Well, I had yet another crappy summer. Even as I type, I feel very weary of writing about this topic of loss again…but I always feel like I gain new insights.
Ever since I was about 16 or so, I haven’t really had the best summers. That first bad summer, my mom went to Ghana for the first time since she had immigrated to the States. But that meant my summer trip with my youth group was scuttled–even though I had planned that way before she thought of her trip.
Her trip was about six weeks long. Mine would have been two. I didn’t think my dad and brother would have been helpless without either of us. But I remember the one time I went to the grocery store by myself–that was the only real thing I did to keep the family going, something my father could have easily done.
I basically had fallen into the role of eldest daughter in an African family. I was the de facto matriarch of the family without any of the benefits. I wouldn’t learn of these expectations until last Mother’s Day when someone tweeted Happy Mother’s Day to women like me.
And almost 25 years later, that still stings mainly because I didn’t know of the cultural expectations that had been placed on me. And, well, as much therapy and time have done to heal a lot of the wounds that come with having two narcissistic parents, there are moments when you can see how your trajectory was thwarted–even if it was for some trip so you could spend time with your beloved youth pastor before he moved away to Virginia.
As I grew up, there seemed to be less and less time and space for fun, for just taking an unrestricted breath.
This summer, even though my life has been circumscribed by not having enough to even go to the movies or strike out to meet new friends, I really wanted to have a great summer.
I burned candles during the Summer Solstice and the full moon in Capricorn.
The evil roommate finally left.
I had found a pretty good business coach to barter my writing services for her coaching services.
I had picked up extra work from a client.
A marketing agency found me to do some work at a price that I set.
I met some new interesting people online, including some foreign guy that I had a crackling month with.
I ghostwrote an op-ed and got paid really well for it.
I had started to consistently reach out to businesses and organizations for my work.
And then things started to unravel.
I lost that client I had extra work from.
I had to fire another client because they didn’t respect the value of my work.
That guy and I parted way in a really ugly, dramatic fashion.
Prospecting clients hasn’t netted anything yet.
The marketing agency respected my rate so much, they decided not to give me work this month based on a lower rate. But that also meant no work this month.
Summer is my favorite season, yet it often seems to be tinged with disappointment and loss, to the point I’m just glad it’s all over.
I live in a state where even being out in summer is just too hot. I didn’t really go out and do anything fun–nor did I have the money to do so.
At this point, I’m just fortunate to have a roof over my head, and I am grateful for that.
I am grateful that for most of the summer, it was peaceful living here.
So now, it is autumn, which doesn’t mean much right now in Florida except right now, there are a lot of lovebugs, which means if you have a car, your paint job is being pummeled by this acidic, horny bastards.
They’re all on my window, mostly in their butt-to-butt mating pairs. Or, they’re flying the air in hordes.
I didn’t think asking for a good summer was such a big ask, but apparently it was. The real good that came out of it wasn’t what I asked for–per usual.
What I have wanted more than financial support was consistent emotional support. So when I don’t get that, it makes me wonder, even just for a second, is something wrong with me? Why can’t I have good friends like I’ve had before? Why is addressing my pain seemingly like a bother to other people when I show up and check in on them?
It’s just like that unknown yet demanded expectation of being an eldest daughter in an African family. People rely on you to be there for them–because you’re so good at truly caring for them. But they don’t necessarily care about how you’re doing, or at least in the same capacity and intensity.
It’s a way that The Golden Rule seems to backfire. It’s not done out of anger or malice. It’s an oversight, a backhanded compliment to your resilience.
But there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be recognized and appreciated for you who are.
And what looms larger is that was my desire when I came to grad school, a desire unfulfilled and smeared with betrayal. I had wanted to find my people, but I found a long, mostly solitary, spiritual journey of transformation instead.
I keep looking back at my journey, just in Florida, and cringing. Even though I know so much has changed in my character for the better, it’s like being a piece of marble, chipped and chiseled away. I can’t see what’s going on, just pieces of marble flying off and away.
