Non-fiction Saturdays

I Don’t Want To Lose My Mind

I watched my paternal Great-Grandmother deteriorate over time. A woman who stood at 5 feet, 8 inches tall and weighed over 200 pounds. She was the epitome of “a strong tower.” For years, she carried us. We descended from her bloodline, all of us; her eyes piercing through each of our faces — her voice found in mine and a few of my cousins’.

We did not think she would become the person she was before she died but she did. When you watch the woman who helped raise you in her home for the better part of three years lose her sense of self, there is a depth to that which cannot be explained.

Everything about her demanded attention. She was not only vocal, but she also commanded a room with her presence. Her voice would echo long after she left. When she spoke, people listened. I envied that. I knew that when I grew up, I wanted people to listen to me the way they so easily listened to my pistol of a Great-Grandmother.

She married once and never remarried. I did not know my Great-Grandfather. He died while my Dad and his siblings were young. I do know that like my paternal Grandfather, he was an Army man and died before he reached his sixties.

My parents were teenagers when I was born. A bout with lead poisoning landed us a temporary stay with my Great-Grandmother whom I’d learn to call “Grandma Tiggs.”

The following story has been told to me many times . . . Shortly after I ingested paint chips from our apartment’s walls, I became sick and was hospitalized. Grandma Tiggs let me know her advisement to my parents was, “I don’t care what y’all do, but bring my baby to me.” And to her, I went. We all went. And with her, I’d find the beauty of a soul with a hard shell.

She potty-trained me by placing my potty in the living room in front of the television while letting me know that I could not get up until something was in the potty. There, in front of her television, I became familiar with Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, and As The World Turns. I snacked on apple and peach slices, whole milk, and homemade ice cream. I could not drink any juice or water until after I cleaned my plate. We ate our meals at the family dining table and nowhere else inside the house.

Her home. Her rules.

She taught Sunday School, was a “Mother” in our small church and swam at our local YMCA to relax and strengthen her muscles when she got older. I recall being in Grandma Tiggs’ Sunday School class and not only did I learn more to add to what I had already been taught in her home, but I also grew to respect her at an entirely different level.

We would begin our class by singing Jesus Loves The Little Children and end it with Jesus Loves Me. There was no favoritism issue toward me. If anything, I had to show and prove myself more than my peers. She expected that.


Photo by Malcolm Lightbody via Unsplash

Every Sunday after church, we’d have dinner at her place. My family, all of us, gathered at her table with growling bellies and mouths watering from the various delicious smells from her kitchen. We would wait until she plopped her buttocks down in her seat at the head of the table. She was our matriarch — she blessed our food.

When I went to college, I came home every other weekend and one of my pastimes would be sitting on Grandma Tiggs’ porch with her and talking. This, I did for three years. Right before my fourth year, my Great-Grandmother started showing signs of dementia, specifically Alzheimer’s disease.

Little things like my name, if I wore glasses or not, where I was born, if I used to live with her, what her address was, where she was born, etc. were foreign to her. There would be moments of lucidity but they did not last long. The disease became so crippling that her remaining living children made the decision to place her in the care of a small facility where a home health nurse and her team took on salvaging the last of Grandma Tiggs’ mind as best as they could. This is to say, they made her shift into this new era easier to bear.

She was leaving us. There would be no turning back.

I visited her. I had to make an appointment in advance. Our days became Friday or Saturday whenever I came home for a particular weekend. At first, she knew who I was. She would sit and hold my hand — pat my leg while I spoke. We would have what seemed like hours of memorable conversation. Soon after, we fell into the comforts of our past, she’d forget who I was or call me by one of my older cousin’s names.

There were many moments that I had to fight off tears because she would be escorted away from me if she stirred up the environment. I was often frightened by her behavior, however, I had to remind myself that within that withering body with the twin-like withering brain was my life-source, my Great-Grandmother.


