But I was wrong. I am wrong. And every autumn pulls up memories — I have tried to forget, and I find myself burying those memories deeper into my mind for them to arise at the worst time.
It’s the children … The children push more pain into my heart than anything else. How are they doing? What activities do you have them in after school now? Your oldest should be going to college … College. It’s almost hard for me to say this out loud.
I have missed three years of seeing their faces, hearing their voices, and learning about their lives as new things occur.
I have resorted to denying who I am; who I was, but the pain in my heart about the children does not lie. It’s there. It is a constant reminder of what I have lost.
And as I weave through every year — no longer your toy; no longer wrapped up in my own head about what we could have been — what I wanted us to be, seasonal depression sneaks up on me with your face as its representative.
I am weak. I am. I will say this with no shame. I am weak, still, for you.
The dog hops up in my lap — reminds me it’s time for her to relieve herself, and I don’t feel like moving from a spot I’ve cozied onto in the chair.
She still has some energy even though she’s past what some say is too long for a dog to live — she can spit fire if I am not quick to meet her needs.
And isn’t that how you were? Isn’t that what made us cling to one another? Your need to order and my need to take orders.
Weren’t we too blind to see it could never work between two women who were writers so full of embellished stories?
I thought I’d forget all about you, yet three years later, you appear. And no amount of therapy is sweeping you away from my heart’s door.
I wanted more. I couldn’t have it. I never would have. At every turn, you would choose him. You chose him.
And really, he was the best decision. My mind knows this — how about telling it to my heart?
If a Tesla or the car of your dreams or close to it was available for a test ride at random moments of your life, you’d probably take advantage of every moment and go for a few spins before the dealership decides to say promotion closed; trial run, over. No more test drives. The next time you ride in one of these cars, is if you buy.
I believe some men are the same way when it comes to some women. Of course they like the idea of you so they keep coming back but if they really wanted you, taking you off the market would be the next form of action. We’ll mistake the attention we get and constant spins around the blocks to different places from different people, for interest over the fact that either #1. he can’t afford to take you off the market or #2. It’s…
We stood in silence. Teardrops from her big, bold, and dark eyes fell onto my hands. I danced in a circle as I held her close to me. Our breaths pushed from our chests and forced us to stay in sync with one another. How will we deal with this? I don’t yet know, but what I know is this … we have a chance at a new beginning, and daughter or not, I will stand guard against Sabrina if I have to. I won’t watch her break her mother’s heart for a second time.
Once was enough.
After a few moments of standing, holding Cari in my arms, she finally speaks. I feel her body shake. As she breathes in and out, I feel the heaves of her chest. I don’t want to let her go. Her head lifts up and out of my embrace. She speaks …
“When Sabrina was a little girl, I was her everything. I couldn’t even move from room to room without her attached to my hip or tagging along, cuffing my lower legs. We were inseparable. After her daddy left, I hit that damn pipe harder than ever and lost my baby girl for a few years. I try to go back to those days — try to push my body to that time, and I ain’t moving, Rena. I ain’t moving.”
“Cari, you have done all that you can for Bree. I’ve seen you maneuver through various mood swings of hers and her violent attacks on you just a few years back. You have tried. You are trying, babe. You are. And when you have left these addictions behind, you are going to be so much better. Either she’ll see it or she won’t”
“How can she deny me the happiness I have in you? How can she not invite you? Have you not been around for her the last six years of her life?! Even when we weren’t speaking, the two of you were still connected. I don’t get it!”
I watched Cari as she searched for what would make this make sense. And there is nothing. There will be nothing to make this behavior from Sabrina make any of this fathomable. Sure, she has had to fight for her mom’s attention when Cari was strung out on crack cocaine and every label of liquor under the sun, but she has changed — she is changing.
You only get one mother.
I look at Cari. The tears fill up in her eyes and do not drop. My heart breaks into pieces. She is so much and so little and everything under the sun all at once.
“I am going to call her. I’m not going, Rena. If you can’t come … If she doesn’t want you there with me. I am not going. I’m just not!”
The room fills with intensity, and the silence between us is thick and long. Cari wails at the top of her lungs and I stand helplessly feeling all the years we have endured adding up right before my eyes.
