This Is My Time

miracles SOM

This morning, the thought came to me: this is my time. I’ve waited long enough to live the life that I want.

I’m fed up.

The last straw was extending grace and compassion to the racist, actively psychotic, and downright selfish and cruel tenant that rents a room next to mine. His current and perpetual sins are that he probably has attracted rats to this house (he’s nicer to the stray cat that he leaves food out for) and continuously smokes in his room.

I had hoped when he had a psychotic break in January and cursed me out that he would voluntarily hospitalize him–but, he didn’t. In fact, he became much worse afterward, mainly with the smoking.

And I’m really mad at the owners of this home. They keep giving themselves slack for being non-confrontational about their own home.

“I’m learning as a I go,” I heard in April.

“This is uncharted territory,” I heard last week.

I have been complaining about this guy since last fall.

So when do you actually learn how to manage a property and the people living there? They bought this place in October 2015.

Thankfully, after much shaming and cajoling on my part, the owners have terminated the lease of the human ashtray. He will be leaving by the end of the month.

I’m fed up because my act of kindness was weaponized as cruelty and neglect towards me. I really thought I had found the middle.

What I found was that I was kind of trapped in a circle of betrayal.

Well, wake-up call received.

And the call said: indiscriminate grace can actually make things worse for everyone.

Be brave, be wise.

Let people learn the lessons they need to learn on their own.

Sometimes, suffering can’t be avoided.

But this propensity started long ago, probably as soon as my brother was born. I’ve often stepped aside for others to be first, while I tended to others and neglected myself.

My brother has developmental delays. And I, being the gifted and older child, was relied upon to be OK. I didn’t need to be as fussed over or given as much attention. I had an oddly autonomous yet very restricted life.

My parents didn’t even do that great with my brother, but since he was seen as the problem, he automatically got more of the attention.

This happens often.

I’m glad that my brother is the way he is–even with his emotional challenges now, he has a very pure, loving heart. Yet my parents really didn’t protect or guide him as much as they could because they are narcissists. It’s heartbreaking, because you can see how their selfishness affected him, decades later.

And this narcissism really affected me.

A lot of this is cultural, as the eldest daughter of Ghanaian parents. I didn’t even know that being the third parent or second wife was really a cultural expectation. And why would I? I was born and raised in America, not in Ghana.

As a kid and teen, I really didn’t get to fully be…a kid, myself. There were a lot of opportunities that were either delayed or denied, and there were no good reasons for it.

I’m still trying to deal with those delays and denials now, over two decades later. I’m pretty sure I’ve talked about them here, but the six that come to mind are:

  1. Starting piano lessons. I asked for four years, starting at age 8.
  2. Taking a trip to New Orleans with the French Club at school.
  3. Taking a trip to Paris with the French Club.
  4. Ending piano lessons after 4 years because my father thought I wasn’t serious enough (I had just one my first paying competition the day he axed my lessons).
  5. Not going to a slumber party where all my friends from church were. I don’t think I’ve actually been to a slumber party.
  6. Taking a missions trip with my youth group, right before our beloved youth pastor was going to leave for another church (my mom decided to go to Ghana for the first time, and it was assumed I’d stay home and be the lady of the house (which I really didn’t need to do).

I hate how whiny this sounds–and whether you think this sounds whiny, I don’t care about that much at all.

It’s more that even though I know why most of this happened–narcissistic parents, a father falling further into the depths of untreated bipolar disorder, and unspoken cultural expectations–it’s really hard to let this and other things go.

It wasn’t that my parents couldn’t afford any of this stuff. My dad was an ER doctor. It’s just that they simply withheld these things, things that would have enriched my life.

And this is all relative, too, because you could be reading this and not have had access to these opportunities like it I did. I definitely don’t want this to sound like poor little upper-middle-class girl. It’s what the denials and delays represented.

I’ve already told my parents multiple times how I felt about their parenting job. Of course, they weren’t thrilled to hear my side of things. They were defensive. I’m alive, educated, had a roof over my head, clothes on my back–mission accomplished! They only could see that they didn’t give me as much attention as they gave to my brother.

I told my mom recently that she didn’t really give much attention to my emotional life as a kid and she really was taken aback by that.  She did not agree at all.

But I don’t really have anything to prove to them any longer. My truth is my truth. Whether they agree with it or not doesn’t matter to me anymore.

So, I’m not bitter. Anymore. Hours of therapy and prayer…and just, time…have done the work.

I’m just sad.

I was a really good kid. I never really got into trouble, did well in school. But you couldn’t tell the way my parents treated me. Hypercritical, withdrawing, yet relying on me to hear about their lives while never asking about mine.

Whether I was good or bad really was about whether I inconvenienced my family or not. I got no praise for the good, and got a lot of attention for the bad. I’m lucky that I wasn’t so desperate for attention, that I just started getting into trouble to get attention. I never wanted them to just interact with me because something was wrong.

Although they gave me many gifts, such as my intelligence and musical acumen, their obsession with blind obedience didn’t really help me to be an independent person. I had to learn independence in a piecemeal way–and it’s something I’m still learning, especially when it comes to what I can change and cannot change in my life.

All these events created grooves into my life, grooves where I actually kept putting other people first, like with this terrible creep tenant.

And it really pisses me off. I know this stuff, but it’s so hard to get out of the groove of self-abandonment.

These imprints are working on me on so many levels. There’s a pallor of grief that’s hard to wipe away. And the grief is over who I could have been if my parents hadn’t been so caught up in their own lives. I had to climb over extra obstacles to get to some semblance of sanity.