Photo by Nashua Volquez via Pexels

I watched this tower of a woman turn into a rude, senseless, and ruthless flailing spirit. I still cannot put into words what it feels like. I realize upon writing this that there are many moments I repressed because they are too painful to recall.

Grandma Tiggs died when she was eighty-five years old. Her funeral was a home-going celebration in a church full of devoted and loyal family members and friends. It was a detrimental period of my life — her passing. For years, I would be reminded of just how quickly her mind faded and how she left me longing for more of her and her presence.

My Grandmother, Grandma Tiggs’ second oldest child is eighty-four and while she is still fully capable of making certain decisions and living on her own, she too began showing signs of some form of dementia two years ago. Gradually, her demeanor is shifting from peaceful and mild-mannered to impatient and outlandish.

She repeats herself. She forgets to turn the stove off. She refuses to listen to members of authority in certain situations. She is adamant about not moving away from her current living space and will let you know in a heartbeat that she is still very much in control.

But, she is not.

I have watched the women in my life lose their faculties, their primal sense of being and purpose, and personalities too. The one thing I fear about aging is losing my sense of self — losing my mind. It terrifies me because I have seen what can happen. I know what outcome lies ahead. I have no children to care for me or ensure my safety. Who will come to my aid?

I don’t want to leave this world a shell of a person. But I don’t get to plan the way I will die or what may cause my death. I can only hope that any major changes or disturbances won’t break the hearts of those I love who may outlive me.

I want to be a good memory for them. I hope I will be.


Originally published via Medium. The link shared is a friend link as this is a piece behind Medium’s paywall.

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Featured Writer for February

Ngang God’swill N. is a contributor to A Cornered Gurl and has been for quite some time. I have the great pleasure of watching this young man spread his wings and get rather vocal on Medium. Just from interacting with him and reading his work, I can tell that his heart is genuine and he has his mind set on reaching out to others and connecting with them too.

The piece I have selected to share is a non-fictional piece detailing the importance of letting boys express themselves, cry, and get emotional when they need to so that when they grow up to become men, they understand their emotions and know how to love genuinely and give vulnerable pieces of themselves to others. It is a letter in poetical-prose that touched me as soon as I read it.


Don’t Let Them Become Like Me

A letter to you all.

Hello you,

You may not have known or realized this, but remember all those times I couldn’t speak, that I shut the door and hid from you? Rember that I blocked you and rejected your calls. Do you remember all the days I couldn’t smile, when my voice was a shameful whisper?
I was begging you to save me.
I was begging you to read me, to reach me.

Photo by bimo mentara on Unsplash

It’s like this you see, a man must not cry. Must be bold and sharp, strong and enduring, like a super being. But where should I keep all this pain I feel boiling inside, this confusion that chokes me, this insecurity and fear that threatens to break me? Where should I keep these tears that drown my heart, flood my lungs and leave me gasping for air?

You fail to see that I am human too. When you cut me, I bleed; and when you kiss me, I feel those wild sensations too. I sleep when I get weary when my bones ache and my breath feels like a bath of boiling water. But you shut your eyes to all these and dish out violence upon my gentle heart. Stealing all the compassion, the love of my boyish heart, and the color of my toddler days. How much do you think I can take?

How can you now demand water from a rock? How can you ask me to give you love? Where do you think I will get it? I do not know love. Ask me for pain; that is all you’ve ever given me.

You were consistent in my dosage; generations, eras, millennia. It has always been the same, I remember. So ask of me pain, and I will give you all that you have given me, and like the good servant in the Bible; I will also give you all the proceeds it yielded.

I didn’t stop loving, the choice was never mine to make. Attention-deficit is all I have ever known, blindfolded and plunged into an illusion that tomorrow rests on my shoulders alone. Systematically, you heaped the world on my shoulders, one piece at a time till you could barely see me beneath it all. Slowly I slipped into the darkness underneath and sipped in the darkness. It was a gentle process, incessant and scheduled, till my soul became a shadow; with logic for a compass. Now you know why I dish out the most hurt;

Because I am even more hurt and broken than this world.

