I used to date a boy from the West Side who went to our school on the East Side — we were both young and dumb, unattached to anything, still searching for our own scents and places to belong.
I hadn’t yet found the courage to tell young men, I also fell for — wanted — young women, but he knew. He saw me on the court, often — against girls, against boys, against anyone who thought they could cross me over and land a bucket.
My father taught me how to dribble. My cousin forced me to use my left hand — I’m right-handed. My uncle and grandfather dared the boys in their neighborhood to give me one shady look or it would be their ass … They had better let me on the court, and they did.
But back to the days of me tucking long shirts into Cross Colours shorts and lacing up Karl Kani boots while carrying a gym bag full of basketball gear — sweaty from a hustle on the court until streetlight o’clock.
He wanted me. I wanted him.
And so we were, for five years — off and on. He was the only one who could score multiple points on me; taller by a whole foot and two inches, my plan would be … relax in 3-point country and let it rain. Shooting was my saving grace.
We were the real Love and Basketball couple, scheming on and off the court. I’d lost a lot of things with him — a lot of firsts were torn down, spat on, and stunted.
I hadn’t learned that it only took 30 seconds to pierce his heart. It took 2 days for him to settle in mine.
Were we too young to be that much in love?
That was the question my parents asked us. But my father loved this boy — plotted on him marrying me, and was crushed when this did not happen. I had ruined it — that was inevitable.
He found someone else when we were in our 30s — kept in touch over the years until he proposed, then it was unholy to speak to me … I used to be happy he had finally gotten happy with someone else.
I used to be … As I got older, I just accepted it — neither happy nor sad, just aware that these things happen, and we had to lose each other in order for me to find myself.
I can’t run up and down courts anymore — my shins are bad, my lower back is garbage, and my knees have seen their last days swerving to box someone out for a rebound.
But I remember those 30 seconds. I remember those 2 days. I wonder — does he? Should he? Probably not.
Learning to love the dead without forgetting them and experiencing life’s gifts in waves
If I have loved you and lost you, I will not forget you. It is impossible to do so. But I have a bad habit of letting loss stay with me more than I think it should. I cradle it — provide comfort for it — beg it to stay for more than just a little while. And therefore, it is hard for me to live life at its highest point because there is always an air of extreme sadness hanging over me whenever I lose someone I love or was deeply connected to.
What we once enjoyed and deeply loved we can never lose, for all that we love deeply becomes part of us. — Helen Keller
When I am assessing a situation and I have my wits about me, I know how to maneuver through that situation. I can design plans to resolve issues and problem solve to the best of my ability for a considerably desirable outcome.
With the death of a loved one, though, there is no immediate resolution on how one should grieve/heal/cure the pain that pops up at all hours of the day without warning.
A favorite song can help with the aches. An animated movie can send me directly to my happiest place and distract me. Time well spent with Jernee, my dog, sometimes gives me the calming energy I need to push through the roughest parts. But I have not found the master plan to deal with death appropriately, and I doubt I ever will.
And my cousin’s death has settled in my spirit — becoming one with my entire identity, and there is no breaking away from it. Upon reading and researching timelines, expectancy dates, and most appropriate grieving process lessons, I came across something referred to as Complicated Grief.
The grieving person must travel through the grief process, and should be allowed to move through it at their own pace. For some people, the grieving process can go on for a long time. This happens more often when a person was very close to the deceased. Sometimes this leads to what is known as complicated grief.
If what’s considered to be “normal grieving” does not occur, or if the grieving goes on for a long time without any progress, it’s called “complicated grief” or “unresolved grief.” Symptoms of complicated grief might include:
Continued disbelief in the death of the loved one, or emotional numbness over the loss Inability to accept the death Feeling preoccupied with the loved one or how they died Intense sorrow and emotional pain, sometimes including bitterness or anger Unable to enjoy good memories about the loved one
And after going through the explanation and details of complicated grief, I know it does not relate to me. What I am experiencing is just good, old-fashioned grief, coming in waves. Or a continuation or replay of the stages or me getting past one stage and reverting to it unbeknownst to my doing so.
I am still learning to give myself some grace — to be gentle and patient — to feel every emotion as I should and not ridicule or belittle myself for remaining in one stage longer than I believe I should. I am getting through as best as I can, and this is the most important part.
I am protected in my happy place
Earlier this week, I watched Back to the Outback on Netflix and enjoyed every moment. It’s an animated film about several “dangerous” creatures determined to find their way back to lives they’ve never known before being placed in captivity for showcasing to draw crowds in Australia. Hence the title, Back to the Outback.
If I am watching cartoons or animated movies, I am centering myself in my happy place where I feel most safe. It is the place I never want to leave and only do so to continue with adulting.
If I could, I’d be a professional connoisseur of animated films or an animated film critic. I envy people who actually get to explore this type of lifestyle — to do what they love all day long and remain happy during the process.
It is hard to pursue life’s goals, be financially stable, and enjoy life to the fullest when most of your day is dictated by something you used to love, but only do now in order to make ends meet.
Here’s the trailer to the movie, just in case you might be interested:
My therapy sessions remind me that life is for the living
And if I am honest, this is one thing I have to link myself to.
I am alive. I should be living. I am alive. I should be living. I am alive. I should be living.
I have made it a point to say the above affirmation to myself occasionally. Sometimes, I need a reminder. Other times, I am far too busy doing things that require me to stay above water and in the right frame of mind. I drift into a removed place where I am dreaming more than I am living.
My mind is full of Do This and Do Thats and I rush to make sure I can fit everything I need to do on a common weekday. It is exhausting. This — what I have been doing for the last three years, is not living. I am merely surviving.
“You crossed my mind the other day, Tre, as I was listening to the radio and an advertisement played about a writing group retreat. I instantly thought, ‘This would be great for Tre’!” — My therapist.
And as we discussed the advertisement she heard, my heart became full of hope and determination. But my therapist can get a little carried away and excited and she does not remember the source or any contact information but stated she will have a pen and paper ready to jot it down when she hears it again.
She has been great in circling me back to key points that have been helpful over these last three years, and more importantly, these last five months. I am meant to live. I should be out there living.
Shouldn’t all of us who still have air in our lungs and desire in our hearts be doing the same thing?