“Cari, you need to be there for Bree. Her high school graduation? She needs to see her mother there. I’ll be okay.”
“NO! If she tells me when and where I can bring my partner now, Rena, it will never end. Do you want to be removed from all other aspects of my life with Bree? Do you?! Who does she think she is?!”
Cari has a point. If I cannot come to the graduation, what next? Her wedding, the birth of her first child, her first child’s christening, etc. It will never end. I wish we weren’t in this predicament. Something happened. Something shifted. Sabrina loves me.
“I’m calling right now, Rena!”
“Sabrina Melanie Janssen, just who do you think you are?! Telling me I can’t bring Rena to your graduation — what kind of shit is this, really?”
“Hi, Mom. I … it isn’t my idea. I … Daddy’s paying for the extra tickets cuz the school only gives me ten and he said he’s not paying for Rena to come.”
“I see. Why didn’t you just say that?! Why would you tell me she couldn’t come?”
“Daddy was standing right next to me. Mom … I don’t know what to do or what to say around him. I love Rena. You know that. He hates it when I talk about her or when I say how happy she makes you. I didn’t want the stress of it all. As soon as I said she couldn’t come, though, he smiled.”
“Okay. I’ll fix your daddy. Don’t worry about him. How much are the tickets, because I’ll just buy one for Rena and that’ll solve that.”
“$15.00. I have three left. I’ll put one to the side for Rena. Mom, tell Rena it wasn’t me, please. Please.”
“We will handle all of this. I’ll send the money to your CashApp for Rena’s ticket, and I’ll come and pick both of them up tomorrow. I’ll deal with your daddy at that time, too. I love you, baby girl.”
A turn of events Cari had not envisioned greets us. The look on her face is enough to turn a frown upside down. I hear the joy in her voice as she tells me what happened — why Bree had said I could not come to the graduation. And I guess some bridges do need burning even if we still have to cross them.
“How dare that son of a bitch put our daughter in the middle like this?! I hated him before, but now?! Rena, I could gut that fool. I’m so angry right now!”
“I know you are. But we have bigger fish to fry now. Bree isn’t mad at you. She isn’t mad at me. She is still open to making amends and being a part of your life again. Cari, that’s big. That’s huge! The universe will deal with Marcus.”
The universe and everything good and beautiful will deal with Marcus.
I rarely dream about celebrities. It is a rare occurrence, and in order for it to take place, I would have had to watch a movie or read a book about that person right before going to sleep. And I certainly have never dreamed about the incomparable Oprah Winfrey before; the woman whose net worth is 2.5 billion dollars.
The dream I had early Sunday morning on September 11, 2022, struck me as peculiar, yet intriguing. I was in a dark room and the only area with an inkling of light was the small space where Oprah sat.
She wore her famous square-rimmed, flashy glasses, her hair was pulled up into a neat bun, and she donned a white blouse and brown slacks. She was shouting, “I am writing my book in Chicago about the children I never had, and I will need my fucking space!”
It echoed throughout the room. I simply stood there in awe. I could not move. Both my body and mind knew exactly what was taking place. I was in the company of one of the most influential Black women who was shouting repeatedly at the top of her lungs about a book she would need space to write, and I could not move.
There aren’t usually smells in my dreams, but in this one, I could smell a sweet and earthy scent. It was welcoming — a scent that provided safety and peace. Could it have been a signature perfume of her choice wafting from Oprah’s body? I don’t know.
I just knew that there I was, watching one of the most beloved women in the world declare frantically of the book she was writing. And it was both painful and motivating to witness.
Oprah does not have children and neither do I
Why did I have this dream? What does it mean? I do not fancy myself as someone who analyzes dreams. I simply try to understand them in my own way. Of late, I have had my share of weird ones, though, and this one is no different.
Oprah Winfrey does not have children. She has been open about this in many of her interviews and speaks about it candidly without regret. Her career path did not have room for the time, support, nurturing, and care she would have needed to allow for children, so she passed on that opportunity.
I think about what she must have lived through — how she had to cement herself — become hard enough to keep moving, and I tear up.