And then, as I tried to escape them, I dragged all this extra weight into college–which I had to wait an extra year for because my father was even more mentally ill–which broke me while I was struggling to pay for college.

I was diagnosed with clinical depression a couple of months after I had turned 21. all those delays and denials finally caught up to me.

Then waiting for 3 years to go back to college after I couldn’t pay. A miracle of debt forgiveness got me back in and I graduated at 26.

Then, my life continued to center around the church. I was putting up with shitty, probably racist friends in the name of community and Christ.

Little did I know that Jesus didn’t need me to do that kind of martyrdom work.

You know, maybe the greater good includes me, too?

There’s been a lot that’s been out of my control and I’ve just had to roll with it, and learning how to be flexible and accommodating is a gift–I’m grateful that it’s a part of my resilience arsenal.

But then there’s the time when you’re growing older and there are a lot more things under your control, where you’re not at the mercy of circumstance, where you don’t have to be reactive–but proactive.

I’m not under the thumb of my parents anymore.

And I can tell you, as I’ve probably said before here, that there have been a lot of repetitive events and lessons–especially in this house, mainly passivity and enabling bad behavior.

So I’m 40 now. When is all of this going to be over, then?

I’m pretty sure I’ve learned the lessons I need to learn here in Florida, right?

Can I declare that today, I will no longer put up with people’s selfishness and stick up for myself the way I’ve stuck up for other people?

I can and I will.

There’s so much of my life where I have been trying to catch up to where I should have been years ago. And if there are any little burps of anger from the past that come up, it’s around how my youth wasted on people I don’t even give a fuck about anymore and probably never gave a fuck about me.

So much wasted time and energy–and in the name of what?

There are all these Christian and spiritual platitudes about being selfless and putting others first, and, I don’t care if this sounds haughty–I was going to do that anyway.

I didn’t need some higher power telling me to be kind to others. I see the importance of kindness and selflessness.

But that innate propensity has been exploited for years and years, and I’m super big mad about it.

Also, I’m really hurt at these good intentions here in this house have backfired and made my life worse. I put someone utterly vile and contemptuous, just because he is mentally ill, first.

That was really fucking stupid.

And I didn’t do that to be a martyr or to become a saint or to get any praise or even to feel good about myself.

I did it because I thought it was the right thing to do.

But the right thing to do from now on is to be a lot choosier about who I put first–which, for now, will be me.

It’s been too long. So much waiting for my life to begin, to catch my breath, to create life, to expand outside of these four smoke-filled walls.

Maybe circumstantially, I still have to ride these waves that I can’t control.

But spiritually and energetically, today I can bring the pendulum of love in my life back to center.

I can draw a line with indelible marker and say here, look, take notice, remember, beware: I’m not putting up with shitty people or the cruel mistreatment of others any longer. They can find their own redemption on their own journeys–without me.

My journey is to be extra kind and gracious to myself–just like how I’ve been to others and have barely received it in return.

My journey is to make it up to that younger woman, who was full of promise and wonder and fire and warmth, to get back into music again, to go to Paris, to go to New Orleans again, to find friends that aren’t fickle or fairweather.

To not be someone’s extra parent or spouse. To really be my own person.

My journey is to be even more zealous with the healing of my past.

It pains me to keep bringing up old shit. I don’t want to be defined as the girl who was deprived and neglected.

I want to be the woman who was able to overcome all those things and really live, really love–even if she was barely taught how. And that is miraculous. I want to revel and dance in the glory of that bright and shining miracle…of me.

The time of enduring and waiting and overlooking and second-guessing and hoping and merely holding on is coming to a quick close.

Even if I have to will it to end, it will end.

This is my time. This is my time to embrace how whole I’ve been this whole time. And no one is going to get in the way of my joy and fulfillment ever again.

This is my time.

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Digging Up Dead Roots: An Elegy

the journey som

This is going to be a bit astrologically based this week, but I’ll do my best to explain all the terms. 🤓 It’s also a bit of a ramble, so I apologize in advance if it’s hard to follow.

It’s been tough with this Uranus in Aries transit in my 4th house of home and family. And it’s about to wrap up on May 15th. But I’ve said before, Uranus is a thug that has toughened me up.

In astrology, Uranus is the planet of insight, innovation, disruption, and surprise. Aries is a sign of innovation, impulsivity, and the spark of life. Those sort of energies have made my 4th house in my astrological natal chart kindling for long-burning, life-altering fires. It’s been destructive to my ideas of stability, of home, of history, of roots.

But fire can burn off overgrowth and promote new growth.

Fires can be a necessary part of the cycle of healthy growth. Yet it doesn’t feel like it when it’s happening.

The past few days, there have been a few blasts from the past, and I wanted to explore them, since they seem cosmically tied together.

I’ve written a lot about the chaos of living in Florida, but one thing that’s been coming up recently for me is my connection to the Church.

An Album, a Necklace, and Some Laughter

Last week, I was randomly listening to The Thievery Corporation and I was reminded of this album I had bought for this friend, Tom*, on his birthday.

In my early-to-mid 20s, Tom and I were in this Christian folk/rock/pop band together back in Chicago. He was the drummer and I sang background vocals and did some hand percussion.

Last week, though, I was still, albeit hilariously, kind of pissed still because I had gone through all this trouble to get him this album, and then he wasn’t that into it. It’s been at least 15 years since this happened, and yet my inner music snob hadn’t let go of the perceived slight.

