This Post Ain’t For Everybody…

Warning: This post ain’t for everybody. This post is for somebody. I pray you find time to read it.

When I was married my husband was a great provider. However, he was also addicted to crack cocain. On the surface we had a good life. We had three beautiful children and even offered our home to a teenage girl for several years as her mother fought her own addiction to drugs. We owned our home. We had nice cars. We went to a prominent church in our community and had many influential friends and business associates. But at home there was chaos and extreme unsurety. I was always faced with the choice of giving up the facade of stability and losing everything material and conditional… and one day I walked away and the real chaos began to unfold.

A couple of nights ago I was watching the television series Being Mary Jane. Mary Jane had just confronted the stepfather and mother of her best friend who had been molested by the stepfather when she was younger, and who was now dead after successfully committing suicide. In this particular scene the stepfather was upset with Mary Jane and the mother about the way he was being treated and perceived and demanded that he be respected. He then told the mother that her daughter was a liar and mentally ill and that the mother should have been ashamed for protecting and supporting her. The mother agreed and shut down.

Suddenly at that moment I was connected in such a way I felt he was talking to me and I was agreeing. I felt helpless and alone, and I felt powerless. And as I was sinking into that feeling I began asking myself when did this happen to me? Who said this to me? Who made me feel this way? All the people in my life who had influence started flashing through my head. Was it my mother? Was it my stepfather? My dad? My brothers? My husband? A boyfriend? Was it any of the women in my life that I respected but rejected me? Who did this to me and why did it resignate so deeply as if it were happening to me… again???

Somewhere along the lines of becoming a woman I was taught to hold on to the things that appeared to be unconditional but weren’t. Somewhere along the lines I was taught that when you said no to the things that hurt you the facade of stability would be taken away and no one would be there for you… However, a small voice which grew smaller over time said, “no one is there but you anyway”… The problem was everytime I accepted the facade my power to be there for myself grew weaker. Eventually I became convinced that “I” was not enough to walk alone. Why did I believe that having certain people in my life validated growth and when did I stop realizing that at the end of the day there is only you and Spirit… alone.

The Journey:

Today I am learning that the more I say no to the things that hurt me, or when I say yes to the voice that says stand up for me, I simply feel better. As simple as “I feel better sounds”… it is more powerful than I have ever felt because I am sure that not only was my voice shut down, it was shut down before it ever got the chance to grow and lead me out of that dark place.

Today at 51 years old I have this extremely awkward and premature voice that is going off like a bull in a crystal store so to speak. I am exercising this voice every time she speaks. The more I do it, the more she grows, and the more I feel protected somehow. And that alone feeling is starting to feel more like an expansion of space for my personal development that was stunted all these years. As if all the perceived support from others was actually taking away my space to grow. The space I had given to others actually stunted my own ability to grow. In actuality on the things I took the courage to face alone measured my true growth.

No longer do I accept the dark existence that is simply the cover placed over me to keep my controlled and blind to my destiny. Although I haven’t quite figured it all out yet… although I don’t exactly know what my true destiny holds… the freedom to walk towards it finally feels right. Saying no is actually helping me feel bold enough and have the courage to take the walk alone and not be afraid of what lies ahead. I actually am excited and I actually enjoy the embrace of the possibilities that lay ahead of me.

This journey is about kicking off the imaginary hold that is constantly being placed in my path by scared people who are afraid of their own destiny. No I have not mastered it yet but I can tell you that every time I say NO to someone or something that hurts me… every time I say yes to even the smallest of things that makes me feel happy… every time I don’t care what anyone thinks of “my” decisions to do what I feel is best for me…

It sho feels good!

And that my friends is the feeling that I have been conditioned to deny. And today, I am working even harder to grab the opportunity to feel good whenever it presents itself to me.

And maybe just maybe feeling good about being me is the destiny…

Feeling good may just be the one thing that truly makes me happy and at peace. It also seems to be the number one thing that people work relentlessly and unknowingly to take away from me. Funny thing is the only work for me is being courageous enough to say NO to the things that make me feel bad and even more so saying yes to the things that make me feel good.

