. Maintaining who you are, what your moral compass points to and raising the bar by showing the height of your integrity will be challenging but it is not impossible.

Never Explain…

I come from a bloodline (both maternal and paternal) of people who need to be right. Actually, I come from a bloodline of people who believe wholeheartedly they are right about almost everything 97% of the time. This is hazardous. I have noticed as I age, I have aunts, mentors, etc who have mastered meditation, prayer and most importantly…silence.

“Silence is gold as long as it is necessary”-Unknown

I believe that there are moments of silence that are essential for peace. Whose peace, Shaun? Thank you for asking. It depends on the situation. If you have been deceived or betrayed, silence may be the preventative resolution for rage. You shouldn’t be saying anything that will ignite feelings of resentment and cause you to behave as a supporting character as opposed to the character you’ve worked so long to develop…The Star.

Silence sets up an environment of transparency and may heighten senses that would have been clouded by noise. In silence I was able to recognize the malicious actions of someone I thought was genuine. I was able to recognize the face of an enemy and place myself in a stance of security and blind force because it wasn’t necessary for me to do anything specific to show the fallacious nature of worthless accusations. Those who had been exposed to me, even if only for a short while, knew the truth and laughed at the adversary. The old cliché is true, the truth speaks for itself.

Never explain…

A friend of mine had a rant the other day and it was so beautiful in its raw nature and its unapologetic delivery. It was authentic and the premise of it was, be consistent in your positive patterns of behavior. As he would say, “I ain’t convincing nobody of s&%t anymore.” Frankly, you shouldn’t have to. Arrogance has no place to stay in a house of self-discipline. If you’re a dope parent, wife, business person, employee, OR JUST EARTHLING all you have to do is be that person as opposed to playing that role. If your integrity is challenged…

never explain.

By Shaun Liriano

Embrace All Surprises (Easier Said Than Done)

I like surprises.

I do not discriminate.  I love stereo-typically pleasant surprises like flowers,books, bags, watches, dates, drawings from my children and yummy food (just to name a few).  I also appreciate “unpleasant” surprises because I believe they reveal a truth that is often necessary for your destiny.  Shaun, what does that mean?  It means, self-righteousness or if I may dare say salvation or if I go a step further …PURPOSE is rarely ethereal.  To over simplify my point, lies/secrets revealed may cause pain but they spark a change that would have been unable to grow in darkness.  We need light.  We all need light.

Constructive criticism is usually a surprise and seldom received as constructive.  Usually it invokes anger, resentment and maybe even shame.  However, I believe that even when it is surprising to hear something unexpected about your characteristics or behavior it can still be an experience in development. Instead of making a face and shutting down we can use it as an opportunity to modify.

This is a new philosophy for me.  I do not traditionally take criticism well.  I do not always deal with crisis effortlessly.  I am learning to expand in those areas and exhibit the strength I have.   However, I recently reflected on what was a very challenging time in my life and I realized I would never have made the leap to be more consistent in my spiritual journey if it had not been for the opposition.  As humans we get comfortable.  It takes the element of surprise to shake the ground from under us and force us to rebuild.

If you didn’t get denied for that loan you applied for, would you be attempting to repair your credit now?

If that toxic relationship worked out, would you know that you were slowly committing yourself to an environment where it is dangerous to dream ?  Would you know that you are poisoning your passions?

You studied for the test.  You almost passed. You were confident you could pass.  You were surprised when you failed. Now you are determined to get 100%.  You are less nervous, less anxious, and you are going to succeed because each time you failed you completed another step to pruning your proficiency.  

One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do. -Henry Ford

https://www.brainyquote.com/topics/surprises

Now it is in no way my intention to motivate the malicious mind.  If you know you are attempting to create chaos and disruption then this message is not for you.  Yet, if you are diligently doing everything you can to invoke any innate goodness within then…

Be bold. Love hard. Take advantage of every opportunity to learn. Don’t be afraid. Embrace all surprises or Shut Ya Mouth and Call Me Ugly.

By:Shaun Liriano

I love reading your comments and your insight.