The thing is, I’m not festering in pain right now. I feel rather solid, which is in deep contrast to how I felt just two weeks ago–alone, frightened, and frustrated.
I felt great firing that client, even though it took a big leap of faith to say yes to my work’s value–and my value.
The ache that is here and now is how do I make sense of the past six years? What are the other stories, the redemptive threads, I’m not seeing?
And then even going further back to my 1995–how can I redeem that time, too? What is the bigger story that isn’t marred with hurt, anguish, looming depression, and disappointment?
Sure, there’s some societal pressure to put some big red bow on this harrowing story of mine. But as I’ve been kind of moaning about for the past few weeks and months, I want the story to change, too.
I wish there was comfort knowing that, as much shame and anguish that I feel, I should also be feeling proud of my countless feats of survival. And I do.
Part of that change in my story is continuing to let things hurt so I can heal. I can’t speed past this part–where I have to, primarily alone, deal with and accept all that has happened.
Grief takes as long as it takes.
But just when I think I’m OK, I get pulled back into the past.
Last week, I was talking to an old online friend from my college days about how I was depressed back then, and I thought I was OK about how college turned out. But that still stings, too. It took eight years to finish.
I could focus on the ending, that I finished–as so many people want me to when I tell this story. The story is definitely one of ultimate triumph. But again, like grad school, I was looking for my people–and I had actually found them this time.
But due to nonpayment of my tuition (because my family’s financial and legal upheaval), I wasn’t allowed to return for my senior year and lost pretty much all of my friends. And that’s the part that still hurts–not even the time that it took to finish.
The theme of connection and disconnection is a big one in my life, and I’m just exhausted. It really shouldn’t be this hard to connect to like-minded people, right?
So what’s next? Well, it’s not all doom and gloom. There’s a business opportunity that seems promising, but I don’t want to deal with the roller coaster of my hopes being raised and dashed.
Still, things are turning around? I guess?
Whatever happens, the burdens of misery and dread are now going to be laid down, that I can find some sort of empowerment in how I feel about my life, even if it feels like circumstances have continually clipped my wings.
So ultimately–this isn’t about money, and it never really has been. It’s been about people.
As we’re in Libra season now (Happy Fall or Spring!), I feel that pull to keep calling in my peeps. I have to remind myself that I haven’t changed so much that I don’t deserve real, tangible support.
It’s almost like being gaslit by life’s circumstances–if you don’t receive the things you need for an extended amount of time, you start to think you don’t deserve them.
When I was talking to that old friend about college, I was reminded of how supported I was, even in the darkest moments of my life as I suffered from clinical depression.
I’m sad I don’t have that sort of support now. It was support I took for granted.
Doing life by yourself isn’t how life is supposed to be lived, and yet that’s what’s happened for me for a good while now. And whether that’s made me a stronger person or not, I’ve lived off of veritable scraps and crumbs of human connection.
And that’s not a healthy diet.
So, as heavy as this hope is to find my people, I have to keep carrying it.
I must remind myself that although I’m highly resilient and adaptable, it’s OK to want to be around others even if I’m unable to be right now.
It’s OK to give voice to that grief, even if the grief is persistent, even if the grief rankles myself and anyone who reads this post.
It’s OK to keep trying to bravely and openly make sense of my life.
I have to remain positive that things will eventually work out, especially because the human brain attenuates to things that are bad because that’s a survival mechanism.
So if I have to fight my own biology and societal mores, just so I can find true joy and be at peace, then I will fight on.
I’ll end with this tweet from Dr. Elliot Adam, a tarot reader. It’s his tarot card of the day reading, about the Wheel of Fortune. He talks about how you should be in the inner hub of the wheel, where you are not as affected by the outer rim of life’s circumstances.
My hope is that in every blog post I’ve written here, in every conversation I’ve had, in every prayer I’m whispered or thought, in every meditation I’ve had, this has been a steady progression to the inner hub of life.
And as tired as I am of tending to my wounds, of even discussing my wounds, I am not my wounds. I am the person being healed.
So I had another shitty summer, but I am ready for the harvest and abundance of fall.
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