From my experiences, I have had to confront the truth – more so, the truth about myself – my strengths and my weaknesses and all those things that make me uniquely me.
You only have to read one or two of the posts on THESHORTGIRLCODE.com to understand that I love hearing and sharing personal stories that emote the hills and valleys of the human experience and candidly share takeaways we can all apply to our own experience(s) as we make strides toward being our best selves. The Damien Marcus Williams (@damienmwilliams) story is one such story. In his memoir, Grab You Some Lemons: Make the Best Out of Life’s Sour Moments, Damien charts the progress of his life’s story and what he has gleaned from the experiences he has had.
The Back Story:
I met Damien through my disc-jock – DJ David – a few years ago when we were asked to contribute to a fun-day/treat for the beautiful young boys and girls housed at the SOS Children’s Village in Stony Hill, St. Andrew Jamaica. From there the connection was made. I told Damien then, and I still mean it now, if ever you need me to lend my talents or support to any of your charitable efforts, just let me know and I’ll be there as long as I am able.
In Damien, then and still today, I saw a young man who was much like the alchemist. A young man who had a heart for the hurting and disenfranchised as he too was familiar with feelings of disenfranchisement and hurt. He had a true heart for ushering others into their purpose through his inspiring #IamWorthy initiative. I still sport my #IamWorthy tee-shirt from time to time as it is such a powerful message and one that we all need to be reminded of. So, when I heard that Damien was publishing his first book – a memoir – I was very excited to get my hands on the final product.
A Memoir In the Making
I first caught wind of the “Grab You Some Lemons” memoir on Twitter when a saw a Go Fund Me Tweet. The next thing I remember is a post on Instagram about the book’s March 3, 2018, launch from a mutual friend – Prudie (read about my fun time at her Vision Board Party here). I was thrilled, to say the least. I reached out to Damien and told him I wanted to support him by attending his launch as a paying patron and asked if I could cover his launch and review his book for THESHORTGIRLCODE.com – he said yes, and this is where we are now.
The 3-in-1 Launch Event
March 3 couldn’t arrive fast enough for those of us who were excited to see Damien win! When the day came, we were not disappointed in the least. The #GRABSOMELEMONS 3-in-1 launch event was executed well starting from the cross-network social media campaign and promotions leading up to the very end of the night. The event got underway from late evening and featured a tea party and wellness fair as well as the book launch. Patrons were gifted with a copy of the book from the gate and were able to enjoy the different offerings on show, like ‘edible liquor shots’ from Drunken Tingz (check them out on Instagram by clicking here).
The decor was exquisite and the outdoor space was used well. The evening was also tastefully punctuated by fabulous entertainment and featured a soul-baring and spirit-awakening roundtable panel discussion. If this event was any indication as to the quality of the book, then high expectations would not be unreasonable.
Oh Lawd: Me and This Darn Book!
Listen, I expected this book to be good, as Damien has a way with words, but I did not expect to be holding back tears by the time I was a few pages in. Grab You Some Lemons is 102 pages and 7 chapters of pure inspiration. Much like a glass of ice cold lemonade from your favourite stand, this book is just enough of everything you want, need, and expect from a memoir. While it is his story, Damien’s recount never felt self-absorbed. Instead, as I read, I got the feeling that every detail in all the stories told within the first few chapters had its purpose. By the time I got to the final few chapters, I understood clearly what that purpose was. The Foreword was written by one of Damien’s biggest supporters and encouragers (and another gem I’ve met through my journey as a musician) – the amazingly talented Emma Lewis.
I expected Grab You Some Lemons to be reading an eloquently written and potent story about Damien’s life experiences – which I definitely got. What I did not expect was seeing myself reflected in the pages of his own challenges with identity and struggling to find the purpose and perspective in all his experiences that he could use to his “advantage” and make his life an ultimately fulfilling one. As I read each line, paragraph, poignant quote or poetic insert, each chapter, I found Damien’s experiences to be oddly familiar – familiar and cathartic.
I too share many of his perspectives on the church, faith, orthodoxy and orthopraxy, and an existential way of life where I/we “in all things, give thanks.” I too know what it feels like to seemingly have it all and feel “hallow” and deficient. I too know what a dark night of the soul feels like – so much so, that I too, would self-sabotage. I can relate all too well to feeling so used to things falling apart the moment you begin to feel comfortable in some sort of settling, that I would begin to tear that shit apart myself – this sistah ain’t waiting lol (doh laaf). Thankfully, I can also relate to knowing that if I can “outlast” those periods where I was feeling attacked and pelted by life’s lemons, I too would – in the end – be able to build myself a lemonade stand.
