The Grieving Room

Photo by Keegan Houser on Unsplash

Stepping out of my comfort zone and finally feeling free

I have done three different things this week, all of which have taken me out of my comfort zone a bit, and placed me in a space I had not met before. I will start with the why of it all. Why have I done these things? What am I looking to gain from having done them? How will I move forward now with each of them started and a part of who I am?

When you are a fearful person, everything that falls outside of your line of comfort scares you. The dreams you have festering in your mind continue to fester because you fear every move you need to make in order to make those dreams your reality.

I have lived at least twenty years of my life stuck in constant fear of the unknown, yet the unknown is what I am drawn/connected to. It is where I want to be — where I see myself at my happiest. So, how do I get there if I stay stuck in the same spot — afraid to move? I won’t. And that had to change. It is changing.

So, what did I do — which three things?


Others recognize my strength as a writer — this gives me joy

Late last year, I submitted to a publication called The Short of It, which is hosted by editor Susi Bocks. The premise of the online publication is to publish “exquisite expressions in tiny explosions.” I submitted five micro-poems all the while, thinking, as I am often wont to do, they would not be chosen, and they were.

The editor published the feature for the five poems in the wee hours of Friday, July 29, 2022, and you can find each poem here. I want to share one poem with you, though — one that encompasses all that I have been feeling of late about myself and the world at large.

Pressure

she sits on the sea’s floor
shaped by the world
above it–changed forever.
the workers of ancient
tongues sift through
her words, chanting
their dismissals.
the pressure from centuries
ago labels her again
and again.
is this the chosen path
home or not?

To see these poems of mine hosted via The Short of It amongst many other writers whom I read daily and find comfort in doing so gives me an incredible amount of joy. For a couple of years, I’d ceased submitting to both online and print publications because the number of rejections was mounting, and I did not have the strength to scale that mountain any longer.

Braving it once again allowed me not only to submit to The Short of It, but also to write an essay catered to and about Black Joy regarding country music. I had in mind the publication (via Medium) I want this work to be connected to, so I wrote the essay with the publication’s theme sounding off as I typed each word.

I edited, fine-tuned, and combed through every word at different intervals. The time came to apply to be a writer. I did — again, fearful that I would not be their choice. I received the acceptance email also on Friday, July 29, 2022, and had been advised to submit the draft to the publication for continued review.

If you are a writer on/from Medium reading this, or if you have submitted your work to any viable or indomitable publication, whether online or in print, you know this does not mean the work will be published. This means you are IN. The publication will now work with you to bring your best work to their audience or they could decline every new submission if not tailored to their liking/theme accordingly.

I am hopeful the essay will be published, though, and I am optimistic about its chances. Again, there is joy racing through my bones solely about being accepted as a writer for this publication because I had been so afraid to even apply just two years ago.

I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and walked to exactly where I needed to be. And now, the journey is such a freeing one.


When people connect with your writing — they want to build with you

On Friday — yes, there’s a theme here. Do you see it? A fellow writer who is also an entrepreneur, artist, and creative powerhouse, left a comment on a previous TGR newsletter pertinent to my “dream” job and future goals. I read the comment — reached out to her. This morning, we had an hour-plus-long call that can only breed good things from this moment forward.

I am confident in her vision and in what we discussed as a game plan. It is intentional. It is laser-focused on a certain topic. It is exactly what I believe most of us need right now and in the immediate future — especially me. Prayerfully, early next year will produce more great things because of this interaction.

If I had not been writing my heart out — not sharing my difficulties and breakthroughs with grief — I never would have made this connection. If I had not taken a moment to break away from that pesky comfort zone of mine, I would not have sent the email or hopped on the call.

She saw — has seen something in my writing for years that made her want to build with me. There is no phrase — no way of actually describing this feeling that can do it justice.

When you are doing what your heart pushes you to do, the right people see it.


I whisper these accomplishments to the wind, and she hears them

The one thing that shatters my heart, though, about my newfound freedom is the fact that I cannot verbally share this with my cousin and hear her response. But I whisper it into the open air. I bend the ear of the flirting trees. I allow myself to bounce ideas out loud and nod when I feel like she approves — supports them.

