Posted in Life, Uncategorized

Nightmare

I did not sleep well at all last night. In addition to the eight extra thrashing, grasping limbs I normally contend with, I had a frightening dream that left me clutching my children for dear life. I dreamt that I went to work after some sort of function and had to change in the bathroom. Someone followed me and tried to rape me. I fought him off using the limited strange weapons in the room (Lysol spray, plunger, hangers, etc.) while screaming for help from my coworkers. Fortunately, in the dream, my husband and others heard me and came to my rescue.

Those of you who know me or who have read my previous blog, It’s Complicated, know that I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and rape. I have never had a dream like this in my entire life. All of the helplessness and terror came flooding back.

When I was in college, I attended one support group meeting. I was so ashamed of my story that I lied to the group by inventing a random rapist. I knew my attacker very well. He was married to my mother and had dropped me off to college.

I don’t usually think about the details anymore. However, I recently read a book in which handthe female protagonist was raped. Hello, trigger. All of the emotions washed over me like a tsunami: outrage, fear, anger, hurt, shame, disgust, hopelessness. Then, someone shared an article about rape culture in one of my social media groups. It seems that I just cannot escape this topic.

Someone needs this today. It is time to stop wallowing in the darkness. I know it is overwhelming. I know that some days simply walking out of (or into) your house gives you a panic attack. There are places and people you avoid. You feel like you are hovering a few feet above yourself, watching your body go through the motions. Life is drastically different. No one is trustworthy. Everyone is suspicious and has ulterior motives. I have days like that, too.

It is time to be your own light. The violation is not your fault. You have nothing to be ashamed of. The only thing you are responsible for is your journey to healing. It is a process. Do not allow the violator to win. Shine your light, even if it is a nightlight or a penlight. Know that you are not alone. There are a lot of us striking matches and shaking temperamental flashlights to dispel the darkness.

“In peace I will both lie down and sleep, For You alone, O Lord, make me to dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8

“For You light my lamp; The Lord my God illumines my darkness.” Psalm 18:28

“He delivers me from my enemies; Surely You lift me above those who rise up against me; You rescue me from the violent man.” Psalm 18:48

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me.” Psalm 23:4

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Posted in Life, Uncategorized

The (Too Much!) Information Age

Once you reach a certain age, the adults in my family stop censoring themselves around you. You become privy to all sorts of information that makes you question everything about the family that you hold dear. A tsunami of hearsay, opinion, and conjecture devastates the shores of your once-peaceful island paradise. Then, after being blindsided by it all, you are expected to jump right in with your own suppositions. You see everyone in a bizarre new light. After two decades of “staying in a child’s place”, you find out what’s REALLY going on.

If you think that’s traumatic, just wait until you get married and/or have children. Creating a family of your own is a written invitation to an oversharing soiree. You hear stories about yourself, your siblings, your parents and their siblings, and your grandparents that are not the PG stories you know and love. You are confronted with the fact that your mom is much more than just your mom. She is a daughter, a wife, a niece, a sister, a friend, and most importantly she is herself.

Too often, we neatly categorize people according to their relationship to us. We don’t consider that mom is an individual with thoughts and feelings who had a life before we existed. Old photo albums reveal that Gigi wore stylish wigs, miniskirts and hot pants, and perfected the smoky cat eye (true story!). It blows our minds when we discover that our loved ones operate in capacities other than the position they hold in our lives.

Although I’ve repeatedly voiced my dismay concerning the revelation of certain aspects of people I once held in high esteem, I am grateful for the clarity it has given me. Humans are flawed – each and every one of us. We all have elements in our stories that are unsavory and downright scandalous, but life is about growth. We must cut each other some slack while absorbing the morals of each story, even if we think that auntie is telling us way more than we want to hear.

Posted in Life, Uncategorized

On Blackness

I’ve always considered myself to be a serious person. I take my relationship with my Creator seriously because He is the source of my life and creativity. I take my relationships with people seriously because I value their lives and their connection to me. I took school seriously because it was my avenue of escape from a dangerous and insecure home life. Then, I became a parent and discovered that I had barely tapped into my seriousness.