The root of my pissyness was that I had gone through all this trouble to find some music that had more of a world beat. Coincidentally, Thievery Corp came out with a new album on Friday, and I had no idea about it previously! #synchronicity

After I had laugh about that, I thought I’d tell my Twitter followers about him, because it was one of those classic 20-something episodes where I was in some sort of strange relationship with a man.

Tom was a good guy. Kind of quiet, but a kind person.  I remembered that him and the guitarist, Stuart*(another kind and quiet person), along with so many men I met in the evangelical church, were a bit of a mess as men when it came to relating to women. Socially awkward af. I blame the Church for that (I could write a whole other blog post about this, but I am tangential enough as it is).

Tom and I had a kind of tenuous, indescribable relationship, something that was always teetering on the brink of something else.

We definitely were fond of each other, but in that circumscribed way that I think sometimes Christian men can be. It’s like they put their sexualities under glass. Don’t break until marriage!

Women do this, too, but we’re not as socially awkward as a result. There was deep caring without any sense of sexuality, yet the tension is definitely palpable.

When I had first started out with the band, I remember that we took this trip to Guitar Center. He helped me pick out my hand percussion instruments: a soft shaker, a tambourine, a rainstick, and some claves.

One Memorial Day, we went to Navy Pier to play miniature golf–which felt like a date. I’m not sure what it was. But it was really fun. I had gotten a major audience by the time I had reached the 18th hole. I almost had a hole-in-one but just missed it.

The bandleader, Andrea*, was a bit cruel about us, or whatever was starting to form. She mercilessly laughed at me for even thinking about getting with him.

Tom wasn’t as nerdy or intellectual as me. He was adorably dumb. But he was fun and kind and I felt had a lot of soul to him. Maybe that laughter had sown seeds of doubt and dissension in the end…

In a moment of restlessness, Tom had decided to go on this months-long trip across the country, and he borrowed my backpack to do it–some old Jansport thing. He sent my postcards from his Western adventures. He collected patches from the national parks he visited and gave them to me.

He had sent me this gorgeous amethyst necklace (I believe he bought it in Montana). It’s what I’d call a statement necklace now, cabochons of dark purple stones arranged like a flat chandelier.

I gave it back to him because I felt like there were some strings attached. I wish I could remember what those strings were, but I just didn’t feel comfortable.

It seemed like a big grand gesture, a declaration of love, and I wasn’t feeling those feelings in return. I vaguely remember him saying that it wasn’t like that, but I kept thinking if I started wearing it, then I’d have to explain that some guy gave it to me, and then the questions.

And this is all within a church context. Tom, Stuart, Andrea, and I all went to church together.

Maybe if someone had given this to me now, I wouldn’t feel as reluctant to accept the gift. I absolutely do believe men and women can be platonic friends.

But at the time, I kept going back and forth in my mind to accept it or to return it. I asked friends. No one thought I should keep it.

I know I hurt his feelings, even though I didn’t want to or mean to. I just wanted to remain true to myself.

I know he had gone on this trip to heal whatever aimlessness and urgency to make sense of his life, and I didn’t want to be some emotional life preserver for him.

I just wanted to be his good friend.

Still, despite my intentions of integrity, I believe our friendship dissolved after that. It’s hard to remember all that happened. And I haven’t thought of Tom in probably over a decade.

If I recall correctly, Tom got married a couple of years after we had been friends. So I wasn’t off in what I was feeling.

I’m not even sure why Tom came up, besides that music can be a time machine. I had a petty hurt that needed to be healed.

But this came up probably because I did care about Tom a lot, and I knew he cared about me a lot. And that means something to me, even now. Sure, he was a brother in Christ, but he was a bandmate and friend. We looked out after each other.

And even if unresolved sexual tension creeped into our relationship like invisible kudzu, I can look back and see that it was still pure, uncomplicated caring. And somehow, years later, that seems like a hallmark of something, even if it ended with hurt feelings.

I was also reminded me of how the evangelical church can create and sustain some really fucked-up mentalities. Again, I could write a whole book on that.

Still, Andrea was right. Tom and I weren’t right for each other, but I also remembered how cruel she had been with my emotions.

One Christmas, at her farm with her husband, I was talking rapidly of this painful conversation I had with my mother. She just laughed, which made me feel terrible. I knew I was talking quickly, but I felt like I needed to get all of this out. So much had happened that week

Maybe about a couple of years ago, she and I lost touch–which was more on her end. Although I had missed her for years, because we had become almost like family, I’m at peace now.

Andrea was whip-smart, kind, generous, and a really quiet spirit–just like Stuart and Tim. But I don’t miss having my tender parts being mocked by hers.

And, of course, her inappropriate reactions have more to do with her journey than mine. She, like many others, was not very comfortable with my forthrightness and directness with how I expressed my emotions. Heck, I’m still not that comfortable with that myself.

So. I guess I told these stories to remind myself that as fucked up as my upbringing was, sometimes the way people react to me–OK, really, all the ways people react to me–have nothing to do with me…even when it feels like it does. Even when someone says it does.

It doesn’t.

I Was Never Really In

I met Tom, Andrea, and Steve at the first church I went to after I left college. The people I met there, I’m not really in touch with anymore except a couple of people, like Christina.*

On Christina’s Facebook wall, she had shared a post from someone we used to attend with, Joan*. Joan’s daughter was in an art competition and she wanted people to vote.

I went to Joan’s page to see her three children, all tween aged now. I had worried about her daughter because she had had some major health issues as a baby and toddler. But she seemed to be thriving now.

