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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an ode to OK Computer

thomas hardy

In the next World War
In a jackknifed juggernaut
I am born again

–lyrics from the song, “Airbag” by Radiohead

Those are the beginning lyrics of “Airbag,” the first song on the album that changed my life, OK Computer, Radiohead’s third album. It was released on June 16, 1997 (it’s a Gemini!). The 20th anniversary re-issue, OKNOTOK, was released on June 22nd (it’s a Cancer–how nostalgic!), so a few days ago.

I thought I was going to go on and on about this album–and maybe I still will. 1997 was the first year of college for me, after waiting a year to go to college. The TL;DR version of that gap year is that my father was suffering from paranoid delusions about financial aid forms so I waited and prayed and then, miraculously, he changed his mind. It was a year marked with depression and weight loss and anger and sorrow. I somehow hadn’t heard of this album yet, though, even though I was ardently listening to alternative radio. But this is not a radio friendly album.

How I heard about OK Computer was when I went to college in Chicago. One of my fellow dormmates, Anne, a tall, kinda wild girl from D.C., loaned me the album. And this being 1997, this is the time of cassette tapes still, so I recorded the album onto a cassette. OK Computer was a part of my freshman year soundtrack.

As a musician, I wasn’t really listening to the lyrics of paranoia and alienation. But I was really relating to these themes, especially alienation, on a soul level. There was at least someone else in the world who could see that the world was kinda fucked up and wasn’t afraid to talk about it.

Speaking of kinda fucked up and alienation on a soul level–that was me, in college. Although I had some altogether sane, healthy relationships, I did have a kinda fucked up best friendship with this kid from New York–I’d venture to say it was probably my first real relationship with a guy, even though it was 99% platonic.

It’s taken so many years for me to really see this relationship for what it was–I had idealized and idolized it so much, because this atheist dude had rocked my little evangelical world.

Still, we were both probably fucked up on depression and brutally took it out on each other (IMO, him more than me). But hey, I made the Dean’s List that year, all while I was sleeping my way through it (according to my first year roommate).

But OK Computer wasn’t necessarily about all of that for me, the glories and the horrors of dealing with clinical depression in college while my family was being eaten alive by my father’s bipolar disorder and subsequent incarceration.

It was really about a sonic escape. It was so future-forward and prescient–the same issues and fears about technology that Yorke beautifully sings about are ones we’re currently battling right now. It was also a really good read on what was going on in our society at the time.

It’s funny, too, because the late 90s had all this hope for the future–except Jamiroquai’s “Virtual Insanity”–I’m posting the video here because it was so innovative at the time:

Maybe the Brits knew something that we Yanks didn’t?

From that album on, I was a devoted Radiohead fan. I have seen them twice in concert–once in downtown Chicago and once in Wisconsin. Both times involved me being super hot and possibly dehydrated, being outdoors, with friends, being young. Twenty years later, Radiohead is all married with kids–and I’m in some weird life holding pattern. They were in their mid-20s in the late 90s. I just feel old typing about it.

With it being Cancer season, it’s easy for me to get lost in these large, warm waves of nostalgia, which now push me on the shores of late 2000, after I was out of college because my parents couldn’t pay my tuition and I think my father was in prison at this point.

I was at this church that was probably the closest thing to a real, ideal Christian community of my own imagination–full of art, music, and people on the fringes of society (OK, in retrospect, most of these folks are middle-class white folks, but their aesthetic was mine at the time–wearing thrift store clothing and retro sneakers, listening to 7″ vinyl aka hipsterish).

And there was a boy, a guitarist and photographer, J–either a Virgo or a Libra, and I can’t remember because we didn’t stay together long enough for us for me to remember his birthday. He was a couple of years older than me, this tall, slim kid from outside of Detroit. Just like the church, he was the closest thing to the real, ideal man of my own imagination. Even though there are so many details that I can’t remember as to why I felt like he was a paragon partner, but there was telepathy, there was real feeling, there was real love, however brief and intense, and there was Radiohead.

