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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friends for all seasons

friendship ali SOMThis dovetails a bit from the last blog post I’ve written, but this is less about awful housemates I can’t currently escape and more about the people I choose to spend my time with.

Friends have meant so much to me. I’ve grown up to value them even over family (more out of necessity). I’ve read plenty of books on friendship.

But as I grow older, I’m starting to see how I need to redefine what friendships and relationships mean to me–and to be more flexible as life changes us all.

The Marriage Plot

While I was away adventuring and examining a new place to live–which you can read about if you’re a patron of my blog at Patreon–I had a conversation with my friend about the limits of relationships, about how American culture has made marriage to be this panacea for all emotional fulfillment. “Leave and cleave” is the evangelical phrase that I grew up with.

You drop all your friends except the married ones, and your spouse is your best friend. I’m not against the latter (even if I don’t find it to be necessary), but I am against the former.

While I was in church, I remember two friendships with fellow musicians, both men, that ended up with jealous spouses. And I understand the jealousy–it’s what we’ve all been taught. As a woman, you should be the only person to satisfy every need your husband has.

And that’s setting up everyone for failure.

I’ve grown to realize that we can’t really fulfill every emotional desire for our partners. It’s a lot of unnatural, ungodly pressure to glorify a human being like this. On top of this, shouldn’t we be personally responsible for our own happiness and fulfillment?

Our Blessed Multifacetedness

I do hope if and when I marry that my spouse has his own friends, of all genders. It’s not to say I’d transcend jealousy, but people are so multi-faceted, and we’re only going to get some of their natural glimmer. Other people will shine through and catch different sides, bringing out sides that no one else can.

There’s an oft-quoted passage of some book or essay about the friendship of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S Lewis, where one of them remarked about how they loved when other people joined them for conversation, because they could experience other sides of the person that they couldn’t necessarily bring out. I believe there was something about how the other laughed differently around other friends.

It’s a loving tribute to friendship, and it shows how secure that person feels. They don’t feel responsible to be that 360-light that can shine through their friend completely. They take joy in knowing their friend differently through the eyes of other people.

Really Knowing People

One thing that’s been coming up for me is how I treat my friends. Lately, we’re all running in similar circles, and in spiritual circles, usually you’re talking about heavy stuff.

I’ve been going through heavy things, and I’m glad to have friends that have been able to bear my burdens. I sometimes tire of talking of the same struggles over and over. It ends up being this script that I blindly follow and have memorized–I’ll show my wounds and you show me yours.

How I’m wired (which I just mistyped as weird), I like going deep with people. But I really can’t do that with everyone. There are definitely people in my life where we keep it light and laugh (yet it’s not that I don’t keep it light and laugh with closer friends, either).

The problem is when I go with that script of sharing burdens, and the script is flipped to sharing about other things, sometimes I stumble in not seeing my friend as a whole, complex person.

Recently, I had one of those moments where I was conversing with a friend, and I really wasn’t hearing what they were really saying.  It was turning into a conversation about differing ideologies and where we were on different parts of our life journeys.

The important part of the conversation was that this was more of a very strongly worded treatise of how this person saw life and themselves. Granted, it’s not one I fully agree with for a number of reasons, but the conversation would have been a lot shorter and more meaningful if I had just acknowledged where they were–which is really all they wanted.

Of course, people don’t ever outright say, “Please acknowledge me where I am on my journey.” But I’m old enough and wise enough to see when that’s necessary. I only wish I had recognized this plea sooner than later. But I had been so used to talking about certain things…when the script was flipped, I lost my footing.

Sometimes, it’s really not about being right, but about being a good listener.

An Old Capricorn Habit

This year, I’ve really had to learn how to hold my tongue and listen more. I’m so exuberant with my support and my advice, it’s like tsunami waves. Most people don’t want or need that sort of torrential support.

I’ve gone through a lot of hard stuff in my life, so I’ve gleaned a lot of wisdom, a lot of it seemingly beyond my years. And the knee-jerk advice-giving that I tend to give is usually spot on.

But. If the person isn’t ready to hear what you have to say, it’s something I must acknowledge.

What most people want is to be fully seen and heard. Recently, I even looked up articles on how to be a good friend without dumping loads of unsolicited advice.

Maybe it’s a little scary to just let someone’s words of heartache, confusion, anger, or sorrow just wash over you. Of course, if you care about your friend, you want lessen their suffering.

If you just listen, are you doing enough? Sometimes, it doesn’t feel like it. You see your friend going down a familiar road of heartbreak, and you can only offer that you’ll be here for them.