I was happy to see it, but I felt a twinge of sadness that Joan and I weren’t friends anymore–and how that was my choice. But Joan was a part of a community that I continue to venerate as the best community experience I’ve had in my life…as a Christian.

When I had arrived at our church 17 years ago this fall, I was so raw with pain and abandonment. I wasn’t allowed to return to college because my parents hadn’t paid the tuition bill, because they hadn’t filled out the FAFSA in time–again.

So, probably for that reason alone, but for many more–that church, in my mind and heart, is still the closest thing to my kind of church I’ve ever encountered.

I had learned that if I really wanted to get to know people in church, I needed to get involved. So I ended up singing and playing keys in the church, and through that I had come to know a lot of the leadership and the band leaders.

I really had loved my church. It was a church of misfits, although now, I’d just call us hipsters. But these would be the people you would never find in a typical church.

But most importantly to me, this church was centered around art. I met so many artists, musicians, and other kinds of creatives.

It was as close to heaven on earth that I had experienced.

But nothing gold can stay…

A lot of my friends at church were in the worship band together:

  • Christina’s husband, Mark*, played drums, and so does Joan’s husband, Jonathan*.
  • Jonathan and my first love, Jack*, were in a band together, too.
  • Jack played lead guitar, Joan played bass and sang, and Jonathan played drums.

So in my Facebook rabbit hole dive, I was curious if Joan was friends with Jack–and this is definitely a Mercury retrograde pondering–but I got lost in looking up other old friends including Karen*, who is apparently running for public office right now. She already holds a public office.

Karen was one of the worship leaders. I had been in her home group (Bible study) for years. She was pretty punky, adorned with pink hair and sparkly hot pink cat eyeglasses. Now, her hair is long and blond, and her eyeglasses are thin and brown.

But it’s still Karen, leading and taking care of people. Karen had been a part of the church leadership when I had first come to her church.

Before my arrival, the church had gone through a scandal–a pastor’s wife left him for a woman. Even for our little island of misfit parishioners, that was still a big blow.

How I had heard of the church was from the pastor himself, who had actually come to speak at my InterVarsity group in college. I don’t remember what he talked about, but I liked him.

I had come to that church based on that talk, but I had walked into chaos. There was more of a group of leaders running the church, which I actually liked. They were in the middle of finding a new pastor, who ended up being this tall, lanky Baby Boomer California dude.

Soon after he came on, though, the church leadership all resigned, with most of them leaving the church. Bottom line: they felt like he had misrepresented himself.

Joan and Mark, along with another couple that was on the worship team, Susan* and Sam*–we all looked to each other as litmus tests. Were we going to leave or stay?

We all decided to stay.

But eventually, we all decided to leave. Susan and Sam moved out to the East Coast. Joan and Mark starting meeting with other people in their homes. And I stayed for a lot longer, until about when I was back in college to finish up. That was when I had become closer to Andrea and her band, as well as other people. So that was about 3 years of my life.

The thing, though, with this group…when Jack and I got together, we both quipped that now we could more easily hang out with our friends.

It was a bit…cliquey. Lots of married couples, including his best friend and his wife, but it was also they had been established before I came on.

Jack and I didn’t last long. We burned brightly and sharply. Then he got scared by the intensity and broke up with me within a month. I still remember his best friend, Frank*, calling me within a day to tell me that. There had been so many people rooting for us…

Then after the Cali dude came on, he left church a few months later, and then he left the country. He may still be an ex-pat, I’m not sure. We fell out of touch years ago.

I learned a lot about God’s love from him…but again, that could be another long blog post.

But all of these people, with our tangled evangelical roots and our penchant for art and creativity–I loved them all, and fiercely.

These were my people.

Yet I don’t know if I ever was really in with them, if it was ever really possible to be.

All of the people I’ve mentioned here are white except Susan and Sam who are Asian American. After being banished from college, I had been really trying to find a new sense of home, and every church after this one just couldn’t fill what I found in this group of people.

All of those people are in touch with each other on Facebook, and I’m only in touch with Christina and Mark, and even that felt a little forced when I spent Thanksgiving with them a few years ago.

There’s another friend, a black woman, Shana*, that I talk to on occasion who had nothing to do with music, but she’s a writer.

I’ve thought about reaching out to these people again, and have also wondered why they haven’t reached out to me. I don’t feel nostalgic enough to rewind the tape of my life and reconnect with them.

Jack’s friends, Frank and Beth*, saw me at Lollapalooza ages ago and I didn’t want to see them. Beth said, “You saw us but pretended not to see us!”

It was true. But I didn’t understand why or how we could be friends when who connected us didn’t want to be connected to me.

They were still the collateral damage of the demise of my short-lived relationship with Jack. I was friends with them for a little bit on Facebook, but I ended up unfriending them because it just felt too weird to be friends with my ex’s friends when I wasn’t in touch with him.

The same for Joan and Mark. I had at least made peace with what happened right before 9/11. I was house sitting for them as they traveled overseas and got in a fender bender with their car. I thought they had been holding that over my head for years, but they hadn’t. I was able to clear the air with Joan about that.

But back to all these people being white…there was always something missing, even though I felt I had found kindred souls within this church. By the time I was 30, I really thought I was crazy. Why were all my relationships so short-lived within the church?

Eventually, I grew to understand that this feeling of separateness came from being a gifted adult–being an intense person and how most people are put off by that.

Yet I’m sure a lot of it has to do with whiteness, and my close proximity to it as someone who was raised as an immigrant’s child. And, and this is an asides, maybe my parents’ implicit admonitions of not becoming too American were really about ingesting too much whiteness. It’s hard to say, though.