This guy was proto-hipster, listening to so much vinyl, listening to stuff from the 70s, and he felt our musical tastes only connected on major streets, like Milwaukee and North Ave and Damen. I still liked Creed at the time, unabashedly.

We had our favorite OK Computer songs, “Let Down” (mine) and “No Surprises” (his). He dubbed so many albums for me on cassette with his almost graffiti tag-like handwriting, including a mixtape that was definitely devoted to me. I still have it somewhere…It’s how I got into Slowdive.

One evening, he came over to my apartment and we were watching the documentary based on the tour for OK Computer, Meeting People Is Easy. We sat next to each other on the couch, and I was trying to watch the TV. I don’t know how far into the documentary we got–not very, maybe like 30 minutes in, but eventually he was staring at me with his wide blue eyes, eyes that seemed to take so much of the world in…

He said something like, “I’m a little too distracted to watch this.”  If he is a Libra, then he said it that seductive, Libra way that makes it hard to resist, that made it all about me.

Incredibly flattered (shit, I’m still flattered that I can be a distraction), I gave him a sidelong look back with a smile and walked him back to my bedroom.

My memory gets hazy here, because this may have been the night he told me he loved me. Let’s pretend it is, because he wasn’t over much. I came to his place more often.

I had leftover Christmas lights from college, multi-colored ones. Those were the only ones on, and they were strewn on my desk. It left my small bedroom with a full-sized bed–my first real mattress that I had bought months earlier–awash in a warm, pinked light. We were lying on my bed and I don’t remember how love came up.

“I love you,” he said.

“I love you wholly,” I replied (yes, I was trying to one-up him, or at least be like–yeah yeah, I believe this, for real).

It had only been a week together, and then three weeks later, we broke up, on that same bed. He told me that being with me was like being on drugs. Again, I am flattered, but this is part of the reason we broke up. He didn’t think we didn’t had enough in common.

His BFF actually called me later to tell me that he thinks he was scared. I think he also wanted to affirmed that whatever had happened was real. that we weren’t on drugs. There were so many people rooting for us…

I tried to get him back once, in a letter where I only remember typing “Perfect love casts out fear.” He responded that he was “cold and locked up inside.” I wrote my first real poem after that.

“…and I am locked up right there with him…”

Shortly after our breakup, but before 9/11, weary of living in the land of Pres. W., he left for Brazil to probably be a permanent ex-pat. A friend of mine, half-jokingly, said that he probably left the country because of me. We only got back in touch one or two other times via email some time later.

Maybe now we could be friends, but I can only imagine, after how many hims and mes that we’ve become and thrown away–would we even recognize who we are now?

I am fine to leave us in my bedroom in Logan Square, swimming in pink light and tipsy on new love: frozen in time, as first love should be.

Maybe back then, I would have used the lyrics from the last song of OK Computer, “The Tourist” when we said those defining words to each other:

Hey man, slow down, slow down
Idiot, slow down, slow down

He did try to pump the brakes, because our short love affair was two parts–two weeks of passion and two weeks of silence. But we were already lost…

Because of the rapid speed, it was a love I questioned, out loud, to an older friend, who said–hey, if you’re feeling it, then it’s real.

Either way, there are no regrets. If love is there, you take it–especially when you’re feeling so out of orbit, so out of sync. For a brief but memorable moment, he was the square hole to my square peg.

And from the day I met him until the day I die, that will always mean something, because life can be so hard and lonely. For all of that, I will always be grateful: for the respite, for the adoration, for the passion, and for the music.

OK Computer definitely punctuated a large chunk of my forays into adulthood, and in love. I know it was a defining album for a band who so wanted to get away from the song, “Creep” from their first album, Pablo Honey.

Radiohead allowed me to be not only oh-so-cool and in love, but also curious and a little afraid of what’s happening to humanity. For all of that, I will always be grateful.

