When news about Kobe Bryant’s death hit social media, like quite a few people, I just knew it was a hoax. I spent a few minutes outraged by the insensitivity of the internet before researching its legitimacy. I quickly found out that it was indeed not a hoax.
As I started grieving the loss of this beloved husband, dad, philanthropist, and decorated athlete, I almost immediately wanted answers to an array of questions.
Was it weather-related?
Who else was with him?
Was his family on that helicopter?
Where was he going?
How could this happen?
And as the details began to surface over the following 24 hours, I remember reading that he and 8 other people were on their way to a practice. I thought, “Practice? He was taking a helicopter ride to practice?”
I started to think about how much safer it would’ve been to just drive. Why would they do something so risky just to go to practice? It was just practice. A helicopter ride to practice? Was that really necessary?
The short answer is…yes.
Now, the Christian in me probably should have accepted that when God decides your work on Earth is done, He can call you home whether you and your family feel ready or not. The analytical side of me probably should have deduced that statistically there are more car crashes than helicopter crashes so just driving wouldn’t necessarily have saved their lives. However, my mind went in a very different direction.
I remember being a senior in high school myself while hearing television broadcasters and radio personalities talk about this kid from Philly going straight from high school into the NBA. This seventeen-year-old kid was just a few months older than I was. He was too young to sign the contract without his parents cosigning along with him, but what an amazing opportunity! This “kid” was about to embark on the journey of a lifetime.
Not only did this kid from Philly get drafted into the NBA before he was even old enough to vote or by a lottery ticket, he would go on to dominate the game. He racked up accolades ranging from scoring records to MVP titles. He was truly a legend, and when he retired after 20 years not just in the league but with the same team he was celebrated around the world.
This was an extraordinary man, who did extraordinary things, like take a helicopter to practice.
It was a reality check for me.
We spend our whole lives playing it small. We do what’s safe. We bet on the sure thing. We limit the chances we take. We live in a comfortable place, and while living a monotonous and mundane life, we wonder why some extraordinary opportunity hasn’t manifested itself yet.
SURPRISE! When you live an ordinary life, your life tends to be ordinary. However, when you live a legendary life you tend to do legendary things, like take a helicopter to practice. The fact that the first thing I thought about was how reckless of a decision it was to take a helicopter to practice is most certainly the reason that I’ll never be taking any helicopters to practice.
It’s also the reason I’ll never make a difference. I’ll never be great. I’ll never leave a mark or make an impact in the world. It’s the reason I’ll never ever ever be legendary to anyone…ever.
It’s said that great people do great things, as if the great things made the great person. What I realize is that the person was already great. They had greatness inside them, and they understood the importance of tapping into that potential. It gave them the encouragement to do great things. It motivated them to work hard, take risks, and be brave. The great things they did long before they were recognized as legendary is what got them recognized as one of the great ones. They’ve always needed the courage to do great things, before and even after becoming legends. Playing it safe and running away from risks is not how you change to world, or yourself for that matter. What most see as unnecessary to survive, the great see as very necessary to thrive.
The helicopter ride did end his life and the lives of others, but it did not end their legacies as we can clearly see. Taking risks and being willing be do extraordinary things are the imperative steps needed to find greatness.
I was embarrassed that I almost missed such an important lesson.
One night I was perusing the internet and came across a clip of an entertainer named Lizzo. She had just performed her song “Truth Hurts” at the BET awards and her performance was trending. I had never heard of this artist nor the song before this moment but decided I would give the video a few minutes of my time.
I was mesmerized by her performance. I started listening to some of her other songs and watching other performances she’d done and that’s when I decided…
I want to be fat like Lizzo.
Like most high school teenagers I thought I was fat and needed to lose weight. At 5’4” and 150 pounds, my doctor agreed with me. I was slightly overweight for my height, but even on my best day I could only get down to 145 pounds. I was very active. I watched what I ate, worked out regularly, and even participated in sports. However, I could break the overweight threshold.