I have learned that freedom from fear comes when the comfort zone is squashed. I am learning to guide myself down paths that speak to me and feel safe with more of an open mind. I am learning that although my cousin is no longer here to experience everything with me as I experience these things in real time — she is in my heart tapping at the center of me, at just the right moment.

And every tear that falls doesn’t come from me being sad anymore — they sometimes come with an undeniable air of joy surrounding me at every turn.

Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain. — Joseph Campbell

Welcome to The Grieving Room. I am here. You are here. We are not alone in this.

See you next Saturday


©2022 Tremaine L. Loadholt Originally published in The Grieving Room newsletter via LinkedIn.

The Things I Am Not

And who I am and who I’d like to be

Simple. Photo Credit: Tremaine L. Loadholt

I am an open book with a tired spine. I am not an only child — the eldest of seven. I creep beneath the sun’s shadows on cloudy days and savor a subtle breeze as it blows haphazardly in my direction.

Not a smoker. Not a drinker. Not a person who cares if you do or don’t, as long as you aren’t bringing harm to others — do as you please. I won’t sit back and keep my tongue on pause when a situation/action/ordeal rubs me the wrong way.

I am not your best friend’s best thing. Not a visual artist. Not a fan of everyone merging into one another. Where is the ability to be unique — to stand out from the crowd?

The bandwagon is toppling. We need to lighten the load.

I am not a night owl — not a club-hopper, can’t tell you the last time I’ve allowed someone to get within six feet of me if they weren’t family or a close/best friend.

I am not interested in cryptocurrency, bitcoin, sales & marketing. I don’t want to know how many ways I can flip a house.

I could care less about social media. You won’t find me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok; hell, I’m barely tolerating LinkedIn, and it’s lightweight entertainment on a good day.

I still listen to my favorite artists on CDs, others on vinyl. I have zero shame in pulling up YouTube to venture down memory lane.

Nope, I’m not addicted to Spotify, Apple Music, or any other app that gives me hundreds of thousands of artists at my beck and call.

I can write until my fingers bleed. I give birth to stories that have spent more than nine months in my brain. I am a healthcare worker leaning towards 20 years in the field.

I am not heterosexual.
I do not lack love.
I cannot stand what this world is becoming.

I am not in a relationship — don’t want to be “hooked up” with your boy or “set up” with your girl. Keep your friends where they are — they’ll have way too much to deal with as it pertains to who I am now.

I can say that openly without stuttering. I can say that and feel no shame. I know where my lane is and I stay in it.

I am me. Flawed. Fearful. Forgiven. The things I am not are exactly who I am.


This is a response to the CRY “Who Are You” prompt. Originally published in CRY Magazine via Medium.


N’Dambi, Can’t Hardly Wait

I Deserve This Slice of Lemon Cake

And I dare you to tell me otherwise

A slice of lemon heaven? Photo Credit: Tremaine L. Loadholt

It is almost never, ever just about the cake. There is always something else. And in the current air of things — there is certainly something else. During a time when making a quick run to the store can be a death sentence, worshiping inside the temple of God could be your last prayer to the entity, children are slaughtered before the end of a schoolday on-site, and Black women are violently attacked for refusing to not take up space, it is damn well not just about the cake.

I am exhausted — running on fumes. I often feel like there is nothing in me left worth sharing — worth contributing to this world, and I know I am not the only one.

There are grim reminders everywhere — we have one life — just this one life, and while we are out here trying to live it, someone else is figuring out a way to take it from us. All of us. So when the craving hit me completely out of nowhere like a wrecking ball slated to crush into its next assignment, I pushed my weary body up from the chair, threw on a t-shirt, some pants, socks, and slides, and drove to the nearest Harris Teeter. I was taking a chance — betting big, and the stakes were high. The stakes are always high.

I searched for the one thing I tend not to allow myself to have, waltzed over to the self-checkout lane, paid the tab, and walked hurriedly out of the store, and swiftly to my car. I made it inside and back outside, unscathed — alive — but still fearful.


It could have been me, it could have been you.

This is my thought process of late. Oh, please don’t get me wrong, I have lived with this line of thinking for years, but after the recent deaths of my cousin, my aunt, a writer friend, and a few other people who were near and dear to me years prior, I hate feeling like I’m rocking the boat — testing the waters. I don’t want to live in fear. I shouldn’t have to live in fear. But you take a global pandemic, mass shootings, an infant formula shortage, the harassment and outright killing of people of color, and finally, you have a goddamn scaredy-cat in your midst, and that scaredy-cat is me.

