A Victim No More

Dear Society,

What did I allow you to do to me?

I left as a baby but returned as a little child filled with hope and you raped me. You raped me of my voice, my style, my ability to rely on my own body’s messages, my intuitive ability and sense of wonder. I came willing to share my gifts, but you weren’t satisfied unless you were inside every vulnerable hole I had. I was naive and let you in. I thought you could help me, save me even, from what you implied was my wretched existence. My blackness, my caribbean roots, my connection to divinity, my natural beauty, gifts, and talents, were something to be ashamed of. It’s one thing to be black. It’s another thing to be black and in love with the reflection of the divine within you, when to the outside world you have nothing to be in love with. So you sought to break me. Your history of rejecting difference and preferring the illusion of normalcy and assimilation serving as your compass. You made me believe that what I knew was inaccurate, that my poise was a stuck up demeanor, that my ability to note self destruction and despair was me being boring. 

I was ridiculed for eating only when I was hungry. So I binged. I binged on your lies and your own misguidedness. Your illusion of power convincing me that it was the only way. You told me, often subtly, sometimes not, that who I am and what I am, was unnatural. 

You sought to change me while in the same breath offering me spiritually in a bottle, as if to say, “get to know yourself. love yourself. But only the parts that allow others to love and admire you. Still hide the ugly. Keep it to yourself.” 

I called myself weird because of you. I came up with a host of terms and wove together stories trying to piece together the why’s, when’s, and how’s of my weirdness. I beat myself up, pulled myself apart and, on several occasions, have broken down trying to figure out what it was that is/was so wrong with me. I asked hosts of people throughout the years for their approval, crumbling when I didnt get it. I attempted to look inward by looking outward for some indication of your approval of what I was becoming. Did I fit? Was I finally right with you? 

I was using your ruler to measure my worth. I was looking at myself through your twisted, distorted mirror, filled with bias, racism, discrimination, judgement, persecution, uncertainty and doubt, ridicule, friendship and belonging, team behavior, despair, and illusions. But no unconditional love. So many conditions were placed on my acceptability that I could never quite fit, this afro-caribbean descent girl with dual citizenship, who ate only when she was hungry, who was joyful because God put it in her to be so. Who danced in her own way, enjoyed her own company, was smart, observant, intuitive, and selective with the company she kept. She stood out simply for being. 

I ask myself now, after all is said and done, what’s right with me? And I like every answer that comes through. 

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Birthday Reflection

For the days leading up to my birthday, I ugly cried. I didn’t do a planned reflection like I usually do for my impending birthday. As a result, emotion crept up on me and consumed me in a way it hasn’t in years. 

I ugly cried. Snot running from my nose, unable to be contained by sniffling and snorting, ugly cried. Falling to the floor in a pool of salted water, legs unable to keep me up ugly cried. Swollen, red puffy eyes, involuntary gasps for air ugly cried. 

 I missed my granny. She was my mom for what seemed like the first 7 years of my life. The only real constant figure I remember during that time and she died when I was 7. I use to call her mommy until my grandpa, her husband, put a stop to it. I ugly cried because I missed her. 

I ugly cried because I’m 26 and have been angry since I was 18 when I realized that most mainstream white and asian people didn’t care for me or about me. They certainly didn’t understand me. They didn’t care if I was a pillar of strength, beauty, sophistication, knowledge, love and care. They couldn’t see it. They didn’t care. They only cared about what you could do for them or how you would make them look. Image. That’s all it was about for many of them.

 I ugly cried from this place in me, that place that was angry due to disappointments that I hadn’t allowed myself to feel. It was anger and raw emotion that I wasn’t suppose to show because “the angry black woman” is a scary black woman. But I was angry and insecure white and asian people no longer got a say in how appropriate it was. Black people who wanted to define my blackness no longer got a say in how acceptable I am to it. 

I ugly cried because at 26, I had grown but still held on to great regret. Staying in DC so long, not doing something other than nursing, I wanted to explore other avenues if I could. I wanted to write, to get more creative with life. Do things that created value in my life and that didn’t suck the life out of me and wasnt meant to be long term. And I didn’t want to do anything for free. 