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break

breaking

When everything falls apart, it is a good sign that everything is about to come together.

from Write It Down, Make It Happen by Henriette Anne Klauser

It’s been said that you should write from your scars, not from your wounds. Welp, this is a wound with a scab forming, and I don’t have time to wait for this to scar over.

Earlier this morning, after tossing some trash in the outside garbage bin, I walked down my now bare driveway and went to the mailbox–something I used to do every day before my car was taken back by the car lender. It was a daily way for me to stretch my legs which doesn’t happen enough for me as a writer.

It’s been raining almost daily. It’s rainy season in Florida and we desperately need the rain since we’ve had a severe drought and subsequent brush fires for months. Usually, the weather wouldn’t deter me from my daily little walk. But I haven’t been interested in getting the mail. Maybe it’s because I’m still little heartbroken.

Although the mailbox was closed, the mail was damp from all the humidity, which can reach full saturation (100%) especially in the mornings. One of the letters I received was from my now former awful car lender, telling me how much I still owe after the car was auctioned off. The amount is basically the interest of a high-interest loan, which would have been OK 9 months ago when I was working a full-time job with an employer. But that four-figure now just another drop in the ocean of debt that doesn’t even reach my shore much anymore. I live in the small lagoon of survival now.

This car situation has been a tough one to overcome, and it’s not because I no longer have reliable transportation. Sure, part of it is the pride of being a self-sustaining adult and not being able to hold onto what seems to be a basic necessity in a city that has some godawful public transportation.

Admittedly, though, when this first happened, I felt some instant relief. I no longer have to deal with this money drain for a vehicle I used like maybe 5 times a month? Based on what I make now, I can be just fine as I build my freelance writing and editing business, even with the occasional Lyft ride.

Through another bill that I’m actually fighting since I was not driving the car, my toll transponder told me when my car was taken: early in the morning, in the 1 o’clock hour. That night, I actually slept so well–how ironic.

Also, I’ve been here before, 2 years ago when I was teaching and making even less than what I make now. I could take as a moral issue in one of two ways. The first is a (self-)judgmental, (self-)blaming route–how can you have this happen to you again? You’re irresponsible with your money. The other route is just seeing the larger landscape of where I live right now. I’ve done the best I can in a shitty job market and lower income people are routinely taken advantage of. I’ll take route #2, because route #1 is a well-worn path that doesn’t head anywhere except to more heartache.

The heartbreak isn’t over the car, per se, but what my cries for help represent to me–only three people helped me: a total stranger and two friends.

My cries for help went unheard and unheeded.

There are so many reasons why: race, gender, the lack of a cult of personality online, the bootstrap mentality that isn’t applied equally. Not really here to dive into all of that, into the politics of what gets funded and why.

I’m also not here to make this about abundance, prosperity, believing enough (or not), manifestation, or any other things that many times just seem like American capitalism dressed up in spiritual garb, but has no semblance of compassion or empathy.

Over a month later, there’s quite a lot of resentment that I have to burn off or hand off to the Universe. As I try to gain a better perspective, I am accepting what is.

Simply put: no one likes being inconvenienced. That’s the ethos of America. It’s the heart of innovation, but it’s also the heart of our mores and social structure. It’s the mentality that tells you that asking for help is some sort of entitlement. Even the way Social Security is framed is as an entitlement vs. an investment that people make so that they had some income for their twilight years. How dare you ask for help for your basic needs! You should just get a job (or else you’re clearly just lazy and want a handout). There’s someone in the current administration who said just that about Medicaid recipients, millions of those being children. It’s a pervasive mindset, no matter your political leanings or religious beliefs.

What has been really hard but necessary to do is to not make this seeming failure be about me or my worth as a human being. Even knowing that culturally, there’s still a lot of shame in asking for help, this still stings, a lot. I’ve been helped in the past, so why am I feeling abandoned now?

How this all happened still marvels me, which makes me believe that something bigger is going on.

At the time I started to think about writing this particular post, I felt very broken. There are still parts of me that feel very shattered and irreplaceable. I was concerned that I was depressed–and if I was/am depressed, then of course, it makes sense after such a loss like losing reliable transportation.