The Brighter, Lighter, Funnier Side
Importantly, Damien’s honest exploration of the many pains we can experience in life through his own stories was in no way morose or hypercritical. Committed to his own philosophy of making the best out of life’s sour moments, Damien presents his story as one of triumph and evolution. His lighter side and humour is present throughout the memoir and I found myself giggling often throughout the tears. For example, he recounts the moment he first landed in Kingston Jamaica to pursue purpose and study theology at the Jamaican Theological Seminary in Kingston, Jamaica:
I was late in arriving for the seminary-provided ride from the airport to the grounds of main campus in Kingston. I had a lot carrying: two filled huge suitcases, or grip as we used to call them; a full carryon; a knapsack, in which I had stored passport and other important documents and some emergency food; and another bag packed with things I needed just in case. I needed everything I packed.
Seriously Damien? ‘I needed everything I packed.’ You’re a whole ass mess. And… you need to stop waiting for the food your grandma be leaving for the needy passerby (following paragraph). Still, the important truth that “the wound is where the light enters you” is not lost on the reader. Damien’s writing style draws us to the heart of the compassionate, kind, and thoughtful man who not only considers ‘the other’ with his compassion but who also is compassionate to the man of his youth – the man who’s ‘sour’ life moments helped paved the way for his purpose. Over and over again we saw a young man postured for great purpose reliving the same painful experiences as he sought acceptance and peace. Still, it is in that brokenness that his strength – buoyed by well-placed humour – shines.
Being Vulnerable and Looking Within
In many ways, Grab You Some Lemons is all of our stories as much as it is Damien’s story. Yes, it is true we may not face our challenges in the same way Damien did. We may not have been moved from one living condition to the next during our most tender years, ostracised for our perceived sexuality or diagnosed with the mental health issues Damien details in his memoir. Yet, just about all of us, however, may have found ourselves “trapped in the purgatory of the mind” and feel like we have to choose between who we are and who we feel we need to be in order to be loved and accepted. And it is in the suffering that attachment, codependencies, and a lack of acceptance bring that we too must face and overcome. Like Damien, we too must face ourselves and recognise that “the love I craved most was my own” and that
singleness is more than just the state of being unmarried or outside of a romantic commitment. Singleness has to be a state of wholeness – being complete in yourself and as yourself without the crotch of having to feel needed by and important to another.
As we face truths about ourselves “that carry with them varying degrees of shame, exclusion, danger, ugliness or otherness,” let us not seek to “subvert or cover that truth.” Instead, let us face them, accept them and endeavour to be as “authentic (strong, vulnerable, benevolent, malevolent, functional and broken) as possible” in relationship to ourselves and lives.
Damien’s story was a reminder of some of the things – and one thing in particular – we all perhaps know deep down even when we negotiate life from a contrasting perspective and programming. For me, the most important reminder is the devastation of ‘expectation.’ When Damien left Grenada to pursue what he perceived to be his divine calling and purpose, he had an idea or expectation of sorts of what that would perhaps look and feel like. It is this perception that would eventually cause those circumstances that seemed contrary to be so painful in how he experienced them. Thankfully, the revelation would come. An epiphany brought about by two not so simple words – I AM – would change everything. In his own words, Damien affirms:
“The shrinking of self stems from not realizing your personal worth. The world cannot benefit from a shrunken version of YOU! BIG up Yuhself.” ~ Damien Marcus Williams
It had taken me a while to get to this place of self-awareness. I hadn’t just arrived here. It was a journey of wrestling that brought me to this place…
I could not identify with such self-depreciation any longer. From now on I would affirm my spiritual origin as the beginning of my story and negotiate life from that place of higher consciousness and deeper awareness of who I AM…
I would now approach my life and engage others from this place of worth and refused to accept any labeling of myself from any other perspective.
The unlearning began with this simple daily affirmation. I signed every tweet and every Facebook status update and every Instagram caption with the affirmation that #IAMworthy. It had become more than a hashtag. It had become a healing balm to my soul.
Cheers to you Damien. And cheers to us who share in your journey and who too can affirm #IAMworthy.
Love you and proud of you! *big hug up*
You can purchase Damien’s book, here on lulu.com