When I think about the tragedies that make up this nation’s current events, I am overwhelmed with sadness. It could have been me, it could have been you. Although I count my blessings daily, it angers me that so many people will never again hug, kiss, and be with their loved ones because of the mindless and heartless acts of those who lack something they need or want or just want to take.

When did we become so incredibly selfish? Can anyone remember? It dates so far back. I am sure I’d get the timing wrong, but help me out — throw me a damn bone. When?!

I will forever have this thought in the back of my mind whenever I venture out to any store within a 10 mi radius of me. I will forever be reminded of children so violently taken away from their families when my little cousins and nieces and nephews leave home in the morning. I will shudder just a little if ever I set one foot back into my church. I will force myself to bite my tongue instead of rebutting when a privileged angry, White man feels the need to flaunt his arrogance and ego at the gas station.

I am surrounded by things that scare the hell out of me, yet I am obligated to move forward — to continue as if none of these things ever occurred. So yeah, you damn right, I bought the slice of cake.


A photo of my dog, Jernee in an e-collar. She is a brown, white, and black Chihuahua/Yorkie mix.
Jernee Timid Loadholt in her fancy-schmancy e-collar. Photo Credit: Tremaine L. Loadholt

My dog is old, going blind and deaf, and clings to me like a second skin.

For fourteen years, I have had a fur baby who has been more than the beauty of a noon sky to me, and she is moving through this aging phase of life in a way that is breaking me down. I don’t have the words. There are none that can properly describe watching her deteriorate right before my eyes. Perhaps you’ve read about Jernee, perhaps not. There is only so much I can share in an essay without going over the word limit most people care to read, so I won’t waste your time with any of the fat — we’ll just get straight to the meat of the situation.

Jernee has cataracts, she is losing her hearing, and has a cystic tumor on her back right paw that the vet feels he should not remove because it requires putting her to sleep, skin grafting post removal, and a ton of other off-the-wall things that would cost me both my arms and legs and she may not even wake up from it all afterward. Yet, if you saw this sweet baby, you would not know much of what I detailed unless you spent more than a few moments with her.

I have had to think about the inevitability of her death — it is imminent and in the near future. Many of our lives could be described this way, but I have spent much of mine caring for, loving, and being with her. I envision scraping my limbs up from the floor and removing anything remotely close to my living self from the dumps I will probably meet once it takes place. Death comes for us all — it has to come for her, too.

She is still eating — still enjoys a little exercise — still likes to be cuddled and kissed, but all in small doses. If we go overboard with any of these things, her breathing becomes labored and she will sleep for the entire day. Since I have been working from home for the past 19 months, separation anxiety is an understatement.

She bites her paws or attempts to harm herself if I am not within earshot or directly in her line of view. I’ve begun placing an e-collar around her neck and putting her in her crate if I need to run a quick errand or spend some time away from her enjoying someone — anyone else. It hurts like hell, but I am protecting her from her, and how do you explain this to a senior dog who just wants you to stay put and never leave her?

Well, you don’t. You can’t. It’s just life, and it’s the part of life no one ever mentions to you when you look for a companion to keep you sane enough to stay alive.

So you see, that’s why I bought that slice of cake.


We have been through enough, and there could be more on the way.

Even though we’ve waded through the murkiness of the rough waters, we’ve placed ourselves on lockdown and in quarantine, we’ve worked when we should’ve rested, and we’ve fought for our voices to be heard, there could be more of the same on the way. No one can know. We can all sit back and pretend we’ve been through the worst of it, but the state of America will only fester and become an even crueler and more aggravating boil on our collective asses if something drastic and onboard with positive change does not occur soon.

I have met my fill of deaths. I have cried rings around my eyes and lost my voice. I send text messages to friends and family as check-ins. I stop by my cousin’s place to make sure she and the little ones are okay. I call the elderly in my family to hear their labored breaths on the other end tell me, “Soon and very soon, we are going to see the King.” I live in 15-minute increments because 24 hours is too long to pray for continual life.