Somehow, in all this blackness, this journey of pain, abandonment, betrayal, and brokenness, you expect me to be something I’m not. Caring, sensitive, respectful; YOU LIE!

It is painful to scrape off layers accumulated over the years, I will have to relive all the wounds again; the fights and loneliness. The days I realized that my sister’s proper raising was more important than mine, that I was just not important.

How do you expect me to forget the entitlement lessons drilled into me on the battlefield, the silence where I battled with purpose and personality? Tell me how to forget family responsibilities on my shoulders at age twelve, or the pressure it brought. I was a man, RIGHT?!

How can I forget the sacrifices, the stories that haunt my mind; the horrors I have lived? The things I have done and the decisions I have taken that have caused so much hurt to people. Tell me how can I get back the pieces of my soul, the ones I traded to help fulfill my role as a man. Because I am at a loss, I am yet again in another chat with self; of purpose and personality. Will you let me find an answer again? ALONE!?

I have been a man all my life, and I understand what the pressure can do to one’s sanity. You can’t understand as I do, this penis is a personal cross.
Still, from the madness and insanity, I try to reach out to all that is mine. The love you stole from my heart, the laughter and warmth that once made me tick, the calm and cordial temperaments that once made me. The same things you denied me and gave my sister, then praised her over me, as though the choice was mine.

And it’s known that destruction is an easier path, but here, this pit, dismantling is near impossible. It is like having a go at a baobab tree, with a broomstick praying and hoping for a miracle; I will persist still. But for these little ones, these baby brothers you just birthed, please be kinder to them.

Here is a unique chance to right all the wrongs, to wash away the stain. Treat these lads right, tell them it is okay to cry, to love and to not always know the answer. Teach them that it is okay to be human, to make mistakes. Teach them that humanity is a team — brother and sister — and that life is a team sport.

Don’t let them become like me; let them be better.


Originally published inA Cornered Gurlvia Medium.

Non-fiction Saturdays

In Focus: Photo by Tremaine L. Loadholt

You Are The Creator of Your Boundaries

Know What You Will and Won’t Accept From Others

If you want to know just how resilient you are, try living through hurt, harm, danger, or wrong-doing from a loved one. They can press buttons no one else can. What is even scarier is they can lord things over you many would not even attempt at doing. I would like to say that I am someone who would offer the benefit of the doubt — that I am more forgiving than I am not, but there is a breaking point and everyone has it. The older I get, the more I am being introduced to my limitations.

This is to say, I am more in tune with what I tolerate and to what extent. I am creating longer paths on my journey, therefore, I have to implement and reconstruct boundaries.

boundary

Something that indicates or fixes a limit or extent — Merriam-Webster dictionary.

If someone hurts me or disrespects me in a manner I can clearly spot, I make that known. I call them on it. I then create a space for me to be able to express why I am hurt and what led to that. No one knows if they have hurt you or not based on their words or actions. Sure, most of us can recognize pain when it occurs in someone else, but are we so quick to jump to the conclusion that we may have caused it? I highly doubt it. I say this because I am not always open to claiming the pain I have caused. I know I am not the only one.

Often people don’t intentionally cross our boundaries. As per Liz Morrison, “Since no one has the ability to read someone else’s mind, it cannot always be assumed that a person will know if they are triggering something in them . . .” But whether someone means to break a boundary or not, the result is the same. — Liz Morrison, LCSW & Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S

I believe the words boundary and respect go hand-in-hand. One is what we create to suggest a limit, the other is being mindful of that limitation or extension — or lack thereof. One definition of the word respect, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is “an act of giving particular attention,” in other words — consideration. If someone will not consider your feelings in a situation, knowing that tension has been created or some sense of pain, then it is most likely, this person does not respect you and will more than likely not respect any boundaries implemented either.

You and only you know when a line you have drawn has been crossed. You know what boundaries to establish and why. If you have ever come into contact with someone who can be selfish, rude, racist, or asinine, chances are, you already have boundaries in place. The question I would ask you is: “How often do those boundaries get tested?” To take it further, I will be nosy and query, “What do you do when they are tested?”