Now there is someone out there nodding and agreeing as though the got it all together and they knew it all along… stop it. I know longer care that you see my immaturity, my awkwardness, my innocence…

I know for a fact that what I say is more for you than it is for me so if you took the time out to read this and you really let it resignate inside don’t give any advice to this post… just find that part that speaks to you and do what makes you feel happy…

I got this. Get yours…

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Ugly Boots in Jr. High…

It was winter in Illinois, and there was the predictable snow that seemed to blanket our town every time we wanted to believe we would get a break from it. We would wake up some mornings to face 8-12″ of frozen snow on the ground to walk to school in and freeze our toes, as we waited for a bus which was almost always late.

One Saturday morning my mom announced to me that we were going to Sears which was across the Mississippi River in Iowa and I was getting a new pair of boots. I was so excited imaging my new boots and wearing them to school with my jeans tucked in, and I imagined how cool I would be with something new to wear on Monday. Even today I feel cool in new clothes or shoes. “Shopping is still my therapy”, :).

ugly bootsFinally we arrived at the store and after watching my brothers try on Tough Jeans, hats and gloves, it was my turn to get my boots. Of course as a junior high school girl I had no concept of having 3 brothers and what that would mean to the budget for my new boots. I had my eye on the boots I wanted and probably looked right past what my mother had decided what her pocket book could afford.  Today I understand it more, but then I just wanted to fit in with my friends.

Being a teenager I believed my mother had the worst taste in fashion and has always been about spending the least amount of money for my clothes.  Most of my life we shopped at the Salvation Army or the Nearly New Shop for my clothes. Surely today I was getting something I would love because we were actually shopping at a “store” to buy my clothes. I excitedly showed my mother all the boots that I considered fashionable and acceptable to my liking.  However, my mother picked up these boots that were the most horrible plastic imitation of leather I had ever seen.  They were so old fashioned and something I could only imagine my grandmother (or my mother) would wear.  They were rubber and were lined up the zipper with fur, and around the top with fur. I was horrified. All I could picture was the laughing and pointing that would happen at school when my friends got a look at those boots.  I was already embarrassed.  I was picturing fitted boots and my mother without compromise insisted on buying me the boxed special of fashion disaster. I am not sure how the conversation went 30+ years ago, but I know we argued and I began to cry. My mother became so angry with me as I blatantly explained that I would never wear those boots.  She said I had to take those boots or get nothing at all.  I was fine with nothing at all and that must have really pissed her off.   I refused the boots, so in her anger she left me at the mall alone.

So I am 12, and I am at least 20 miles from home in another state with no money, and no way home. I really remember telling only one bus driver that I had no money. I had some how made it downtown and all I could think about was the bridge that I needed to cross.  As I rounded the corner and the bridge was in sight my plans crashed.  I could freely walk across the bridge and not have to pay.  I had no money.  However, being 12 and afraid of heights I was dying with fear looking at the mass structure cascading towards the sky.  I knew my brothers and male cousins had all walked across the bridge many times.  But I had never done it and had no desire to ever do it. This bridge was over 30 feet high and the currents of the muddy Mississippi river ran rapidly beneath it. Not to mention the trucks and buses zooming past, rocking and trembling the pavement that would be beneath my 50 pound frame. I imagined the horror of being swept away by the wind into the freezing water to my death. Only a few years earlier a friend had been pushed off the bridge by his father.  I was haunted and traumatized.   It was cold and getting late.

It would be dark soon, so I ran back to the bus stop and waited.

When the bus pulled up I got on the bus and looked at the driver in the eye.  With tears in my eyes I told him my mother had left me and I had no money to get to the other side of the bridge, and I was afraid to walk over it.  He just looked at me and said sit down.  Today, right here I want to insert this… “thank you Jesus”.

For a very long time after this I was afraid of heights.  I would wake up in the middle of the night and dream of falling.  In my dreams I would climb up a ladder and realize that I couldn’t go any higher and I couldn’t get down.  Finally in the dream I would give up and allow myself to fall to my death.  My body would shake and I always sprung awake before I died.  This was a recurring dream for me for many years.

Today I have conquered my fear of heights.  One day I just got tired of being scared of heights.  So every time I found myself in a situation that challenged me I accepted it.  Soon I began looking over ledges and I began climbing higher, and higher on ladders.  Eventually, I was able to work on the 32nd floor of a high rise in San Francisco many years later.  It was my first real job and I loved the view.  My desk was next to the window and the sky was my morning cup.

This could be a story of abuse and neglect, but it is a story of survival and faith.  It is also proof of God being with you even when you are too young to see it.  With childlike faith I did my part and God did the rest.