We can only be responsible for our own personal journeys.

We can walk alongside people through certain parts of their lives, which is always a privilege, not a right. But ultimately, we can’t make people take the steps towards their own salvation.

We can share our own stories. We can offer support. We can empathize. We can ask how we can be of help. We can even ask if we can offer some advice.

But that’s about it.

And this is the gift of healthy boundaries. We can be full of compassion while we understand where the other person ends and where we begin.

The Magic Eye of Friendship

I have this point, where if I’m about six months into anything, I’ll start to really see someone, or a job, or a living situation, for what it is. Sometimes it takes longer, but the truth of things start to comes out.

Usually after this six-month period, the gossamer gauze of perfection fades as reality comes to the fore. And then I see how I haven’t really see this entity in its entirety. I see how I may have glorified it and put it on a pedestal.

Now the imperfections are sometimes ones that I can’t really justify in even tolerating, let alone accepting. I had bent my neck up too high, lost in the glare in the limelight of idolization.

When I start to look through my relationships, like it’s some magic eye picture, and the real image of how things are starts to emerge.

So many times, I don’t like what I see.

I’m learning how intolerant I am, but also how far I’ve come in my own journey of maturation. And this goes back to the idea of using the same ole scripts with friends. We’re all evolving and learning, and there’s a dynamism that I forget about.

And maybe because this is something I’ve been learning to do with myself, one lesson I’m learning is to integrate these disparate parts and learning to love them–if I can.

Another lesson would be to start seeing people, places, and things as they are, without the gloss of forlorn hopes and the dross of desperate dreams.

You have a misunderstanding, or a debate that goes on far too long–and it’s not even what’s being discussed, but how. There’s a condescending tone, or there’s an intransigence, or a lack of grace. Or the person is manipulative or downright mean.

So a couple of questions will arise, mainly: Do I like what I’m seeing here about this person, or do I like myself when I’m with this person?

All Kinds of Friends for All Kinds of Seasons

People are complicated. We’re all carrying things that we don’t like to even acknowledge, but then those unspoken things influence how we see ourselves and each other. Some of those things fit like codependent LEGO blocks. Sometimes their jut out like spikes on a tire. And sometimes, they don’t bother us at all.

Not everyone can be our besties. Not everyone will ever earn the right to know us deeply.

And that’s OK.

We have friends we just do things with. We have friends we can call at 3am in the morning when disaster has struck. We have friends we bare our souls to. We have friends we just shoot the shit with.

We have friends who are drinking buddies, travel buddies, fellow parents, colleagues…

I still love the MySpace term, “activity partner.”

One thing that has been so tough for me to learn, as someone who is practically an open book is that not everyone should read my story; and that I also won’t be able to read everyone’s story.

Going slowly with people, letting them reveal themselves to me…to savor the unfolding of the unread pages and chapters…it really engenders real, well-earned trust–on both sides.

I shouldn’t ever rush this process, because I may skip over things that I should have seen earlier.

Again, that reveal may uncover some non-negotiable traits. We may have to walk back or away from each other.

And that’s OK.

We can respectfully adjust our expectations and boundaries, but that usually involves a level of detachment that I sometimes still struggle with.

Open Hands

Whomever comes in my life now, I try to hold with open hands. I can’t hold onto anyone, and no one can hold onto me.

Life happens, so often. Our journeys switch gears and routes and focus. We change. Our desires change.

But the beauty of how we’re all different means that there are so many ways to be friends, to love each other, to be there for each other.

I don’t have to aim for intimacy every time.

But I can always aim to be kind, to be a good listener, and to make sure I leave people better than how I found them.

Redefining My Priorities

As I learn how to become more healthily detached from people, places, and things, I’m starting to place friendship in a more sober-minded, less exalted place. Friends are important, but they aren’t my panacea for my life’s issues.

This has probably come a deeper sense of self-reliance. I’ve been in a place of forced solitude since I work from home and currently don’t have extra funds to go out.

I’ve also learned to lean on my spiritual support team–which involves entities like angels and guides–tireless beings who are always here for me. I could always lean on them more.

Even though I may only have a few close friends, I feel encouraged to expand who I’m friends with and to keep a looser, open hand.

I want to see people eye-to-eye: not as people to be worshipped because I have some sick friend crush on them; or people to be disdained because they don’t meet my friendship needs.

The equanimity and blessed diversity of friendship.

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

If you want to give a one-time gift or monthly gift, hit me up on Paypal.

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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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