Ultimately, there’s only so much you can stomach and there’s still this great dividing wall between you and the ones you love–allegedly in the name of Christ.

So, even now, I can’t tell if I miss them or miss the feeling of belonging to a loving group of people. And of course, I wonder if they miss me. But I think that swell season was, albeit transformative and healing, meant to be brief.

And the context of being Christians was what really bound us together, even more than music. But maybe the music we created together is why I will never really ever forget them all.

Two Taurus Men from My Childhood

Yesterday, a family friend of mine had remarked on Facebook that he hadn’t been able to publish this book of his, although it had gone to the printers. So, having some publishing experience and a graduate degree in writing, I wanted to help and offered it to him.

He reacted to my offer with laughter and reminded me that he had his own publishing company and had published 20 books.

OK, dude.

I demurred and said that I had forgotten and I was a frazzled grad student when we last talked about this. I patiently explained that I was actually thinking he’d self-publish digitally, either as an ebook or through the Kindle platform.

He reacted with that advice with a heart.

OK then.

This man has known me since I was a little girl. He’s only a couple months younger than my mother. He’s known my parents from when they were young adults in Ghana through whatever evangelical uprisings and spiritual awakenings going on in the 1960s. So he’s practically family and I respect him.

But I’m 40 fucking years old! So I was just annoyed that he didn’t take my grown ass woman advice with any sort of weight.

He saw my offer to help as an insult to his publishing experience. Instead of wanting to learn more, he just pushed me off as some know-nothing–publicly. 

FYI–Capricorns had public humiliation.

It was rude and unnecessary, but sometimes his happy-go-lucky, jocular exterior belies some obnoxious misogyny. And, well–I may be still five years in his mind.

I took that personally for a minute, but just like Andrea’s laughter at my emotional expression, his laughter said more about him than about me.

Then later yesterday, I got a LinkedIn alert from another family friend that I grew up with, asking to connect with me.

I was not pleased.

Earlier this year, he had found me on Instagram and I had to block him. Before that, he had asked me to connect on LinkedIn.

So this time, I had ignored the request and said that I didn’t know him.

This guy and I, Tyrone*, had been very close for a few years because of the chaos going on in my home. His parents went to medical school with my dad, and my mom now is still very much enmeshed with his immediate family.

This relationship could be its own blog post, too, but eventually, by the time I was 25, I wanted reciprocity in terms of transparency. He refused. So I gave up and let him go because it was codependent af already anyway.

To add to this milieu of unhealthy boundaries, the way my mom is attached to him, his younger brother and sister (projecting much?), and how his parents are not as attached to me and my brother–it’s just unhealthy all the way around.

On top of that, Tyrone has some major mother issues. I don’t mean to put his shit on front street, but it seems to be a perfect storm for my mother and him to be close.

Sidenote: here’s a story about that. On my 30th birthday, I am at my mother’s apartment, sitting at the dining table that I’ve sat at for most of my life. We’re just hanging out, she and I. And she comes and gives me this Mother’s Day card from Tyrone.

I read it. Tyrone is laying this on thick, thanking her for believing in his dreams.

I sat there in disbelief and handed the card back to her.

“Isn’t that nice?” she asked.

“Yeah,” I said.

I sat there in silent pain, thinking about how she didn’t really know my dreams, let alone believe in them. I didn’t even know this was available as her daughter. Before this, the last time I was home for Christmas, when I was 25, I was in the car with Tyrone and his little brother, Terry*. I just poured out my guts about how dysfunctional my parents were, and they decided not to believe me.

I’m barely scratching the surface of the history of me and this family, but there’s some fetid, dead things I try to use as fertilizer for the flourishing of my own life.

Anyway, the last time I was home for Christmas, probably three years ago, I had a stiff and awkward conversation with him in his parents’ basement as his kids were in another room.

“So you’ve blocked me on Facebook, huh?” He looked at me with a sheepish grin.

“Yep.” I had my arms crossed and barely looked at him.

“So to make this right, I need to call you, right?”

“Yep.”

“OK,” he said, and we moved on to the other room where the kids were.

Seeing that email yesterday was triggering, but I knew that this guy doesn’t have access to my soul anymore, especially since he wasn’t going to do what he needed to do to make this right.

And really, there’s nothing to make right anymore. It’s why you can’t really be friends with your therapist. The balance of power will always be skewed towards them.

To take an astrological view of these seemingly random situations: both the old family friend and Tyrone are Taurus men, and both of them are Christians.

I’ve noticed that I’ve been on a weird journey with people who have their suns in Taurus. Astrologer Sam Reynolds just wrote a great Twitter thread on Taurus today that you should check out.

I’ve realized Taurus men can get a little too familiar with me and have horrible boundaries. Meanwhile Taurus women tend to be aloof and distant with me. And it’s Taurus season, so I’ve had this sign on my mind for a bit.

So with these two men, there’s been a bit of over-familiarity that steamrolls who I am as an adult.

Taurus is a fixed earth sign, and with fixed signs, it can be easy to get stuck in mindsets. It’s just the double-edge sword of that element.

Could it be that these men still see me as little Debbie? Unfortunately, I think that’s the case.

But here I am, now. And these seemingly random blasts from the past are not random at all.

Why Do These Strolls Down Memory Lane Matter?

There has been a lot going on astrologically which may have triggered all this somewhat painful nostalgia.

Chiron, a centaur planetoid nicknamed “The Wounded Healer,” has ingressed into Aries. I believe it did so yesterday. For the next seven years or so, we can expect some accelerated healing of all sorts.

