Vulnerability

The world is not a safe place for vulnerable Black girls.

A few weeks ago, my therapist told me that vulnerability is something we should work on. She said I don’t trust people.

Well, duh. I know firsthand that the world is not a safe place for vulnerable Black girls.

After our session, I tried to think of when I first learned that lesson.

Was it sixth grade, when I wrote a note to my secret crush (a white boy) and he laughed while reading it aloud to the entire class?

Was it my 13th birthday, when I planned a big party, invited everyone I knew from school, and only two people showed up?   

Was it the summer after my sophomore year in college, when the man I loved dumped me but still strung me along so he could have someone to clean his apartment and cook for him?

Was it when I was publicly shamed by a dentist for crying out in pain during a root canal?

Was it the multiple instances of racism, sexism, or the brutal combination of both known as misogynoir that I’ve experienced in my life?

Most likely.

I truly wish that I could open up and be myself with everyone. But lessons learned the hard way are ones not quickly forgotten.

This world is not a safe place for vulnerable Black girls.

Flat

Shortening days.

Chilling wind.

The sky gray, flat.

As am I. Gray. Flat.

Missing Soleil–bright, warm, light. Each year I beg her to stay.

She says she’ll come visit sometimes, floats away on a gust of wind.

She doesn’t lie. She makes an occasional appearance, but always brings Monsieur Le Froid. He stays even after Soleil departs again.

Winter arrives.

Energy departs.

Gray.

Flat.

Move

Today, a pretty big change is happening in my life.

My boyfriend and I are combining households–today’s the day of the move!

I must admit, I’ve been looking forward to this day for quite some time. We’ve lived apart for the entirety of our three year relationship, and I’m so excited that we’re taking this step together to really become a team…a family.

However, this move hasn’t been without it’s share of challenges. I’ve had to purge a significant amount of, well, crap. It’s amazing how much stuff a person can collect! When I went back home to Kentucky this summer to visit my family, my mom sent me back with a lot of my stuff from my childhood: pictures, knickknacks, school yearbooks–even my American Girl doll, Addy. Add that to the house full of stuff I’ve collected since I’ve lived in Wisconsin and you end up with a ton of things you have to decide to keep or throw out.

I’m not the best at letting things go. Channeling my inner Marie Kondo was a struggle for me. How do I know if this thing “brings me joy”? Isn’t it wasteful to just throw this in the trash? If I don’t have this ticket stub/t-shirt/photograph, how will I know that I saw that movie/went to that concert/knew those people?

This process has helped me understand one thing: Those tokens aren’t the important thing. The memories of those experiences are what matter.

Wayside

As you can tell, this blog has gone by the wayside for…a while.

Honestly, some days it’s been a struggle to get out of bed, much less come up with something to say.

If I’m being really truthful with myself, depression had me putting myself by the wayside. But, this is a new chapter.

I’m in therapy. I’m in a good place in my career and relationships. And I’m going to do everything I can to prioritize my happiness and well-being.

Here’s to new beginnings!

So Amazing

So, I just listened to the first episode of the podcast I narrated Who Killed Julie? and it was so amazing!  (And no, I’m not just saying that because I narrated it.)

This podcast is different because it’s fiction that tackles a very real subject–domestic abuse.  As a domestic abuse survivor, I know firsthand how hard it can be to recover from such a terrible experience.  The podcast creator, Paul Sating, is using this series to bring light to the issue and support survivors.  How awesome is that?!?  It’s one thing to use the topic to get listens, but to actually use this platform to help people who’ve gone through this ordeal is honorable and so needed in today’s times.

With all that’s going on in regards to women and sexual assault in America today, Who Killed Julie? is a necessary listen.  For those who ask why she didn’t fight back, why she didn’t report it back then, if she was drinking, what she was wearing, and all the other bullshit excuses for terrible behaviors on the part of men, you should listen to this.  This is a story of a woman who experienced something truly terrible–lost her life even–and the reason why will chill you to the bone.

Check out Who Killed Julie? on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, and Stitcher!

The Beginning

When I first started this blog, I’d just celebrated my 26th birthday.

Yesterday, I turned 31.  #OldLadyClub

What would I tell myself, at the beginning?