After giving birth to my first child my weight struggles escalated. Now I struggled to maintain the 150 pounds I worked so diligently to hold onto in my youth. I tried to stay active and eat healthy but that decreased in consistency over time.
I’ve always had a passion for fitness. I went on to become a certified personal trainer and eventually obtained a degree in health and fitness. All it meant was I knew what to do and was qualified to help people do it. However, I continued to struggle with the goal of getting my own body weight in that healthy range.
I eventually left the fitness industry, gained about 50 pounds, and started living a very mundane and depressing life. I not only hated my poor health, I hated my job, I hated where I lived, I hated my boyfriend, and probably even hated myself. I knew that losing weight wasn’t going to solve all my problems, but looking in the mirror reminded me of the disarray my life was in. I hated it!
When my mom died, I resolutely decided to reclaim my life back. I dumped my boyfriend, lost the 50 pounds I’d gained, quit my job, reconnected with fitness personally and professionally, and even started teaching group fitness classes. I felt like things were looking up.
Four years later I found out I was pregnant with child number three and child number four. Just two months after giving birth to two beautiful baby girls, my boyfriend died suddenly.
Present day, I am 5’4” and 197 pounds. My cholesterol is high and my blood pressure is creeping up too. My knees ache constantly and my diet sucks. I’m exhausted constantly and I have two 3-year-olds to keep up with. Technically, I’ve always been fat, but now, I truly feel it.
Working in fitness for as long as I have, I’ve seen people in all shapes, sizes, and fitness levels. I used to admire the fit physique, the bikini body if you will. Now, I admire the fit lifestyle. I didn’t look at Lizzo and see a fat girl in little clothes. I didn’t see a big girl on stage in something she had no business wearing. I didn’t see another entertainer out here sexualizing herself for attention and sales.
I just saw a talented, hard-working woman pursuing her dream with all the vibrance and energy in the world. I saw a woman who clearly loves her craft and takes it seriously. I saw a woman that put effort and sweat into the preparation of her performances. I saw a woman that could’ve danced circles around me on any given day. This woman just so happens to also be fat. And when I saw her on stage dancing, singing, playing the flute, and loving every minute of it, I decided that if I’m always going to be fat anyway…
I want to be fat, just like Lizzo.
Let’s put a pin in that question for just a moment.
Imagine a young woman named Jane. Jane is single, works full time, and lives alone in an apartment about 20 minutes away from her job. She leads what would be considered a pretty normal life until one day...
Her apartment building catches fire. Jane cannot escape and dies in her 3rd floor apartment.
Most of us, whether we knew Jane personally or not, would feel some sort of sadness for the loss of life. What most of us would not feel is a disappointment that Jane didn’t try harder to save her own life.
But what if I told you that Jane’s death was caused by suicide? Would how you feel about her death change?
The fire that took Jane’s life was caused by her failed marriage, her disdain for her job, the passing of her sister, and her crippling financial debt.
The flames that engulfed her apartment were caused by her belief that she is hopeless, worthless, and alone.
If Jane stuck her head out of her 3rd floor apartment window and you could see her from the ground below, what would you say to her?
“Jane! What are you doing?
You’ve got choices! Use them!
Focus on the positive!
You have your whole life ahead of you!
It’s not that bad! Get out of there!”
Or would you say...
“OH MY GOD!!!
There’s someone up there!
We have to help them!
Don’t worry, Jane! Help is coming!”
Most of us would say the latter and spring into action. We wouldn’t use the situation to suggest how Jane should handle it. You don’t have to know what it feels like to be engulfed in flames to know that a person in that position needs help.
However, if you’ve ever approached a mental health crisis with constructive criticism, you are not alone. If fact, this blog post was prompted by my own psychotherapist addressing a recent mental health crisis in a similar manner. I went into my therapist’s office expressing some feelings that I was afraid would lead me into a depressive episode to which the therapist responded…
“You’ll be fine.”
She’s not even the first mental health professional to undermine my feelings of depression. It’s a very disheartening feeling to reach out for help and feel ignored. Sometimes what I think people miss is that a mental health crisis has little to do with feelings. By the time a person is contemplating suicide they have moved beyond feeling sad. Even a person abusing drugs and alcohol isn’t just trying to “feel better.” They are trying to stop the pain.