Chiron in Aries is now squaring, or at a 90 degree, angle with my Jupiter in Cancer. Chiron square Jupiter will definitely bring up wounds with religion and philosophy.

Jupiter is in my 7th house of partnership and open enemies, and Aries rules my 4th house, so what’s coming up now are my one-on-one relationships (and open enmities) with these people and the roots of my own being.

All these old stories are here to be healed. So as cringeworthy it is for me to see old names that aren’t relevant to me anymore, it’s time to close the chapter on these collaborative stories.

And I welcome these denouements.

Another long transit that I’m dealing with is Neptune square Neptune.

Transiting Neptune in Pisces is squaring with my Neptune in Sagittarius, which is a major transit for those who are in their mid-life. This will bring up spiritual matters, what I hold as ideals in my life.

The real question being asked here: so what’s really real here, and what is just illusory?

Neptune is the planet of spirituality and imagination. Pisces and Sagittarius are ruled by expansive Jupiter, so this is a very murky wide and deep transit for me, dredging up everything I believe for examination (There are other things coming up for me during this transit that I will write about later in future posts).

Here are some other questions being asked: what do I feel about spirituality now? What can I keep from my evangelical roots and what should I dynamite away into oblivion?

I was talking to a friend today about her relationship with Christ, and it was tough because I can’t even hear that name without feeling like it’s not for me. Yet I know there is some middle way for me, since Christianity is a part of my spiritual heritage.

Right now, I’m listening to Twila Paris, renowned Christian music artist and worship music songwriter, and it’s so comforting. None of my friends listen to her (she’s what our parents would listen to), but I’ve loved her music for 30 years.

Somehow, there’s some Christian music that seems to soothe parts of me that where I am not can’t fully reach. I’ve written about my relationship with Christian music, which I may publish here sometime soon.

This is all to say, I’m pretty much all the way out of church, but church may not be all the way out of me.

Where I Think I Am Now

So the people I know and love now seem to be aligned with my current spiritual journey. And it’s taken all my life to get here. We’re all very intuitively inclined, connecting to Spirit in various ways, and we are all kind–and this last part is what matters to me the most.

As Uranus finishes its tourney through my 4th house, kicking up these old and mostly dead roots, it’s a reminder of where I’ve come from. The Church was my life, the sun in my life. Everything rotated around it–my social life, especially.

But there’s been a very drastic and necessary evolution since my Saturn return. The past 10 years, I’ve learned to make myself the center of my life. It doesn’t mean that I don’t connect with Spirit anymore. As I told my friend today, I have never been more spiritually attuned and connected in my life. I don’t regret being outside of the Church.

Where I am now is trying to get out of this house–and out of Florida altogether.

On Thursday, after a week of waiting to hear back from yet another complaint about smoke in this house, I confronted the landlady in an email about her laziness and passivity with a chaotic and toxic household. It was full of a holy, righteous anger.

It seems to have shifted the energy in this home when I told her that the creep seems to own the house now, not her.

I hope it lasts, but I know I’ve known for months that I need to move out. And that’s still the plan.

But there seems to be a peace here now. I did some candle work to create a peaceful home, and it seems to have worked. I plan to do more candle work this week. To feel that empowered spiritually is something I haven’t experienced in decades, if ever.

So on a Sunday evening, where 25 years ago, I’d be looking forward to seeing my friends at church for our youth group meeting, it’s strange to look back at my younger days. I don’t really relate to that young person at all. But I am proud of all she’s endured, for the spark of life that she embodied.

Even still, I believe she was encased in fear and self-loathing. She wanted to belong so badly, because her family was so odd and decentralized.

And sometimes, although a lot more rarely, she’ll still try to maneuver her way into relationships with people who seem to be popular or in power. Capricorn tendencies.

But after I turned 40 a few months ago, I realized that within the past year, the people who have come and gone in and out of my life are the right people.

I’m in the right alignment.

I learned so much from my experiences in the church, even if it was how not be in the right relationships with people. Even still, from when I was a newborn, being taken care of my godparents, until now with the people who I talk to almost on a daily basis–I was, and am, deeply loved.

And that’s why all those losses hurt for so long. I loved hard, and I was loved hard back.

Even if the dogma and doctrine that I follow has changed, and even if most of all the relationships I’ve had in my life had blown away in the winds of time, they don’t really ever go away. I’m left with the gifts of wisdom and love.

All those people, for better and for worse, helped shape who I am today. I’ve been transformed by their love and care.

And I’m eternally grateful.

* These are pseudonyms to protect myself.

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we are in it

we are in it.

I created this image when I was feeling a little more hopeful about my life. But now, I feel just exhausted. I just wrote this post which details some of that exhaustion, and it kind of left off at some thoughts about faith.

First of all, Richard Rohr, OFM is my favorite living Christian. Maybe he’s my favorite Christian of all time. If more Christians were like him, we’d live in a much better world. I feel like the contemplative realm of Christianity is probably the best part of it. Anyway, Rohr’s writings really helped to shape my faith as a Christian, especially in his book, Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer. The book beautifully details about how joy and suffering both belong in our lives.

But let me focus on this quote and be a little astrological about it. As you probably know I am a Capricorn sun and rising/ascendant. That means upon first meeting me, you’re like. “Yep, total Capricorn.” And then, as you get to know me, you’d also realize that yes, she is a Capricorn: workhorse, kinda bossy, weird sense of humor, loyal, stubborn.