My earliest memory of the realization of my blackness was when I watched Eyes On The Prize on PBS as a child. I remember thinking, “They look like me and my family. Their stories are my stories.” As the stories were being told on the program, not only did I understand them, but I also felt them in my blood and in my bones. None of the adults in my life sat me down and discussed being black or the black experience in America. I didn’t think to ask them about it, either. Unfortunately, the only black history I got was whitewashed for the consumption of Christian schoolchildren: the obligatory MLK, Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, and George Washington Carver. Our contribution to history is minimized and rewritten to avoid using words with negative connotations. I grew up largely ignorant of the scope of black history.

I didn’t take blackness seriously enough until I began having children. I began compiling information in 2008 in order to provide my children with a family tree. I don’t know what I was expecting, but the answers to my questions only yielded more questions. It was hard to get more than a few names from one of my grandmothers, at first. It took a few years of asking, but once she told me some of her experiences, I understood her hesitance to talk. It’s one thing to watch The Help; it’s another thing to hear someone I know and love talk about foregoing school to work for white folks who sometimes paid her in hand-me-down clothes.

The current stirrings of black pride are inspirational and necessary. For so long, we have believed the lie that black is inferior. I think that the most revolutionary moments are small and private. It begins with us loving who we see when we look in the mirror each day. Once you learn to love yourself, you can begin to love your brothers and sisters. Would you sit idly by while your siblings are bullied and victimized? Not likely! This is the heart of the revolution.

Posted in Life, Uncategorized

I Am Not Cool

The schools I attended were small private Christian schools. I don’t remember having trouble making friends, but I was not popular. I’m pretty sure that I tried to remain as anonymous as possible. I participated in three activities: choir, cheerleading, and journalism. I have a strange combination of interests, so I never felt like I belonged in any of the cliques that formed. It was nice not to be pigeonholed, but it was a little lonely. I felt (still feel) guilty for preferring to be by myself, and I wish I cared to be more outgoing.

I am sandwiched between two of the most beautiful sisters imaginable. Seriously, they are models. I have always been admiringly jealous of both of them. (Is ‘admiringly’ even a proper word? I don’t know. I mean to say, I wish I were like them but from a place of love instead of malice.) I remember being the only ten-year-old at a sleepover with my older sister and her teenage friends. I felt out of place in a room with so many pretty girls. She never treated me like a burden or like I was stupid. I was included in everything they did (We watched Night of the Living Dead and now I hate zombie everything – sorry, not sorry). My older sister took me under her wing during my first pregnancy, and I will always be grateful for all of her help.

My younger sister is the one who dragged me out of my comfort zone kicking and screaming. She made me go to two concerts and all sorts of clubs. (Alicia Keys was incredible, but the Hot Boys concert was a harrowing experience.) She has always been the “IT” girl. Shopping with her made me realize how boring I am. (She once talked me into buying shredded jeans and stiletto sneakers, of all things. Carolina blue and white.) No matter how crazy I thought her combinations would be, she always looked perfect. Now she’s using her gift to help other women feel beautiful.

And then there’s me. I don’t really keep up with popular culture, so I never know what’s cool. I’ve worn my hair in the same bun since I had The Genius in 2007, so I guess that makes me accidentally stylish. My favorite place, besides home, is the library. I also enjoy trips to Target by myself. Fortunately, I married one of the coolest men on the planet. Our children get their “it” factor from him. They get their love of Doctor Who from me.

Posted in Parenting, Uncategorized

Mom Regret

I feel like I have done one of my children a disservice. Soon after I had him, my husband and I separated. I had to go back to work after being a stay at home mom for four years. I was still nursing. I had to put my boys in day care. I agonized over all this.