Photo by Mantas Hesthaven via Unsplash

If someone does cross that line and an actual break of the boundary has occurred, you must be aware. There are things you will need to do that may either pull you out of your comfort zone or cause you to evoke feelings of discontent in the person who crossed the line. How you prepare yourself in handling this is key to if your vocalizing the displeasure in their actions will be worth it in the end. From my experience, if approached effectively and the person has a modicum of common sense and compassion, you will survive addressing what needs to be addressed.

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. along with information taken from her colleagues in her article When People Cross Your Boundaries, suggests five ways on what to do when someone crosses your boundaries:

Handle it internally. When someone crosses your boundary, one option is to handle it internally, said Morrison, who specializes in children and families in New York City. First, you might find the positive in the situation. Secondly, question the situation.

Restate your boundary. Another option is to confront the person. Maybe they misunderstood you initially. Maybe your boundary was vague or indirect.

State your boundary in a positive way. That is, state what you want, instead of what you don’t want.

Offer a way to move forward. Assert yourself, explain your feelings and offer a way to move forward.

Reconsider the relationship. If you’ve been clear about your boundaries, and the person still keeps crossing them, consider if you want to remain in a relationship with someone who disrespects your limits.

This task, approaching someone who has crossed a boundary, is not easy. I do not think it is meant to be. When feelings and emotions are involved, it is hardly ever easy, but expressing yourself when you know you have limitations or intolerance for certain things and they are not being respected is important.

If you are anything like me, the potential of losing a loved one or becoming distant with a family member based on the fact that they just will not and cannot respect your boundaries is heartbreaking. But, there will come a time you will ask yourself, “Do I always want to mend my heart back together or do I simply want to live without constantly picking up its pieces?”

You have to know what is best for you. We are human. There will be mistakes made. However, if established boundaries are in place and those with whom you come into contact are aware, I find it best to voice any discontent and displeasure regarding the crossed boundary and this should not go overlooked.

You are the creator of your boundaries. You will also need to be the upholder of them as well. Stand your ground. Know when your guard needs to be up and move forward wisely to address situations that require attention. I have found that doing this creates less friction in my life and offers me the opportunity to weed out those who truly do not respect me or my boundaries.

Keep your heart healthy — your mind and spirit too. Know what you will and won’t accept from others.


Originally published on Medium. The link shared is a friend link that allows anyone who clicks on it to read it for free as it is a piece behind Medium’s paywall.

Non-fiction Saturdays

Photo by Adi Goldstein via Unsplash

I Still Travel With My Late Grandmother

She Loves A Good Trip

I was nine years old the first time I ever rode a train in New York. My grandmother was taking me shopping for training bras and one of our form of travel for that day was the subway. I peaked well before my time according to her and undershirts were no longer enough. I needed protection. I needed coverage. So, off we went to Lord & Taylor and Bloomingdale’s. Neither of these stores was new introductions to me as my grandmother did most of her shopping at both, but I had never been shopping with her for something as simple as a training bra and the event itself turned out to be quite an adventure.

I recall a hushed dressing room, two or three training bras handed off to me, and my grandmother knocking at the door for entry. I have always been a big fan of privacy and did not want my grandmother watching me as I figured out how to put these foreign-to-me objects on, but having her there for guidance proved to be sufficient.

She tucked and tugged, pushed and pulled, and adjusted the straps until I felt comfortable. Standing there in my Gap jeans, frayed at the seams — complete with holes in the knees (think Salt-n-Pepa, circa 1987) and a fresh pair of white socks, she eyed me up and down. She approved.

The first bra was a keeper. We put it to the side. I tried on another then another and another. We left Lord & Taylor with two training bras and headed for Bloomingdale’s. Our next form of travel was a taxi cab. Have you ever watched a fashionably aware woman hail a cab? There is an art to this — something of which I had no knowledge. My grandmother could hail a cab with the best of them. If it were not for her exceptional career at a top-notch theater in downtown Manhattan, “Professional Cab-Hailer” would have been a nice addition to her résumé.