My grandma wanted me to be happy. My grandma wanted me to feel good about what I do and about who I am. She wanted my heart to be overflowing with joy and it has not been. I want it to be. I want to live. Truly love again and fall in love with who I am. And so I ugly cried. From the heart. I want to do 26 differently. 

Listen to Your Body

My time in DC, primarily in the NICU, keeps coming up for me. It was a particularly difficult time for me but served as a another turning point in my understanding of mind, body, heart, and spirit. I think the reason my difficult year in that NICU keeps coming up , despite leaving and now experiencing far greater joy in my current circumstance, is because I have yet to fully integrate the experience. There’s something in it that needs to be shared. I spent almost a decade working and going to school in DC. Long enough for me to know that…maybe I don’t want to go back. In order to survive my time in DC, I had to do one thing: ignore my body’s messages.

What I just said is the antithesis of everything I want to implore others to do. Ignoring my body led to state of utter confusion, inner turmoil, days of crying, difficult work situations that I did NOT need to be in, anxiety, difficulty forming sentences, fear of communicating with others, added stress, binge eating, and weight gain in order to cope and numb the signals my body was sending me. I didn’t listen because I was afraid that listening to my body would result in ruining my future and negatively impact my [then] goals. It was a lesson I needed to learn in trusting myself and in the Divine to guide me to where I need to be. Another lesson in surrender, in listening, and because I had left this difficult situation only to return, a lesson in learning to let go and not look back.

Not too long ago during a late night introspection not to different from this one, I asked myself how I could deepen my own awareness of Self and God. “How can I come further in contact with what I really am?” I asked. And the answer was, “Come into your body and regain awareness of it. Remain present. It’s all there.”

I recently attended a CPR certification class in an area not far from where I spent almost a decade of the first part of my adult life. As I’ve been working on remaining present and aware in my body and of its messages (a task that has been somewhat uncomfortable for me as the sensation of other people can make me want to hide away in my safe place), two things became abundantly clear to me:

  1. This was not somewhere I needed to be for long.
  2. I am not going back to DC for a good long while if I can help it.

All the years I spent experiencing DC, I failed to realize the impact it had on my own energy over time. Don’t get me wrong: I LOVE the museums and scenery. But there’s some places I’d rather just visit. I’m sure many will say the same about where I choose to call home. Some people prefer the city life or the hustle and bustle of DC living and that’s okayBut so is my own preference for staying the heck away. My time in the NICU showed me that even though those within the situation might rave about how great it is, it doesn’t mean it’s all that great for me. One of the things I do note about my time in the NICU was that I felt this overwhelming undercurrent of anger and discontent that made me want to run and fix it all at once.

I realized people gossiped about me. My entire time in DC was me feeling like someone, somewhere had something nasty to say behind my back which became readily apparent in the way people would look at me or blank me out when I came in the room. I hated that nightmare scene. And it made me realize that some people are not aware of just how crooked they are. And it hurt me. It’s part of the reason why I stopped paying attention to my body and its messages in an attempt to cope with the difficult situations I was in there. I felt pressure to conform and yet didn’t want to conform. I just wanted to be myself. But my entire time there was spent feeling like who I was as a black woman and as a human being and reflection of the Divine didn’t fit in with the standard, the norm, or what was expected. I have no intention of ever returning.

Tell The Truth: Is This Goodbye?

My family hurts me Forcing myself to stay strongly attached to my family hurts me. I often feel scorned and unseen or like I don’t actually feel a sense of belonging with them but rather that I cover myself up when with them. My needs aren’t being met. In many ways, I think I tried to cover this feeling up because many around me claimed to have great relationships with their family. I felt envious because I don’t think I ever truly did feel that. At least not after my grandmother died. Lately I wonder, is it possible to leave my family behind with love? I’m seeking confirmation on this concept. It’s not that I hate them but that I’d like to untangle myself from them to the point where I don’t exactly care to stay in touch often, to call often, to visit often or to have them visit me. For this reason as well as the need for health benefits, I think it would be valuable for me to return to work. I’m so grateful that they agreed to watch my dog while I took a trip to Trinidad. And while I love Django and I truly appreciate the company of dogs, I don’t want another dog or pet after this one. I miss my complete freedom. I’d like to let go of my family in a loving way so that they know that I do still care but that being close to them allows them to hurt me and I don’t want to hurt anymore. Deep inside I feel like I desire better than to feel scorned or unwelcome or forgotten or like I’m a burden or that they’re obligated to love me. They don’t understand my plight. They don’t see it and I don’t feel like they really see me.