I am blessed to have had a lot of people support me and come through for me during that difficult time. My sister kept my boys for me. My mother welcomed me (plus two!) back into my childhood home. My former supervisor found a place for me with the company he worked for at that time. Everything seemed to be working out. My husband and I even began the process of reconciliation.

In the back of my mind, I still feel as if I failed my son. When I have talked with people about this, I am told, “Hey, you did the best you could!” Did I? I was only able to nurse him for about nine months compared to the eighteen months I nursed my firstborn (and the two children I had after him). He is the pickiest eater I have ever met! He was at day care all day almost every day. Was anyone talking to him? Am I responsible for his speech delay because I was not there to talk to him like I did with my other children? When he grows up, will he resent his name because it doesn’t begin with an A like his siblings?

Perhaps my worries are unfounded. My son, Ricochet (like the cartoon rabbit), has bounced off of all those early challenges. He is now a straight A student in first grade. He is the most fun-loving, care-free, responsible child we have – even if he loathes vegetables and dinner entrees. He loves Spider-Man, watching sports with his dad, and running. Lots and lots of running. I can’t believe he sits still in school. His teacher had to send me a photo to prove it.

While it is still a battle to get him to try new foods, Ricochet seems to have suffered no ill effects from my perceived failures as a mother. I’m beginning to cut myself a little slack.

Posted in Life, Uncategorized

INTJ

I’ve always felt like a weirdo. Throughout my school years, I was not interested in what was popular with my friends. My girl friends were into boys, make-up, fashion, and a certain type of music. I tried to be interested, I really did. It just didn’t work. I was thrilled to be invited to parties, but I never knew what to do with myself once I got there. I longed to be a part of the group, but I struggled to care what most people thought. Fortunately, I managed to make a few good friends who accepted me and my weirdness.

I was introduced to the concept of personality types my sophomore year of college during a small group exercise. After answering the questions, I was categorized as an introverted intuitive thinking judge (INTJ), which is a rare personality type. The description helped me see why I never seemed to fit in. I had several friends tell me that they thought I was stuck up until they got to know me. Honestly, I hardly considered what people thought of me. I was too busy trying to be incognito and watch everyone else live life.

I know for a fact that my husband is an extrovert. We drive each other crazy at times. He is the life of the party and I prefer not to party. No middle ground there. He likes to go do nothing with a whole group of people and I like doing nothing all by myself. Although he is my favorite person, I still need him to go away periodically and understand that I need time alone. Not alone with the children. That’s not alone. That’s me plus gang of demanding small people.

I’m waiting for my husband to take the personality test so I can see how we match up. As a matter of fact, I would be interested to see how all of my friends are categorized. If you would like to take the test, you may do so here. Comment your results!

Posted in Parenting, Uncategorized

The Monster

There is nothing like going to a doctor’s appointment to discuss birth control and being politely informed that you are pregnant (again).

My husband had two children before we married. We planned to have one together, but that one (The Genius) opened the floodgates. We had a child every other year like clockwork. Almost. We had a miscarriage between the second and third, but our daughter was born a year (to the day!) after the loss. She was supposed to be the last.

I should have known something was up. Throughout that spring, The Genius kept rubbing my belly and asking, “Who’s in there?” I laughed it off at first, but he persisted for months. It wasn’t so funny after the positive pregnancy test.

I knew I was ready to be finished having children because of how upset I was at the prospect of having another child. I was downright mean to my husband and I cried and complained for a month. Then the morning sickness began and I kicked my hatefulness up a few notches. God bless my husband! Not only did he put up with the abuse, but he also spoke life into me. He carried me.

It took a few months, but I grew excited about the little person relentlessly kicking me in the diaphragm. He was born two days after my birthday, a couple of weeks before his due date. Now, The Monster is approaching two years old and he is a tiny version of my husband: brilliant, handsome, fearless. He gets into everything within his reach, which has grown considerably since the summer. He jumps constantly and climbs anything that will make him feel taller. He commandeers his siblings’ toys and fiercely defends his territory. The Monster is a cyclone, a force to be reckoned with. What am I going to do?