  1. Control is not love.  You deserve better than him, even if you don’t think you do.
  2. Yes, you do love your new job.  Money isn’t everything–you’ll get by, I promise–and you’ll be soooooo much happier.
  3. DO NOT COSIGN ON THAT CAR.  Trust me.
  4. DO NOT PAY FOR THAT WITH YOUR CREDIT CARD.  Again, trust me.
  5. Old friends will leave your life–let them go, girl!  The ones that stay are the ones that belong.
  6. You are beautiful at any weight.
  7. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  There are so many people who love you.
  8. You’re going to travel the world.  Take lots of pictures!
  9. Love–real love–will find you.  But you have to love yourself first.
  10. You are so much stronger than you know.  Physically and emotionally–you can handle anything that comes your way.

Many thanks to all of you who’ve been part of my life’s journey.  Here’s to 31–I’ve only just begun!

31me

A ‘froed out, thick hipped, incredibly happy Kentucky girl living in a Wisconsin world.

 

The Weight

I pulled in to Nazareth, I was feelin’ ’bout a half past dead
I just need some place where I can lay my head
Hey mister, can you tell me where a girl might find a bed (can you tell me)
He just grinned and shook my hand, no was all he said

-Aretha Franklin, ‘The Weight’

If you’re wondering why I haven’t posted lately, it’s because I’ve been feeling the weight.

An unarmed Black man was murdered by a police officer in his own apartment.

Brett Kavanaugh will likely become part of the Supreme Court.

Wisconsin, where I live, is slowly recovering from historic flooding that destroyed many structures and even killed someone.

The White House is in chaos.

As a Black woman in America, getting through each day lately has been utterly exhausting.  Watching the news makes me so anxious, but I can’t not watch–I need to know how close to oblivion we are getting.  Unfortunately, we are inching closer and closer every day.

The weight is bearing down on me.  It’s bearing down on a lot of us.

But I can’t let it take me out.  We can’t let it bring us down.

We have to continue to help and love each other, regardless of what we look like or how much money we have or where we’re from.

We have to fight back against those trying to tear apart our country with racism and discrimination.

We have to keep moving forward.

Yes, I’m still feeling the weight.  The struggle to make it through each day is still very real.  But I like to think that my muscles are getting stronger.  I’m trying to find something positive in each day to keep me moving forward.

I hope you are too.

 

 

Music of My Heart: Pt. 2

Another day, another influential album.  🙂

Second on the list is…

breakaway

Album:  Breakaway
Artist:  Kelly Clarkson
Released:  2004

Anybody else reallyyyyyyyy into American Idol back in the day?  I know I was a huge fan of the ORIGINAL series (I’ve got opinions on the recent revival of the show–that’s for another post) that brought us the legend known as Kelly Clarkson.

I must admit, I wasn’t even rooting for Kelly to win the inaugural season of AI.  I was a teenage girl back then, which meant I was squarely on #TeamJustinGuarini.  (What can I say?  He was cute, and I had raging teen girl hormones controlling my thoughts.)  But Kelly definitely deserved to win.  Homegurl can SANG.  I enjoyed her debut album (Thankful) that came out as a result of her winning the show.

But her sophomore album Breakaway…that album was special.  It was the soundtrack for my high school years, even though it didn’t come out until I was a senior.

For a long time, I didn’t know that the feelings of desolation I had were actually signs of depression.  Breakaway helped me get through the pain I experienced (especially breaking up with my first boyfriend).  One song in particular called “Hear Me” was my heartsong.  I felt like I was in a crowd, screaming for help, and no one noticed.

Hear me
I’m cryin’ out
I’m ready now
Turn my world upside down
Find me
I’m lost inside the crowd
It’s getting loud
I need you to see
I’m screaming for you to please
Hear me

(If you haven’t checked our Part 1 of this series, please do!)

Music of My Heart: Pt. 1

Music, at its essence, is what gives us memories.

And the longer a song has existed in our lives, the more memories we have of it. 

-Stevie Wonder

Mr. Stevie had it right, y’all.  So much music colors my life.  A song comes on and within the first few notes, I’m transported.  Memories, bright and sharply focused, take me back in time.  Depending on the song, I could laugh out loud or burst into tears.  I welcome all the memories–happy and sad–that the music brings to me.

Starting today, I’ll post the artwork for an album.  Some are old; others are more recent.  Some brought me joy; others got me through the toughest times in my life.  All make up the soundtrack of my life, the music of my heart.

First up…

lemonade.jpg

Album:  Lemonade
Artist:  Beyoncé
Released:  2016

 

I remember exactly where I was when I first heard Lemonade.  After a cruise celebrating my mother’s birthday I sat in the Detroit Metro airport, waiting for the flight to take me home.  I’d heard the buzz about the album–the controversy over “Formation” at the Super Bowl halftime show, the shock that she made a whole entire film to go with it (#whodoesthat #yourfavecouldnever #shesthegreatest)–so I had to hear what the Queen was talkin’ ’bout. I purchased the album on iTunes and listened to it over…

…and over…

…and over.