I realized, ‘Whoa, I’m talking to a lot of messed-up people, and they are messed up because they had mothers and fathers who were not aware of how serious that job is.’ I don’t have the ability to compartmentalize the way I see other women do. It is why, throughout my years, I have had the highest regard for women who choose to be at home [with] their kids, because I don’t know how you do that all day long, Nobody gives women the credit they deserve. — Oprah Winfrey
I do not have children. Not for the same reasons as Oprah, but my reasons are also valid enough for me. I have always had an incredible fear of not being able to love my children how I would need to or losing myself enough to forget my past and not burden my children with my baggage.
I also found out in my early 30s that it would be difficult for me to have children naturally, so I did not take that risk. Not to mention, I have yet to have a partner worthy enough in my eyes to share such a responsibility as parenting.
“I am writing my book in Chicago about the children I never had, and I will need my fucking space!”
I have watched many women give their all to their children — love them unconditionally — lift them up where they have faltered; teach them right from wrong, and these same children grow up to leave their mothers crying senselessly about the choices they are making or have made.
How much of it is nurture? How much of it is nature? One can never know who or what their children will become until it has happened. That is a weight too heavy for me to carry.
And there was music and tears and nervousness too
I am no stranger to music in my dreams. Music seems to be the way I love — the way I lean into life when everything else becomes too tough to tackle. I speak using music and the world around me silences itself to hear me.
Sometimes I feel That we try and make each other sad (I don’t know why) The things we do How we make each other feel so bad We’ve got so much We could all be having so much fun
This song sends me to a space and time that is both nostalgic and a sad reminder of my past. My mother’s family always had these wild cookouts and family gatherings. I say wild because there would inevitably be an argument, an altercation, and someone or more than one person would head home in tears or angered by the day’s events.
Her family frightened me. So much anger. So much intensity. And oddly enough, amongst the pain, so much love, too.
Funny how the mind works, huh? To have this song on repeat in a dream reflected around the non-existence of children, Oprah Winfrey, and me as the voyeur — there’s more here, I know it.
I try to dig a little deeper. A fellow writer left a comment for me after we’d been conversing regarding my most recent article in An Injustice Mag, stating, “Exactly my point, leave their table for yours. In fact, write a book about the hypocrisy you face to become a writer. Be the change you want to see. Prove them wrong and exceed their limitations.”
His suggestion sent my mind swirling, and several moments of creativity flashed before my eyes. I can do what he is suggesting.
In the dream, I was nervous. I have yet to figure out if it was because I had been standing in the presence of the great Oprah Winfrey or if it was because of all the things I have lined up for me in the coming months. I am excited. I am full of fear. But it all will be worth it in the end.
I have always had an incredible fear of not being able to love my children how I would need to or losing myself enough to forget my past and not burden my children with my baggage.
And there were tears from both me and Oprah. With Oprah’s frantic shouting, came free-flowing tears that streamed down her face gently. Her declaration hadn’t bothered her. Her voice bull-horned without the bullhorn. Everyone, I am certain, who was anyone, could hear her.
I cried. Watching her in this intense state shout about needing the space to write about the children she never had, moved me — both in the dream and when I woke up.
The truth is in the details
We miss, sometimes, what we never had. And perhaps, that’s our link in this dream — knowing we have not and want not, but we sometimes regret it, even if we tell ourselves we don’t.
The truth is always in the details if we’re willing to plow through the dirt of us and retrieve a cleansing state.
I had a dream about Oprah Winfrey, and she had been writing about the children she never had while I stood there as a witness, which led to me thinking about the children I never had. Maybe it is a coincidence, this dream. Maybe there is nothing there and nothing I need to search for within it.
The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman. — Malcolm X
I have learned, in these last five months after venturing into applying for writing positions (once again), that as a Black woman in America, this industry is crucial — a rigorous trail of dangerous terrain, and many of us will not pull away from it without broken ankles or worse — a broken spirit.
I have applied to countless organizations, entities, magazines, and journals. I have updated, tweaked, upgraded, and enhanced my résumé hundreds of times. I have submitted examples of my writing, samples of copy as per requests, and details of my experience and longevity within the industry. Yet, I stand before you, jobless in the field I have dreamed of making my full-time career choice.
