I wanted to be there in person but I embraced the fact that a violent virus is still tagging along on the backs of culprits and drifting into the lungs of thousands of human beings on a daily basis, so I secured my place in the comfort of my home as I watched the youngest of our tribe crossover into the “real world.”
What an honor—the tears that flowed down my face as her name was called— watching her stand to wave at the camera as if to say, “Hello, world! I’m ready. So, you’d better be,” transported me back to every graduation I’ve had the pleasure to attend.
But this one is different . . . This one comes with the glory of knowing a young, black woman transitioned from teenager to graduate, obtaining her degree “with the highest distinction” in Music Education.
What better way to carry on the legacy of our family than to do it by gifting others the beauty of song?
Bless has been far more than a blessing to us—she’s been a dream come true for me as I’ve always envisioned having a little sister and after gaining five brothers, she came thundering through—swiftly carving a place for herself within our world.
I feel inadequate when placing words together to describe her essence—the all-knowingness of her very presence cannot be scribed. It is something that has to be experienced.
And as she grows, our bond strengthens and I am no longer the big sister who is nearly twenty years older than her, I am merely, “sis”—a woman with whom she connects on a higher scale than years prior.
I can see seas parting for her—making a way for her continued steps as she introduces herself to the world beyond her peripheral view and I know she is going to do great things.
“Grampy, the plumbers are here to take a look at the busted pipes!”
Elijah yells toward the back of his grandparents’ shotgun house — screams loud enough for the neighbors to hear.
“You wanna give me my pipe? Yes, boy, that’ll be all right. It’s in the den on the coffee table.”
Elijah shakes his head and cautions the plumbers with his right hand and then directs them to the bathroom on the first floor which is where they will begin their work.
“No, Grampy! The pipes! The busted pipes from the storm. The plumbers are here to fix them!”
“Mice!!! When did we get mice?! Lemme get up and find some traps, boy. We can’t have no mice cohabitating with us. No, siree.”
Elijah presses two fingers to the temples of his head and massages slowly. He then walks toward his grandfather’s bedroom and enters the room with a defeated look on his face. He stands near the window, breathes out, and begins again . . .
“Grampy, the plumbers are here to fix the pipes. There are no mice and you stopped smoking that godawful pipe three years ago.”
He looks at his grandfather, places a hand on his shoulder, and smiles gently.
“Well, if you wanted company boy, why didn’t you just say so? Sure, they can spend the night.”
A look of bewilderment shot across Elijah’s face as he tried to understand exactly what his grandfather was going on about now.
“Grampy, for who to spend the night? This is about the pipes, Grampy. The busted pipes!”
His voice was at a measured shrill with just enough volume to alert his grandmother in the kitchen. She came running to her grandson’s aid.
“Gerald! Pay attention to me, please. Elijah said the plumbers are here to start work on the busted pipes from that winter storm! They’re in the bathroom downstairs, that’s where they’ll begin!”
Although she was shouting, Sue’s voice was just as serene and peaceful as if she were speaking calmly to an infant. Elijah thought to himself, surely his grandfather would not hear her.
“Now, Elijah is going to keep watch over them while they work on the pipes and I’ll finish dinner.”
A brief moment of silence waltzed in on them and Elijah and Sue awaited Gerald’s response.
“Sue, of all the things in this world you could call me, I never thought a sinner would be one of them. And if those plumbers don’t hurry up and get here, we’re going to spend another night in this house with no water!”
Sue looked at Elijah, smiled, and gave his hand a pat.
“Today’s almost done, Elijah. Tomorrow is a new day. Maybe it’ll be a good day for him.”
Elijah gave his grandmother’s hand a gentle pat and smiled back at her.
It wasn’t self-hate. I wasn’t trying to torture myself or beat myself into non-existence. I just wanted a break away from who I was, the things that happened to me, and the success that I couldn’t seem to attain. I wanted to fade away, to leap into the body and mind of someone else other than me. I wanted my freedom — to be unhinged and removed from the only person I knew better than anyone else. But guess what? Here I am. Here is where I’ll always be.