I think I’ve attained closure in Trinidad, from Trinidad. I really don’t care to come back. Maybe I just need to honor this concept.

Tell The Truth: Maybe I’m Not Wrong OR Right

I’m not angry with my family anymore. It’s not anger. I’ve learned that it’s important to forgive everyone for everything. Instead, the fire that burned in the barren wasteland, turned to ashes. Now, there where the ashes use to be is a beautiful forest. I’m not angry. Instead what I feel is compassion for my family. They did the best they could with what they had.

For years I felt the need for justice. I wanted to be right! That was always the overarching theme in my desire for justice. I wanted to be confirmed right while the others had to be wrong. In this, I would seek an apology, justice, confirmation. I then came to a new realization: What if I wasn’t wrong? What if I’m not wrong? What if NONE of us were wrong? But…what if none of us were right either?

I’ve come to realize that I am on a quest for truth. I want to know what’s true for me and of me. So many of the beliefs I acquired were acquired subconsciously, without them being directly taught. The impact they had were substantial. I realize now that I’m not “wrong” or “bad” for feeling what I feel or thinking what I think or looking at life the way that I do. But I’m on a quest of constant self-examination and evolution, more and more becoming who and what I really am. And I realize that for a long time this is the battle I have been dealing with.

I have been asking the 5 Whys and the H of Inadequacy for years. These are the questions I have been asking myself: Who and What made me wrong? When did it happen? Where did it happen? Why am I not good enough? And how do I fix it? In the past I wreaked rage and anger towards my family because they were the ones I felt taught me the most untruths about myself. I understand now that it was projection and I am no longer angry. They were trying to fix me as a way of fixing themselves. “Look good” when I go out was their way of trying to make themselves look good through me. It wasn’t really about me. It was about them just as the experiences I have and the things and people that get to me are about me.

I’m starting to see myself everywhere. I will quote Iyanla Vanzant on this one: ““I have no fear of seeing my Self, knowing my Self, being my Self.”

 

Reference

Vanzant, Iyanla. One Day My Soul Just Opened Up: 40 Days And 40 Nights Toward Spiritual Strength And Personal Growth (p. 307). Touchstone. Kindle Edition.

 

Tell The Truth: The Fire Turned to Ashes

During therapy, I told the truth about all the anger I felt. I explained that the solid boulder I felt in my heart had transformed into a fire that burned throughout my chest. I could see the flames. My therapist instructed me to invite the energy of my mother into the fire and tell her everything I was feeling. I did.

I wish you had the courage in yourself to advocate for yourself. If you did, you would’ve had the courage to advocate for me. I wish you had more love for yourself so that you wouldn’t have projected all of your self-disdain onto me, your daughter. 

That was all I had to say. My therapist asked how I felt and what images I saw. I didn’t know how to explain it at the time. I needed to process. I simply said I felt sore. All the areas that the boulder blocked, all the areas that had burned with flames were gone. I imagined eschar being removed from a wound so it could heal. I didn’t tell her that. What I saw was ashes. Throughout all the areas where the fire had burned, in this seemingly vast wasteland, ashes were now in its place.

One of the things I asked my therapist was whether or not healing meant having to be ‘best friends’ with my mother. I do know (or use to know) people who are best friends with their mom. I told her how I noticed that my cousin often goes into a baby voice whenever she speaks with her mom and that she tells her mother everything. While I thought this was cute, I didn’t want to have that kind of relationship with my mom. I wanted to be able to keep some things to myself if I so chose to. She said that was okay. The truth is that in that moment I sought validation for who I am and what I wanted. She asked if I could honor that. I said yes and felt relieved.