I want to tell you that this is my first time with these results, but it is not. And I know I am not the only one. The older I become, the harder it is to gain traction in the world of creative arts — particularly literary content, and every time I find the strength to give it one more go at it, I get the wind knocked completely out of my sails.
So, what is different this time around? I know what I can offer. I am aware of my potential. I am not afraid of a challenge or hard work. I can pursue intense and controversial topics, interview big names relative to various subjects, and do all of this in a way that will connect the reader and bring them back continually.
However, I have gotten several proverbial doors slammed in my face because I do not fit the model the company seeks; I am not interested in writing solely for marketing purposes. I refuse to write about or attach my name to something I do not believe in or advocate for, and the list goes on.
The tables they have designed for those seeking to eat among their peers have no more room. Or is it simply what they lead us to believe?
Why are we almost always at the bottom regarding pay in most job markets?
I work full-time in healthcare. I am a central scheduling specialist for radiology. To make it plain, I schedule radiology scans and interventional radiology/invasive procedures for our patients. The job is not one for the weary or faint of heart.
I commend my love of words and for people regarding my ability to build rapport, remain empathetic, and ensure a timely and effective scheduling process for our patients.
I will be honest. The pay is not what I would envision for the tasks and overall processes we have to endure, but I love my job.
Am I stressed out on some days? Sure. Do I wish it would get better for me and my co-workers? I do. Would I want to do this job with any other group of people? No, I would not.
The people I share these tasks with are exceptional and we are a rainbow of glorious individuals who show up daily to do what we do best; give patients a remarkable radiology scheduling experience.
Healthcare has been the backbone and most convenient way to keep me afloat, while writing always held its own on the sidelines. I have never gained enough to fully sustain and live comfortably from writing.
You may be saying to yourself, “Why do you think this should change?” I have always felt my heart speaks more when I am writing. My mind is at ease — anxiety is curbed significantly.
And the monetary comparisons are laughable. I can earn more by editing and publishing, and submitting commissioned articles in one month (whenever applicable) than I can in healthcare scheduling.
When I step back and look at the overall differences in pay gaps and wages for White men, Black men, White women, and Black women, I am left speechless.
Where is the fairness in the statement above? Will there ever be pay equity for women, more specifically, Black women?
I have to be a sounding board for others and bring my table when there are no more seats left
Although I have not gotten my seat at the table of writing, I am making moves in order to bring my own table and invite others to sit with me too. I am unafraid to be vulnerable and authentic. I share my experiences. I let people into the parts of my world where I feel a connection will take place.
“When one door closes, another one opens.” In my case, I can say, “When hundreds of doors are closed before you, build your own, then knock it down.”
I have this unstoppable quality marked into my making, and I cannot see myself “taking a knee” because I am being forced to.
Women writers outnumber men writers in the United States of America. However, we are still paid $0.96 to their $1.00.
There are over 46,256 writers currently employed in the United States.
53.8% of all writers are women, while 46.2% are men.
The average age of an employed writer is 41 years old.
The most common ethnicity of writers is White (78.9%), followed by Hispanic or Latino (7.4%) and Black or African American (6.0%).
The majority of writers are located in New York, NY, and Los Angeles, CA.
Writers are most in-demand in New York, NY.
Writers are paid an average annual salary of $66,143.
The above stats have been derived from Zippia and are the most recent analysis for Writer demographics by gender, location, and race.
I will not ask for your permission. I don’t need it.
Many writers come and go. I have broken bread with editors, authors, poets, and content creators. I converse with struggling journalists, Black women in Tech, and Black women freelance writers. The “game” was not designed for us to be on top.
No one will say this out loud — this information is the “quiet part” about which we should not speak. It is a thing someone continually forces us to move through, and when we arrive, they mount another obstacle for us to maneuver.
There are countless Black women in various job markets who can stand in front of you and say they have had to pivot to entrepreneurship because no one else would hire them. They are carving out spaces for themselves because countless doors have been closed in their face. They are currently pulling themselves up into the spotlight and bringing a few of their colleagues along because they know what the struggle entails.
I am at the age now where I fervently believe that it is high time for me to construct my table, sit it alongside the path of others, and help catapult Black women writers to where they want to be.
And I will not ask for anyone’s permission — not anymore. I don’t need it.