“And remember, no matter where you go, there you are.” — Confucius
During my pre-therapy days, approximately two years ago, I would soak myself in negative thoughts. Sure, I could drum up positive feedback, words of affirmation, terms of endearment, and spread love to others —at my core, I was rotting — wasting away. I didn’t have the energy nor did I want to salvage the me hidden deep within.
Much of my adult life has been riddled with me trying to outdo my previous accomplishments then shaming myself when I couldn’t.
I left home when I was eighteen years old. My parents had been divorced since I was twelve and my stepfather wasn’t my favorite person. My mom wasn’t either — not at that time. During those years and several prior, she’d been on drugs and a violent alcoholic. So when college called, I went running toward it.
When someone you love deeply threatens to chop off any of your usable limbs while holding a machete simply because you stepped in to initiate peace between them and their spouse, it’s time to go. My mother became the person I ran away from first.
I wanted to fade away, to leap into the body and mind of someone else other than me.
The one person I loved the most, regardless of how quickly and viciously she changed, was the person who physically abused me, stole from me, left our home for days on end to be with other people (forget the fact her own children were at home, fending for themselves), called me various unsettling and belittling names, and said on more than one occasion “I just want to have fun” was the one person I begged to see me — please see me and love me. She couldn’t. Not during those days. Not without help.
Running away from my mom meant, in a sense, that I was also running away from myself. And I would do so for at least another fifteen years. Whether you want to believe it or not, there are pieces of you you’ve inherited from your parents and some of those pieces are the remnants of them you hate the most.
Anger built up in me. I was pessimistic. I had a condescending remark or rebuttal for everything. People lost interest in being around me. In all honesty, when I think back on those times, I don’t blame them.
Some well-respected and beloved relationships had been severed. There was no going back. I could only move forward.
I didn’t have the energy nor did I want to salvage the me hidden deep within.
Inherited behaviors are behaviors that are passed down genetically. Our genes control things like our hair type and color, our eye color, and our height—but we don’t usually think of them controlling our behavior. That’s partly because most of our behaviors are learned, rather than inherited.
No one tells you when you’re a teenager you will probably go through a phase in early adulthood where you recognize the hated behaviors of your parents and what’s worse, by yourself, you cannot get rid of them.
I was blooming into the person I couldn’t stomach and the world around me silently judged me for it.
As I grew older, I was able to point out the behaviors that needed changing and focus on how to do that. Genetically, there was and is no changing me, but various actions, those could be altered, finessed . . . they could be poked and prodded and shaped into better actions.
Mark Manson strongly believes in this method. He posits — a person cannot change who they are, it’s impossible, but that person can change their actions.
You can’t change. Like a thirsty man in a desert chasing a mirage, or a fat man peering into an empty fridge—there’s nothing there. So stop chasing it. Go do something else instead.
As I pressed forward into my mid-30s, various behaviors were noted, addressed, and have been and are being altered. I had to see myself for who I was in order to work on becoming better. I had to face myself, lure myself in, tackle the actions and pieces of me that broke through to the surface, and put in the work.
You will always be you. The parts of you you’ve avoided that need shifting or “finessing”, you will have to address. You will have to get knee-deep in the muck of who you are, dig for gold, and once it’s found, shine it to semi-perfection.
Attempting to run away from the very person you could always be may possibly lead to more damage. The weight of your very being is a hard one to carry but think about the outcome it could have if you run toward who you can become instead of running away from who you are (not genetically speaking).
I hope you will be able to give it a try, that is, if you are ready.
My mom also found her way to the person she was struggling to become. Her journey has been a long and arduous one — one I am grateful she had to experience in order to see the person she buried deep within herself decades ago. Ours is a story built on patience, strength, and forgiveness. We will always be working on us but it is much more beautiful now.
She’s a love I am happy to have.
I used to look in the mirror and see a woman I wanted to look away from. I now see a woman I want to run toward — I want to hug and hold her and settle into loving her forever. It was a long row to hoe and tilling my fields warranted a necessary harvest.