At some points, I openly wept.  In the terminal, on the plane–I couldn’t hold back the tears.  You see, I had a tough time recovering from abuse from my ex-fiance.  I felt betrayed.  I felt angry.  I felt afraid.  I was just coming to the realization that, even though I felt powerless, I was the one who controlled my life.  Lemonade spoke to all that betrayal, anger, and fear.  It let me know I would make it through and be a stronger woman in the end.

In “Sandcastles”, Beyoncé sings:

Dishes smashed on my counter

From our last encounter

Pictures snatched out the frame

Bitch I scratched out your name

And your face

What is it about you

That I can’t erase

When every promise don’t work out that way

Her voice breaks at, “What is it about you that I can’t erase?” and it was like she read my heart and turned my deepest feelings into song.  I wanted to forget my ex so bad–because he hurt me so bad–but he still haunted me.

Lemonade was my strength.  Even today, every time a song from the album comes on, I stop and listen.

 

(Special thanks to Eli W. for inspiring this series!)

Me. Mine.

It was during high school, one afternoon, in an upstairs hallway.

I’d come to the conclusion I wanted to end the relationship.  We’d been together awhile (probably around a year) and while things were good at times, overall things were bad.  My boyfriend–my first real boyfriend–was clingy, demanding and manipulative.  He wanted to plan matching outfits every day.  He constantly compared our relationship, especially the physical aspect (really, the lack thereof), to his best friend.  If I was having a good day and he wasn’t, he went out of his way to ignore me until my day was shitty too.

So, I told him it was over.  He rested his head against the wall, silent.  I though the conversation went as well as it possibly could have…until he reared back and slammed his forehead into the glass of a picture frame hanging on the wall.  In disbelief, I backed toward a classroom door, hoping to escape quickly.

Locked.

Shock quickly turned to fear.

Luckily, other students were farther down the hallway and heard the commotion.  I hurried back to class and frantically told my teacher what happened; she rushed out to assist him.  My cousin came to check on me and I told him I was fine, he hadn’t hurt me.

The painful part came afterward, when I was asked to keep quiet about what happened.

My ex begged me not to tell anyone what happened.  He hoped to join the military and worried this would negatively impact his chances.  His mom and sister came to me with the same request.  I was horrified.  was supposed to protect him? He was upset, they said.  That behavior wasn’t like him; his future was at stake.

He.  Him.

My college boyfriend–my first real love–went home for the summer while I stayed in town and worked.  Toward the end of the summer, he told me he wanted to take me out to dinner–to talk to me about something–when he got back.  He was very mysterious, refusing to tell me what he wanted to talk about, and I thought for sure he was going to propose.  Turns out, he wanted to break up.  (Thank God I got him to tell me over the phone instead of in a restaurant.)

But after that, we were still cordial…until he got upset with me for not buying a computer from him.  See, he worked at a computer store and I came in one day and bought a brand new laptop–but not while he was on shift.  He could have used that commission, he said.  He thought I would have wanted to help him out.

He.  Him.

Too often, women are expected to take ownership for what men do.  Recently, the trial and conviction of Bill Cosby illuminates this disgusting facet of our society.  Why did she go to his hotel room?  What did she expect would happen?  Why is she coming forward now?  He’s an old man; he’ll die in prison because of this.  What about him, his legacy as a Black actor?

He.  Him.

It sickens me for a number of reasons, but mostly because it happened to me.  I completely understand the anger, the sadness, the frustration, and the guilt that comes with being made to feel like you have to take care of someone totally able to care for himself.

Women are socialized to care, to nurture, to feel.  We are expected to be firm, but kind.  We are taught to be nice. Even at our own expense.

This goes for everyone, but especially for women–we need to start taking care of ourselves.  It isn’t selfish to protect yourself from harm.  It isn’t mean to tell the truth.

Honestly, I hesitated to even write this post. What if my two exes, their friends and families, got upset with me? What if I hurt their feelings? What if I made them mad?

Then I realized–I can’t worry about them. I have to worry about me. One of my intentions this year is to speak my truth. I’m finally telling the truth I’ve felt obligated to keep quiet for so long.

Me. Mine.

You don’t owe anyone your self-esteem, your time, your money, or your silence–especially if they aren’t willing to positively invest in you.