Oh yes, that winter I walked to school in the snow, wearing shoes. My determination is 50 times stronger today.  My mother didn’t give in and neither did I.  We are still at odds today for the same reasons.

Home is where the heart is, or isn’t…

Mother & Child

Mother & Child (Photo credit: michaelpickard)

I woke up this morning thinking about all the addresses on my credit report and I realized that I couldn’t remember the exact addresses of all the places I’ve lived. So I began to recite them in my mind to see how far I could go back. Suddenly I realized that there is a story for every address. From the Taft Homes until this very day there is a story.  And so the journey begins.

As a woman and a mother, I struggle with my own childhood and what I experienced as a child.  It wasn’t all bad, but what was bad has changed my life forever and is the reason why I struggle with relationships.  I am very hard on those I love.  I demand loyalty.  There are no gray areas.  Unfortunately the times my mother wasn’t there for me mentally or emotionally were devastating times for me, and underneath the tough skin hides the scars.It is from the scars that I operate and show my love.  It is from the scars that I understand unnecessary pain and disappointment.  I am showing you the scars.

I struggle with writing these things because like many I worry about what you will think of me. The stories I could tell you… As a child I can remember playing in the mirror pretending I had a different life.  Although I can’t blame everything on my mother.  There were times I deliberately disobeyed rules and guidelines like any child trying to find their way.  I lied about the homework I didn’t do, and liking the boy down the street and maybe kissing him.  I ate the cookies I was told not to eat. At times stayed up too late singing all the songs I learned in school and the limericks I learned from my friends (some with cuss words).  I tried on my mother’s lipstick and wore her perfume.  I even played in her closet and wore her clothes.  But when the boys down the street took me behind the Hickman Center and tried to have sex with me I didn’t tell.  I was seven years old and I was scared.  Ironically a few days later one of the boys who was involved in taking me behind the building and molesting me went and told my mother what happened. I could remember him threatening me that he was going to tell as if I had did something wrong.  I begged him not to but he did.    It’s strange now when I look back and realize that he thought I wanted to go with him and the other boy.  I just didn’t know how to say no or fight them.  I was scared.  I was seven.  So when my mother asked me what happened I clammed up.  I was scared and ashamed because I didn’t know what happened.  They grabbed me, and threatened me, and told me not to tell, and I didn’t because I thought I had did something wrong.  I am not sure why my mother thought it would be a good idea to take me to his house and confront his parents.  I was humiliated.  The boy’s mother must have said she would handle it and that was the end of that saga.  That young boy who is now a man who is currently serving 65 years to life in the Federal Penitentiary for a long history of raping and molesting children.  I often wonder what if  my mother had taken what happened to me serious and demanded attention for those boys.  Would he be in prison today? Would she had protected other children from the horror I experienced?  I would later find out that my mother would never stop anyone from hurting any of us.  Maybe she didn’t know how to protect us.  Maybe she was afraid.  From that day forward she always suspected me of being sexual in a negative way.  It was never portrayed to me as something good.  She stopped believing in my innocence perhaps because sex was never anything but forbidden and wrong to her… (pure speculation).

Soon after about a month or so later it was my birthday and we had family party.  Later that night my mother had a large argument with her boyfriend and her sister.  My aunt who had been drinking wanted to take my brother home with her.  My mom and her boyfriend objected and it turned into an ugly shouting match and soon the police were called so my mother ran away.  She ran out of the house and down the street, and left us kids there alone when the police came.  I was so terrified I hid behind the door in the bathroom.  A police officer looked behind the door and asked me if I was okay.  I just shook my head yes and he left.  I was terrified standing there in my night gown alone.  I couldn’t believe my mother ran off and left us and I wondered if she was dead or hurt.  She came back after the police left and the next morning we left our home and our friends and moved to Chicago.

Some say I should write a book…

There are times I am sitting with a friend and we begin to talk about family life and why we are dealing with so much drama. We begin to share stories about what our lives were like growing up. When I start to tell my stories people’s eyes grow wide with disbelief. It would always end with “wow, you should write a book”. I should write a book, huh? I always ask. If I write a book people’s lives would change. A big slap in the face would be delivered to some, but most of all it would hurt to have it remain a permanent, written record of my pain. However, just saying out loud what I have endured somehow brings healing with each word. So, here is my attempt to get it out to those who can relate and begin the healing with me. I just want you all to know that “it hurts when I do this…”, so please be patient and forgiving as I explain the pain.