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.
I have become glutinous; sticking to my home — fearful of going too far away from it. I question every errand that needs attention. How important is it? How much longer can I go without it? Is the purchase cost-effective enough to simply have Instacart drop it off after I fill up my cart via my favorite stores instead? Do I really need to go to the store myself?! Do I?!
I am growing indecisive during this pandemic season and I know it has a lot to do with how scary this virus is and how massive it has become.
I went from a woman working in an imaging facility, screening patients for COVID-19 symptoms to yearning for a workspace from home and actually attaining that and now . . . Now, home is more than just where I work — home is everything. Everything is here at home.
I still get anxious but not nearly as bad as I did on days I knew I had to be in the public eye — around other people. It’s easier to curb my anxiety . . . I have a bit more control over it. I can subdue it and move forward and do what needs to be done on a daily basis.
At home, I am not running away nor do I have the urge to run away from my fears. But I do recognize the magnitude of what has taken place. I am cognizant of the fact that it could be me, my family, or a close loved one (again) pushed toward their demise from this virus.
Home is where I sit with the neverending debate going on in my head; “do I get vaccinated or not?” Currently, there is no winner. I think there will be one soon.
After one year of dealing with the pandemic, I am learning how to be easier on myself. I have new ways to bring joy into my life. I find peace in the simplest things and I hold on to it. I have taken a liking to plants, succulents in particular, as they were a gift to me from my team at my previous job.
I talk to my plants. I name them. I open the blinds in the living room and kitchen and let the love from the sun’s rays wash over them. I water them. I check their soil and preen and primp them. I am ensuring the health and wellness of living things other than myself and my dog, Jernee.
It feels good.
It feels like an accomplishment I did not know I needed to accomplish. It feels essential.
I have what I need . . . Food. Water. Shelter. Books. Laptops. Music. A bossy Chorkie who cuddles with me on cold nights and gives me wet-nosed kisses that turn into paw pats on my face — everything is here at home.
After one rigorous year of quarantine, various mandatory restrictions, and only visiting my closest loved ones every few months, I have a hard time envisioning what the next year and the year after that will have up their sleeves.
And will I be able to remove myself from home? Will I lose the adhesive I’ve grown fond of relying on when I can stray far away once again?
Young, Black students share their oratory strengths in a powerful message
What do you think about when you reflect upon the message delivered in the famed “I Have a Dream” speech by Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? Does it cross your mind that we would be fighting for the same wishes, wants, and necessities shared within its lines? Do you sit and wonder about “how far we have come” and “how far we still have to go”? Where do you go? Where does your mind take you when you hear the depth and breadth of his voice as those words were uttered on August 28, 1963?
I can tell you what it does to me — how it shifts the very essence of who I am. How it enforces the fears I hold within me regarding the America of today. I feel no safer today than I did ten years ago. In fact, I am more on edge in the year of our Lord, 2021, than I have ever been. If I had to guess, I would venture in saying I am sure the late Dr. King would have never envisioned this America fifty-eight years later. In essence, it is the same America he was brutally killed in while trying to bring about a massive change in a peaceful way.
We have come a mighty long way. We have a mighty long way to go.
The things that make America beautiful to me can be easily overshadowed by the bloodstained countrysides, history of enslavement, police brutality, lack of financial support and assistance for those below and slightly above the poverty line, anyone voicing All Lives Matter, constant display of inequality, and now, the alarming rates at which Black people and People of Color are becoming infected and dying from the Coronavirus, COVID-19.
It is the same America where the very mention of “reparations” makes those in favor of white supremacy flinch and toot up their noses.
Is this the America someone thinks about when they dream of a better place?
I highly doubt it.
My sister Bless and a group of her colleagues at Clayton State University, located in Morrow, Georgia, created a video based on the “I Have a Dream” speech, and in it they share what they dream about for the America they want. They express themselves with vigor, intelligence, worthiness, and poise. They display exactly what it means to voice your opinion without being offensive but with a stern delivery.
These are the faces of the future. These are the hearts that are breaking as they watch the same America Dr. King watched, the same America I have watched, and the same America many others before me died fighting for but did not gain anything from it.
“In a sense, we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check.” A check we know may be counted void or stopped upon seeking its payment. A check that would never ever be enough for the pain endured, the lives lost, and the depletion of energy as the fight continues. A check that would be a constant reminder of something given to us in order to shut us up. We are coming for what is due and the youth are on the front lines.
“We refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.” There is hope within these lines. Hope for significant change. Hope for an America, that when we think of her, we will not feel shame. Hope for allies who will speak up and fan the flames instead of finding comfort in their silence and safety behind their locked doors. Hope for the day that such speeches will not have to exist.
I am honored to share with each of you the voices of several Black students who know the value of their lives and those lives of Black people and People of Color who struggle to be seen, heard, loved, respected, cared for, and celebrated in an America who has yet to open, really open her eyes.
Their message is one of strength, determination, will, and the understanding of a man’s dream that never came true and how one day, we hope that it will.