I have been eating home-cooked meals catered to me and my loved ones, drinking more water, exercising (walking holes in the soles of my shoes because of the frustration welling up within me), and I have lost 12 pounds. I’ve done all of this and I intend to do more. However, will America let me live? Will you see my name pop up in your feed this time next year? Will you even be around at that time? We don’t know. We can’t know.

Because your local grocery store could be your memorial site. The nearest gas station might be the place you land a black eye and multiple bruises. Church on a Sunday morning with family and friends may end up being a crime scene. And you may count 19 dead children and 2 teachers in your sleep.

Sure as shit, I deserve this slice of cake, and I dare anyone to tell me otherwise.


Originally published in CRY Magazine via Medium.

I Believe In Me Sometimes, But Not All The Time — And That’s My Struggle

MUSICAL SELECTION: GIL SCOTT-HERON|WINTER IN AMERICA

When a bird sings, it is lending its heart to you

Photo by kevin turcios on Unsplash

I am a purposed woman. I know I have a purpose. I am inclined to believe we all have a purpose. However, I struggle to recognize, grasp, and embrace exactly what my purpose is. I know my strengths. I know my weaknesses. I can tell you all the things that make me uncomfortable and put me in deep states of anxiousness, yet I can’t quite place a finger on a solitary thing to cause me to erupt more than something else. I have faults and flaws — upswings and downswings — brave moments and fearful ones. I am a walking contradiction who lives down the street from super-inflated candidness wrapped in a slice of humility.

The seasons blur. I cannot find my way through spring shifted from winter second-removed from autumn or passed down by summer. Every season carries its own pain and its own special directness as they enter my realm. Who should I be now? What should I learn today? Where will any of this lead me four to five years from now?

It is the tail-end of spring and the birds sing their joyous songs just outside my window — a congregation of like minds willing to harmonize their thoughts and feelings.

When a bird sings, it is lending its heart to you.

I tell myself this . . . that birdsong is God’s feathered creatures sharing their heart. Am I a great keeper of it? Can they trust me with it? I am not a bird person, per se, but I enjoy listening to their musical offerings. I carry their songs with me throughout the day. Sometimes, they are the only thing that can lift me out of a frigid mood — warm my soul. These days, I’ll take what I can get.


I have a mean gift of gab — I do.

If I am not willing to point out what I do well, who will? Without boasting or sounding arrogant, I remind myself occasionally, “You are an incredible words-worker. You can create anything using words.” And I can. I have. I hope to continue to do so as each year passes, but the world is shifting from what it used to be, and I fear many of us no longer want to sit with words. We want to be spoonfed by two-minute reels of one’s forty-year timeline or audiobook everything, including the Bible. We want the diet version of a memoir and the cliff notes to epic poetry and . . . I fear I will move out of my league with this new normal.

But, I have a mean gift of gab. I can land a poetic punch or comedic comeback in a heartbeat and not blink an eye. One thing I love most about working from home is sharing with my co-workers via Teams. At roughly about 11:10 a.m. every workday, one of my Workforce Managers will tag me in a Teams group chat casually blaming me for the call queue increasing because I took a break. I, of course, upon returning from break, will see my name tagged with the statement of blame and our tit for tat in comedic exchanges will begin.

Several co-workers will say in the chat, “I wait for this every morning! It’s one of the reasons I’m excited to log on!” or “Y’all two are so funny. This is better than my soaps.” I have to admit, on some days, this same Workforce Manager will give me a run for my money via a verbal comedic lashing, and I’ll humbly bow out. If I had to guess, though, I’d say we’re neck and neck.

But these exchanges and how good they make my co-workers feel are reminders of what I have done and can do with the English language.


I motivate others to be better versions of themselves

When I am at my highest level of confidence, I can motivate others to be better versions of themselves. It is not finger-pointing, and it is most definitely not, “Look at what I did — you can do it, too!” It is more like me simply listening to them, knowing what they can do and how often they have overcome obstacles to get where they are in life, and reminding them of this. It is me sounding a bullhorn in their ear that they have the power to be exactly who they wish to be. They must recognize it.

I take what I say to them and turn it back on to myself as well. I am not a stranger to self-reflection or honing in on integrity. We all have a little of something in us others want — they may even need it, and most times, it makes them happy for us to share whatever that little something is.