Although the rest of my chart has a lot of fire and some water, with a little bit of air, I’m pretty earthy. I need to see things. I want contracts signed. I want instant communication. I want to see it, right now.

It’s a human trait, and we all share it, but faith isn’t really like that.

Also being a Capricorn, I want to just do it myself. I’ll start the conversation. I’ll shoot my shot. I’ll convince you to do x. I’ll “push the river” as it were. And all of that is about control–I’ll control my outcomes. I want to be safe. I want to feel secure. I’ll make it happen. And so much of life contains people and circumstances that we cannot control.

This isn’t to say that faith is about passivity. This river has kinetic energy. It is moving. It’s just that I am not the one moving the river. It just goes. And there is support as I am going along with the river. I am in it. I don’t have to make sure the river was turned on before I get in my canoe.

But hey, faith ain’t easy, right? No, it’s not. It’s not meant to be easy. It’s work.  It’s dedication. Sometimes, there’s the gift of faith, where we just know things will work out. It’s usually something we can hold for other people.

But most of the time, it’s a moment-by-moment experience. Sometimes, you’re just in your canoe, paddling, enjoying the scenery. Other times, you’re just trying to hold on for dear life. Right now, I have to believe that I’m even in a canoe and not just being thrown around in the rapids.

And, this has been my life, in very dramatic ways. My life story has been conquering the impossible over and over. There has been so much triumph and success–most of it hard fought. But, as I said, I’m just exhausted. And I wish I had written this post when I was traversing calmer waters, buoyed by more hope.

But the river is flowing. I am in it. We are in it. I have to trust in new ways, for bigger things, for scarier things. I have to trust in this very extensive life transformation that’s happening. I have to believe that the healing is coming, that the healing is already here and is already happening. I have to really embrace with gratitude the small, everyday joys that come my way so that I don’t become frozen in jaded ingratitude.

I have to. I have to.

I’m going to end with this song that is going to be obscure to even most white evangelical Christians, but it sums up how I feel.  I may be a tough warrior, seemingly implacable and unflappable. But deep inside this armor…

“The Warrior Is a Child” is a song I grew up with (it’s from 1984), written and sung by a woman who has created a lot of Christian worship songs that people still sing today.  This is a more modern version of the song and aptly has images depicting Joan of Arc.

May you remember that you are in the river. We are in it.

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A Christmas lament

mother-son-1546365

Photo credit: Dindo Jimenez

I woke up early this morning, 6ish. I saw a Facebook post from a friend that she had posted 4 hours earlier (she lives on the West Coast) about the Coventry Carol’s meaning. Funny enough, she mentioned Annie Lennox, who is born on Christmas Day like I am. Lennox sings the song on her Christmas album.

 

And here are the lyrics

Lully, lullay, thou little tiny child,
Bye bye, lully, lullay.
Lully, lullay, thou little tiny child,
Bye bye, lully, lullay.

O sisters too, how may we do
For to preserve this day
This poor youngling for whom we sing,
“Bye bye, lully, lullay”?

Herod the king, in his raging,
Chargèd he hath this day
His men of might in his own sight
All young children to slay.

That woe is me, poor child, for thee
And ever mourn and may
For thy parting neither say nor sing,
“Bye bye, lully, lullay.”

 

My friend also just had a son this year, so I can imagine how she felt when she learned that this was a lullaby sung by the mothers to their sons who were to be killed. It’s a song I never really listened to or knew about fully.

Although historically, the Massacre of the Innocents was only found in the book of Matthew, and it’s disputed that Herod ever did such a thing, this carol seems to fit my mood–a lament. It’s a droning dirge over the way over my own life has gone, and over my country, and over the world.

There’s so much to ache over, to mourn, to yearn for, to repair, to bridge, and also to cast away.

I try to imagine how Jesus learned about this story, of him fleeing to Egypt with his parents, fleeing for his life (which is a little ironic since the Israelites had been there many years ago in captivity), all because some mad king wanted him dead. The weight of all those babies and toddlers, of all that grief, of all that death. How did Mary and/or Joseph tell him? How did he react? Did he remember coming back from Egypt? Did he remember Egypt at all?

I can’t imagine that Jesus didn’t think about the events of his birth during his life and ministry, of living under Roman occupation. I wonder if it haunted him, or disgusted him, or motivated him–or all of the above.

When I think about how American Christianity, evangelicalism especially, has made Jesus into an apolitical, cuddly bestie, instead of seeing him for who he was: a person born under distress, an early life in exile, and then a life under occupation; a man who saw his people treated like shit on a daily basis, a man who saw the religious leaders in cahoots with their occupiers…sound familiar?

The Coventry Carol reminds me of the contentious time that Jesus was born into, and the heavy calling that he embraced. Both were bloody. Neither were cuddly.

It reminds me of the times that we live in now, where people so casually and callously call for the oppression, deportation, and extermination of others, where we have elected a mad king, elected in part by most evangelicals who had their own “pro-life” agenda. They have their thirty pieces of silver.

So, as we wait for Light’s return with the Winter Solstice, and for the Advent of Christ’s birth, I think about how Jesus is probably one of the most misunderstood and underestimated people in human history.The followers and the followed do not resemble each other. It’s also a contemplation of my own relationship to the Church–status: it’s complicated–born of frustration, of bewilderment, of utter disgust, and of exhaustion.

I also think about the Jesus I encountered at age five. He is not convenient, nor moldable to my agendas. His tenderness is undergirded with fire, a fierce, unrelenting, inclusive love. And Herod knew it, and tried, in vain, to extinguish it with genocide.