When I was a child, my grandmother was the world to me. She had exquisite taste, wore the finest clothes, had the nicest shoes, but was still down to Earth. If I had to come up with a full-on description of her, I would say — diva.

diva (/ˈdiːvə/; Italian: [ˈdiːva]) is a celebrated female singer; a woman of outstanding talent in the world of opera, and by extension in theatrecinema and popular music. The meaning of diva is closely related to that of prima donna. Diva can also refer to a woman, especially one in show business, with a reputation for being temperamental, demanding, or difficult to work with. — Wikipedia

She was attitudinal but for the right reasons. She was opinionated but whenever it mattered most. She could cut you down to size with just a glance, yet she had so many people in her circle. A cab ride wasn’t just a cab ride with her. She entertained the Cabbies, quipped about and directed the best way to get to our destinations, and often held political and societal discussions with any of them willing to match her cultural expertise. I admired her.


As I grew older, my source of travel from Georgia to New York would be by plane instead of above-ground trains. We flew Delta. With my grandmother, it was always Delta. She would fly down to retrieve me and we would fly back together and my summers would be full of shopping, trips to the library, museums, swimming pools, local basketball courts, and shared visits with other members of my family.

I would find myself on the train to Harlem or Brooklyn with her. Whatever our day’s plans, it would coordinate between taking the train and the cab and I would be delighted to hang by my grandmother’s side as her traveling companion.

I loved the train the best, though. There was something mesmerizing to me during those years about being on a train underground. No one speaks. Everyone has something occupying their time. It was not uncommon to see people reading books or listening to music or the off-to-the-side person who smelled of scorched coffee and day-old hash browns.

On average, New York’s subway trains travel at about 17 mph and had an annual ridership of just over 1.72 billion in 2017. — Wikipedia

As you probably can imagine, my grandmother had a knack for finding two seats next to each other and I was to sit by her at all times. She was adamant about my safety, however, she wanted me to experience the real world of getting to where I needed to without depending on anyone else.

By the time I was fifteen years old, I was allowed to travel by train or cab with my friends from the neighborhood but within a certain time of day or night. Her rule was: “I have to get you back to your mother in one piece.” She stuck by this rule. I never disobeyed her curfew and could only stay out later if I was with my aunt (her youngest daughter).

I miss her wild spirit. Her uncanny ability to adapt to her surroundings instantly. Her calm and casual way of speaking her mind. Her incredible sense of fashion. It is often hard for me to travel sometimes because I still feel her near.

I fly and look to my left or right and something in the person next to me reminds me of her. I take a train and a woman may be wearing a perfume that smells similar to hers. Someone requests a drink for which she had an affinity. We pass by a bit of scenery that I know would have sparked her interest.

Perhaps she is still keeping watch over me after all these years. She did love a good trip and an even better travel buddy. I don’t know what I will do the moment she’s not conjured up during my travels. Having her near makes me feel safe — makes me enjoy getting from one place to another. However, I am fully aware of knowing how to travel because of her and this is something I will not forget.

A training bra shopping spree changed my heart— changed my life too.


Originally published in The Weekly Knob via Medium. The link shared is a friend link as this is a piece behind Medium’s paywall.

A Short Break

Enjoy What You Can While You Can

Photo by Jakob Owens via Unsplash

know that you are worthy
of time spent with your heart’s beats—
a few moments to embrace
the world around you
and hold tight to a lover’s arm
when they offer you
a shoulder or a listening ear.


A Cornered Gurl will be taking a short break to wind down, relax, read a few good books, and embrace the peace and quiet of my surroundings. If you intend to celebrate the upcoming holiday, please enjoy every minute of it. 

Creative writing and other posts to resume on Friday, November 29, 2019. Love hard. Be well. Write with all your might. 

Peace and blessings.