My therapist asked what it is the little girl in me needed as it is possible for me to give her what she needs. I said a voice. She needs to be heard, she needs to continue to tell the truth, be sincere, be authentic, she needs validation and a support system that works for her. Lastly, she needs to advocate for herself. I asked her why these people treated me this way. She said from what I told her it seemed as though they saw me as being strong and resilient and could handle them. I can see this. My original thought is that they tried to break me. But I realize now that they were all cowards. They were scared and taking their fear out on me because I was the most vulnerable.

 

 

Tell The Truth: Day After Mother’s Day

I am chronically angry. In public I smile and say hello, I’m polite, im helpful and I’m nice. But deep inside, I’m angry from years of having it communicated to me that I don’t matter in some way, shape, or form. I’m angry because for years I have been told that in some way I am wrong. This never stopped.

I remember my experience in the NICU where I use to work in DC. All I felt there was anger and distrust. I remember trying to talk to them about what I thought, how I felt, what I needed. Again, it seemed like it was communicated to me that I didn’t matter and I didn’t belong. I tried to stick it out like I always do, forcing myself to stay in situations where I often can feel and know I’m not wanted. Because that’s what the strong girls do right? You don’t let people make you quit your job. But I never worked in a place where I felt so much anger and hostility. Only one and I vowed never to return.

I remember the patient care manager in this NICU. Under the guise of keeping it real she would unleash so many insults, threaten me and say I’d be blacklisted from the hospital for 7 years and that other institutions talk. If she only know how much I had disliked this place. But I didn’t trust them there. I tried and would always be cut off. I felt like I was the outsider and I didn’t belong. And the truth is, I didn’t belong. I didn’t like the energy I felt there or how those who had been there a while would all team up to talk about any newcomers who weren’t exactly like them in some way. I didn’t like that everyone knew each others business and people were constantly gossiping or knew about each other’s personal lives. I wanted out. I used my options.

My family looks at me like I’m a complainer. But the truth is I’m trying to be heard. When I look, I realize that it’s not my ‘family’ I’m angry with. They hurt me for sure. But most of my anger is directed towards my mother for not being the support system I needed as a child. The truth is, since I’ve begun to untangle, I realize that she couldn’t be that support because she still isn’t able to truly support herself emotionally. She’s only now beginning to learn and her voice gets stomped out by the bullies of the family (her two sisters). I realize that all the pain she exacted upon me is what she either had put on her or what she put on herself. She couldn’t do any better. Even when I try to point it out to her, she couldn’t hear me, maybe because as her offspring, my voice didn’t matter if hers didn’t. But that doesn’t make me any less angry. It only makes me hate her more. I can’t imagine seeing my little 10,11,12,13,14,15,16 year old girl cry and hearing her say how her father’s refusal to call her or spend time with her for years even though the two of you are in a relationship makes her feel neglected and abandoned and turning to my daughter and basically blaming her for her absence and neglect. How is she suppose to feel? She felt invalidated and worthless. That’s how she felt. And ended up with a boy who further made her feel invalidated and worthless.

I’m angry because I realize that the little 6, 7, 9, 10 and 13 year old in me mattered just as much as the me I am today does. I’m angry because I realize that I always deserved a voice and was entitled to my own opinion but the grown ups around me didn’t see it that way. I was ‘wild’, I was ‘different’, I was ‘rude’, I was ‘weird’, I was a host of names but these people were not nice and allowed others to do and say not nice things to me. They didn’t allow me to have a voice, they didn’t treat me like I mattered so much as they didn’t want me to make them look bad. Shame. Guilt. Control. That’s what I grew up in.

Grandma, even though I can’t remember a single bad thing about you, I can’t help but feel as though somehow you contributed to the cultivation of all of this. But in my heart, my mother plays the biggest role. I don’t like her. I don’t respect her. Yesterday was mother’s day and I was even more angry with her then than today. Sometimes I feel like I’m just waiting for her to die so I can finally stop feeling like my very being is wrong and like I don’t matter. She keeps me tied to people who constantly seem to try to make me feel like I’m wrong and don’t matter. Why God why?