They don’t feel lonely. They are lonely. They don’t feel hopeless. They have no hope. Those feelings have shifted to a reality for them that is painful and unbearable, so to treat their reality like a fleeting emotion reinforces that they are indeed alone.
So, what would you say to a person contemplating suicide? Well, sometimes it not so much about what you would say and more about what you would do. What would you do to save their life?
Jane, just like anyone in a crisis, is in need of some serious and immediate help.
Wanting to help is the first and very important step. Understanding how to help can be what truly saves lives.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline - 1(800)273-8255
What Happens When You Call a Suicide Prevention Hotline
I saw a poster in the social security office recently with the phrase “Love Shouldn’t Hurt” on it. It was accompanied by contact information and literature for local organizations that help woman escape domestic violence. With domestic violence awareness month approaching, I felt compelled to write about this.
Now, if you read the title of this blog post and thought some variation of “what the fuck?” this post is not for you. Its contents will probably just piss you off more. Stop right here and save yourself the annoyance.
However, if you read the title and thought “really?” or maybe even “I knew he loved me!” then this, my friend, is for you.
Many years ago, I was returning home from a road trip. I knew that my boyfriend would still be at work when I got in. I decided to make a snack and take a shower before he came home. When I got out of the shower, I noticed the words “I Love You” were written on the steamy bathroom mirror. He must’ve come home early. I poked my head out the door and called his name. No answer. I called him louder, but still no answer. He indeed wasn’t home yet. When he got in, he explained that he wrote the love note after taking his shower that morning. He knew that when I came in to take my shower, I’d re-fog the mirror revealing the love note before we would even see each other. How romantic!
Fast forward a year later, I was eight and a half months pregnant with our son. My contractions started around 5am and by 7am they were stronger and exactly 10 minutes apart. I told my boyfriend it was time to go to the hospital. He responded by telling me he didn’t have time for some false labor bullshit, and if I expected him to drive me to the hospital, he was going to need some pussy first. I gave him some pussy, and he gave me a ride to the hospital.
So, who was he? Was he the charming and romantic man that left love notes on the bathroom mirror, or was he the psychotic fuck that demanded sex in exchange for a ride to the hospital? The answer – he was both.
I was in an abusive relationship. He was emotionally and verbally abusive. Most days I felt trapped and helpless. My depression was at its worst in that era of my life. However, I also felt hopeful. I hoped that one day the romantic version of him would be the only version of him I’d get.
People tried desperately to convince me that he didn’t love me. Why would he treat me poorly if he did? When you love something, you don’t abuse it. You treasure and respect it. Love doesn’t hurt. Love is beautiful and magical, and even when it isn’t, it certainly isn’t abusive!
But didn’t he love me? He would write me love notes. He took care of me. The way he held me on the couch while we watched television together, that meant nothing? You can’t fake that! The love he had for me was in there. I just had to figure out how to activate it. How do I activate his love – all the time, no matter what?
The truth was I had activated his love, and his love hurt.
He was abusive. He was abusive to me and even to himself. He wanted people to look at him and see an ambitious man with high self-esteem, but in reality, he was broken and full of rage. He was shown toxic forms of love and adopted toxic forms of love, so guess what? He gave toxic forms of love. That was his version of it. It was the reason he could share some of the most heartfelt sentiments with me and within hours tell me I was a filthy whore who deserved for my fiancée to die.
I spent so much time waiting to unveil that better version of him. I was waiting for the greatness I knew existed. I was waiting for him to truly love me. Eventually I came to the realization that he did truly love me. And it wasn’t until then, that I knew I had to leave him.
An abuser’s love is going to hurt. They don’t know how to love any other way. We can debate for the rest of our lives about whether it is real love or not. That doesn’t matter. What matters is you.
His love calls you disrespectful names.
His love keeps you away from family and friends.
His love blackens your eye.
His love pulled a gun on you.
His love slapped you in front of your children.