How one day, we hope there is more love thrown upon us than accusations, distrust, neglectful behavior, and racist acts. We deserve it. We have fought for it.
I woke up Christmas morning to a blustery icy wind and the invitation from the corners of my home to get up and get out with Jernee in tow. Just before 07:00 a.m., I released myself from the grips of a warm bed, prayed, layered up in clothing, and gathered my four-legged love so we could tour our neighborhood before everyone got active. We walked around the complex, toward the wind, our faces kissed by nature’s undeniable presence, and attempted to make our walk as productive but short as possible.
The air smelled like buttered biscuits and honey — so sweet; a come-hither-ish enjoyment that no one could deny. I was content. I felt loved. I knew the days after this special holiday would also be tests, but I had the feeling they would not be hard to pass. I can only hold fast to the idea this will be so. Jernee bounced about as if a new spring was in her steps — she sashayed ecstatically, happy to be out in the early morning air doing what she loved to do most.
I released myself from the grips of a warm bed, prayed, layered up in clothing, and gathered my four-legged love so we could tour our neighborhood before everyone got active.
I braced myself for each brush of the wind, tightening up my jacket every few moments — checking my gloves, fiddling with my pockets. We did not linger on for the usual mile; we didn’t even do a half-mile. Christmas morning’s walk was truly about business — handling it and getting back inside as quickly as we could. The cold had been enough to lay anyone out for a week, and I refused to be a contender in that game of life. I aimed to keep my health intact, and I foresee success in that area.
I opted to spend the holiday alone. I even began celebrating it Wednesday night by turning off my cell phone, but not before alerting my most loved humans of this change. I had it in mind to enjoy every single minute of my mini-vacation, and this included as few distractions as possible. There are holidays I revel in spending alone, and there are holidays when the pain of spending them alone hits me like a freight train.
But with COVID-19 looming its ugly head around every corner and hitting us harder than anything we’ve ever seen — it felt safer to remain at home. It felt safer to do what I wanted, when I wanted, and be in a heated space while doing so. According to a British study, they found — one in four adults feel as though they would spend Christmas alone this year. And while this is in the UK, the US is facing the same restrictions in various states because of a virus we cannot (and some do not want to) control.
When we found satisfaction from our walk, we came back inside. I fed Jernee and began prepping for my breakfast; sausage patties, buttermilk biscuits, grits, and a glass of eggnog. I savored every bite, thankful for the blessings of shelter, food, and the ability to adapt whenever necessary.
For those of you who have had to experience this holiday alone for the first time because of so many drastic changes this year, I can imagine your sadness. I understand your discontentment. I have been there — done that. Before COVID-19, I had learned how to properly love myself and be with myself without feeling as though I needed physical accompaniment from another. Having someone around to take in the wonders of Christmas is a beautiful thing, but this year — I needed the alone time. I wanted it more than I ever have.
The cold had been enough to lay anyone out for a week, and I refused to be a contender in that game of life.
After breakfast, I began making my crockpot chili, which I paired with garlic-cheese cornbread. As the sauce blended with the seasonings, the smell wafted throughout my home and I only felt happiness. I could only feel happiness. My Christmas morning smelled a lot like hope. It smelled a lot like new beginnings and purposeful opportunities. I delighted in watching Christmas-themed animated movies and a few other movies too. I finally sat down and engaged in Hulu’s Happiest Season, which was shortly followed by On-Demanding Ip Man: Kung Fu Master. I read, wrote, watched more animated cartoons, ate heartily, and enjoyed snuggle time with Jernee.
I experienced life in small doses and drank in the glorifying goodness of it all without feeling pressed to do more. This was the perfect holiday — I needed the rest. I earned the rest. My mom and I planned to see each other the following day instead, and Saturdays every other month are usually our meeting days. This should be no different. I look forward to our time together and I know she is looking forward to seeing both me and Jernee too.
The best thing about this Christmas for me is the non-rush of it all. I did not tackle any crowds. I kept it light on any shopping, doing it all online, and sent the parents of the babies and little ones in my life, money via CashApp so they could bear the weight of getting gifts for their children. Many will probably venture to say their holiday spent alone makes it a lonely one, but I will testify — this year, I welcomed the alone time. It provided me with seconds, minutes, and hours I should have found earlier on to do what I should have been doing, which is — truly enjoy myself in the comfort of my home.
Instead of remaining home out of fear and disinterest in the uncivilized, I remained home because it called to me. And I answered.
I experienced life in small doses and drank in the glorifying goodness of it all without feeling pressed to do more.
I woke up on Christmas morning and the air was different — it was fresher and crisper. There had been a newness to every cloud and a hint of love in every gust of wind. There had also been hope as the silver lining on what we could consider a gloomy experience for others and a sprinkle of selflessness lurking in the bushes. Peace wrapped itself around me and reminded me of what it looks like sitting with oneself and admiring what I see.
Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. — Ralph Waldo Emerson
I spent Christmas alone and doing so opened my eyes to what they had been closed to for a long time — we are, in fact, gifts to ourselves.