I struggle with my gifts and talents — with believing in myself

Knowing all that I know about myself and how I operate, I still struggle with believing completely in myself — with feeling as though I can be more — do more; provide more for my life. I have goals I would still like to meet and I aspire to be a better version of myself, too, but the weight of the world and some of my negative thoughts can create a conflict within me, and I play tug of war with myself.

Although I’ve been down the road of my life and have seen my many accomplishments, there is always this nagging voice poking its way into my thoughts if ever I stumble upon a new idea. It creepily says, “Are you sure you can do this?” And sometimes it gets rude with its statement and spits a, “But you’ve already failed at this before” at me, and I stutter-step with my next moves. It is up to me to continue to pour positive energy into this being of mine as I grow older — as I seek opportunities out there I know are meant for me.

I am going to be just like the birdsong — soon, a piece of my heart will be with you.


Originally published in CRY Magazine via Medium.

The Grieving Room

Weathering the storm when it comes

Weathering the storm when it comes.

I will not claim to be incredibly emotionally sound, however, I give myself the time I need to move through emotions when the death grip of them appears. I can spend days with sadness, weeks with fear, minutes with anger, etc. I know when it is time to move away from these emotions and get myself back into the cool, crispness of my realm. I rarely settle in the depths of these emotions when they arise, but my momentary stay with them worries my loved ones.

When you are often the picture of positivity and “a light” shining on those who depend on you, your own heart can be weighed down with guilt and anything else that may come into your line of sight, and as soon as you acknowledge whatever the cause may be and spend some time with those feelings, people worry. They want to make sure you will be okay — that you will “bounce back” and be their shoulder to lean on once again. They often want to be sure they do not have to deal with the pain of watching you move through your pain for too long — it makes them uncomfortable.

But this is life and life has things that will shake us up when we least expect it. Grief looks different for everyone experiencing it. It is not some cookie-cutter emotion channeling its way through each of us exactly the same. How you move through grieving may be entirely different from how someone close to you moves through it.

The seven stages of grief.

According to HCF, the seven stages of grief include:

Shock and denial

Pain and guilt

Anger and bargaining

Depression (loneliness & reflection)

Upward turn

Reconstruction

Acceptance (and hope)

Allow me to be completely transparent. I am teetering between depression and an upward turn. However, I sometimes find myself tip-toeing into anger and bargaining as well.

This past week, I had more good days than I did bad ones. My younger cousin shared a painting she’s working on that includes her mother, her grandmother, herself, and her unborn child. To witness the strength, pain, happiness, and exactness of her painting shot through me, and before I could stop them, the tears flowed freely. I had been warned beforehand, and I wanted to see her work — wanted to connect with it. I am glad I did.

Sharing that moment with her, which reflected the beauty of her mother and the lives lost around her, caused me to smile through the pain. Here was my younger cousin honoring her late mother in such a way one could not fathom its fruition. I told her I wanted to see the finished product, and I am certain she will share it with me.

I had experienced a momentary storm, but I moved through it. There will be more and I will find the emotional wherewithal to move through those moments, just as I did the one above.

Honoring our loved ones when they are gone.

My cousin’s death pushed me to be more creative. It has been a reason for me to grant myself the power of “Yes” instead of standing flimsily behind fear and the audacity of “No.” I have written a compilation of poems as an e-book in her honor and have shared it with some friends and my family. I have also opened up the channels to have the e-book purchased by others I have asked personally, and I am overjoyed with the results of this.

I took the time to share my feelings in safe spaces, pulled the strongest poems from these experiences, and completed their outcome in October Star: Poems for Chrissy. It is not the only batch of work I have dedicated myself to. In the midst of it all, I have finally committed to a work of fiction — including some of my most popular fiction stories and serial fiction works as well. I am hopeful this book will be available in the next month or two.

I know none of this would be possible had I not suffered the pain and anguish of my dear cousin taking her final breath two months ago. She had been strong in her sense of self and often told me to simply “Go for it” whenever I had an idea about something. So, in my own way, without her around now, I am going for every damn thing I said I would in the past. It is time. It is past time.

I will leave you with a comment a fellow writer on Medium, DL Nemeril, shared with me about grief on the introduction to The Grieving Room, “There is no good way. There is no easy way. There is only your way.”

Welcome to The Grieving Room. I am here. You are here. We are not alone in this.

See you next Saturday.


©2022 Tremaine L. Loadholt Originally shared via LinkedIn.