How dare he come and bring the Kingdom of God to earth and usurp Herod’s throne. What a redemptive dare.

Christmastime is gilded and festooned with ribbons and wrapping paper. It’s dotted by the cheery eyes of children and punctuated with the contented sighs of full bellies. Even my tiny Grinch heart can’t help but expand a little at the pageantry, even without the added celebration of my own birth.

Yet I can feel something squirming underneath the tree, and dancing in the snow, and even pulsing under the crushing weight of stifling societal expectations. It’s humming in the air of the Christmas carols being sung and the prayers being offered up: the faint yet persistent idea that the Divine isn’t anything that can be boxed up or tied up with a big red bow or stuffed into a stocking.

It is costly and weighty. It is disarming, inconvenient, all-encompassing. It is meant to wreck your world. It is meant to right those eternal wrongs, to free you, and to help to see you, and others, in the peerless mirror of grace.

As you make your way through the gauntlet of the holiday season, may you encounter the Divine. May it wreck you. And as you offer up your own laments and prayers, and may you be seen and heard and loved for who you really are.

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woo (hoo) woo

Christianity SOM

This draft is from two years ago, an earlier version of my first post here, Woo fucking woo. I really like it. My writing was better back when I was closer to grad school. I didn’t edit it that much. This is really an introduction to my spiritual journey. At the time I wrote this, I wanted to talk about being in church again, but ironically, I left after joining it, just a few months later, so all my elation as well as the novelty, has worn off.

Please, blog gods and goddesses, forgive me. It’s been 18 months since my last blog post. The drama that I most feared found me. But at the very least, I learned that I was a writer, which was the point of the last blog.

So now, I’m back, to talk about spiritual stuff. Spiritual stuff is probably what I am made of most, and the last blog was veering into almost mysticism anyway. So I might as well pick up where I left off.

But first, a primer.

Before I decided that I wanted to get an MFA in Creative Writing, I was torn about going to seminary. I read a book by theologian Marcus Borg, called Reading the Bible Again for the First Time. I believe I was 30 and it just threw me for a loop. What seminarians learned in seminary and what I heard every Sunday seemed like they were located on different continents and hemispheres. So when I thought about going to seminary, I wanted to go to get that truth that had been hidden from me. I felt like I had been lied to my whole life. One thing that I learned from that book that still bothers me–maybe Jesus didn’t know he was the Son of God while he was on earth? What kind of faith did I have? What was it based on?

I read another book, Divided by Faith, written by two sociologists who surveyed many people regarding white evangelical Christianity. Those responses and their analysis of them reminded me that I was a black woman in a very white, white, white middle-class world. I had been trying to fit in my whole life and I was never met to. What kind of faith community did I have? Who was it comprised of?

Those two books, along with convos I had with a friend who studied theology, were my benediction out of the evangelical jungle and into the deserts of agnosticism. It was lonely out there without a church community, a community of any sort. I had grown up in Presbyterian churches, and then non-denominational/charismatic/evangelical churches. My closest friends were always friends from church, and because of the churches I attended, almost always white.

And I was burned out from church anyway. I served on the worship team. I sang and hit the tambourine on the 2 and 4. I was in a small group/home group/cell group. I went to church whenever it was open. When I was a teenager, my youth group was a sanctuary from the dysfunction brewed by my father’s growing mental health issues. But 12 years later, it had become a chore. Being with people who didn’t really see me, or who chose to see me with their colorblind eyes…trying to “do” community seemed to be my burden alone. And that sounds whiny, which was another reason to leave. Who wants to be a martyr? But truly, race kept creeping up in my relationships–e.g. got kicked out of a wedding party because I didn’t want to chemically alter my hair. And this white woman was marrying a black man. She now has a daughter and I wonder about the hair politics there…

But that’s evangelical Christianity. Very narrow, and not in the “narrow is the way to the Kingdom of Heaven” way. Narrow in its expression of humanity, of God Him/Herself. It’s what my parents found in Ghana while their country was hemorrhaging from coup and coup. And it’s what they taught me. It’s what we all knew and relied on.

I never thought that I would leave church and be dabbling into the things I’m into now. Astrology. Tarot. Crystals. Angels. Woo woo stuff. Or what haters of Harry Potter would call witchcraft.

And yet, Spirit. The Universe. God. Speaks.

I moved down to Florida to get this Mother Fucking Asshole degree and a writer’s community. Well, the drama from my classmates and my blog made that permanently unavailable. So much for dreams and being painfully honest.

I’ve floundered here. Emotionally. Physically. Financially. Never felt like I had a solid foundation here. Geographically speaking, it’s swampland that Mickey Mouse built. It’s meant for transience.

My mom, who believes the church solves all problems, insisted that I found a church community here. And the churches here, in the South–well, I’m from the South. This ain’t Chicago. I didn’t want to live Divided by Faith. I would rather be alone.

Through my floundering, spirituality washed ashore. I got into personal growth stuff pretty deeply in the summer and fall of 2013. And it just increased (I’m skimming over this because I hope to write about it in more detail later) as my problems (read: poverty and unpopularity) increased.

Renewed faith in a higher power is nothing new for me. I had to (had to?) rely on God when I unceremoniously took a year off between high school and college because of my father’s paranoia. Lots of prayer, books, TBN (yes, that’s Trinity Broadcasting Network), and well, eight years later, I graduated from college.

Wow, that was a long preamble to what happened today–

I went back to church, after years of now being there. And today made me tired. I want to talk about it in earnest, with a less foggy head.

This blog post is the first pancake and I’m sorry.

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