Nothing seems to be going right and things seem to get worse as I spiritually grow leaps and bounds. There are synchronicities all over the place. I know that Spirit is moving in my life–and maybe it’s because of the destruction left in its wake.

Then I remembered a book that I read, Write It Down, Make It Happen by Henriette Anne Klauser (yes, it’s basically a book about manifestation–but there’s nothing wrong with writing down what you want and need and leaving it up to the Universe how it provides those things to do).

Klauser has a chapter aptly called, “Handling Breakdown.” It basically talks about how things may have manifested in a way you weren’t expecting; or, if your desires haven’t come to fruition yet, that you shouldn’t give up.

Two key quotes: “There is no failure, only a delay in results.” and  “There is no failure, only feedback.”

Why I remembered the book wasn’t for those quotes. It was because she talked about how when everything isn’t working out, that you are close to a breakthrough. She compared this to the process of childbirth, ten minutes before delivery which is called the “transition.” It’s the toughest part of labor.

I saw this happen recently with this reality TV star who filmed a special about her pregnancy. She wanted to have her baby at home, and while she was in labor, she hit a wall of exhaustion. She was just done, just through, no more. She got up to go to the bathroom, but before she and her midwives could leave to go to the hospital, she had the baby on the toilet!

So maybe I’m proverbially on the toilet right now, wanting to go to the hospital and have this baby of a profitable writer’s life. I know I need to keep pushing, even though I am exhausted.

So who is holding me up as I push? I do have a few good online friends that have been of great emotional support. But I have no one local like that in my life right now. Astrologically, I can easily blame this Pluto in Capricorn transit that is transforming me from the inside out, as it has run roughshod over my very essence and ethos.

This struggle is beyond the car now. Yet the car was a breaking point for me. Like what gives? I know I’m supposed to be a writer, to be a writer here. But I can’t connect to anyone permanently here. I lost my car twice. Grad school was a nightmare, so was life afterward. I’ve survived horrible living conditions–and I’m enduring one now. How many L’s can I take, and then take them like a champ?

What gives?

I’m not used to things being bad for this long, especially not with work. Eventually, I find the community, I find the better job, it all comes together. To have the reverse Midas touch is not my style. I always find help. I always Mentos commercial or MacGyver my way out of shit.

I’m super can-do-without-you, and that’s by necessity. For better and for worse, I grew up highly resilient, priding myself in not needing others. I’ve been humbled since I moved down here in 2012, realizing how I can’t be who I need to be without some help. And, for the most part, I’m actually quite OK with asking for help now, even as I face the fear of rejection.

So rejection has come and I am starting to be able to accept what is–I don’t really have the supportive community I need, not yet. I can also see the thin yet gleaming silver lining of this tough circumstance–I’m saving hundreds of dollars.

That brings me back to the spiritual support that I need to access. Yes, the loss of my car brought me to my knees. It was sad to repeat a loss like this, thinking that I would be better off this time around. Can I rejoice and be happy like Klauser says? Can I “count it all joy” like the writer James of the New Testament? Can I be grateful for my faith being tested and producing patience?

It’s really like holding onto a seedling, knowing one day it will be a tall tree. Depending on the day, the hour, the minute, I can hold onto this tiny hope or I can drop it and drown in despair.

At least in the spirit realm, I’m not alone.

My cries for help were heard. I matter. To be able to really believe all of that, in the face of disappointment, of loneliness, of heartbreak–emotions I’ve felt often in my life–it takes some faith, faith at times I don’t have or want to conjure up, faith that something new is breaking through, something better that I could ever imagine.

So I have two choices. I either keep playing this shitty game of Tetris where I feel like none of the blocks are clearing, or I quit the game altogether.

The latter doesn’t even feel like a choice, so game on.

If you liked what you’ve read, I’d love your support as a patron on Patreon. Tiers starts at just $1/month. 

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