His love cheats on you, openly and frequently.
His love won’t allow you to grow and it’ll be damned if you shine.
What you must decide is do you want his love? If I told you that he loved you with all his heart, and his love will always abuse you, would you still want it?
Love shouldn’t hurt, but sometimes it does. With that said, love never has to hurt you.
“So Mrs. Porter, tell me about your son.”
My father’s long-time pastor needed to prepare the eulogy for his funeral and asked my grandmother for some treasured sentiments and memories to share with our family and loved ones. My grandmother had it pretty easy too. My dad left behind quite a legacy in his 47 years with us. He graduated from one of the best high schools in Baltimore City and went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Johns Hopkins University. He started a band along with his brother that played together for 30 years. He had three kids and three grandkids. We traveled for decades as a family visiting places like Mexico, Niagara Falls, and Hawaii. And when my father wasn’t participating in adult sport leagues, he was helping out as a team dad with my brother’s basketball leagues.
My grandmother was not short on material to be proud of when it came to my dad. She took a deep breath and said, “My son was a good boy. He wasn’t never arrested and wasn’t never on drugs.”
I sat there trying to process what kind of angry black woman my grandmother deserved to see from me. Before I could decide, my sister burst into tears, jumped from her seat, and ran into the kitchen. I followed her as well as a few other family members. We all knew what happened. My grandmother had just used this platform as an opportunity to take a dig at my mom’s family - one of my uncle’s was incarcerated and one was battling a drug addiction. But believe it or not, that was the mildest of the inappropriate shit she did during that excruciating week of planning my father’s funeral.
While my father’s siblings tried to diffuse the situation and brush it off as nothing, my father’s children were completely aware of where we stood in this family. My grandmother as well as most of them had officially freed themselves from the bondage that was us. The only reason we were even a thought during this time was because we were beneficiaries on the life insurance policy that was going to pay for this funeral. And when it was all said and done, they were done with us.
No regrets though. I never walked around crying because my family didn’t love me. In fact, I owned the idea that it was me that cut them off. I could have called them too, but I didn’t. It left me with a bit of dignity to feel like I had done that much for myself through so much pain, but of course no one else could see it that way.
From family to friends to associates, “But that’s your grandmother!” I didn’t care. I didn’t feel like I had a grandmother, and clearly she was fine without having me as a granddaughter. “But that’s your grandmother!” It was like an echo. It was like everyone was given the same script to read from.
“But that’s your grandmother!”
I get it. Where’s the loyalty? If I can cut off my grandmother, what kind of love could I possibly have for someone else? Do I even know what love is or what it’s supposed to look like? Do I understand loyalty and commitment? What is my relationship like with my own kids if my love is so fickle? Am I that fair-weather friend that nobody can really trust?
I felt the same way about all those people insisting that I should talk to my grandmother simply because she’s my grandmother. Do they know what loyalty is? Do they know what love looks like? Are they implying that I don’t deserve better than the shitty grandmother that has no compassionate to give nor teach me?
The truth was that I didn’t know what love was or what it looked like, but I wasn’t going to learn it from her either.
I remember visiting my old boyfriend’s aunts with him. They would ask him had he checked on his mother. No matter the answer, he was chastised for not being more attentive to his mom. “You need to be there for her. That’s your only mom. You only get one. You can’t neglect her.” I was very confused in the beginning. He talked to his mom every day on the phone and we would visit her about once a week. He seemed to have a good relationship with her. Was I missing something?
It wasn’t until later that I realized his mom had some extreme codependency issues and he had become the fall guy. If they could keep him feeling guilty and obligated, it wouldn’t be their problem.
He struggled with this because his mom battled drug addiction most of his life and even put him out of the house when he was 12-years-old. He spent so many years of his life, even as an adult, searching for a place that felt like home and a family that could give him that unconditional love he yearned for. So after being on his own for decades, to be told that his mother could abandon her only son but he was not allowed to do that same created an untamable demon that made love, intimacy, and connection damn near impossible.
“But that’s your mother!”
To all you people with nice mother’s and functional families, I say congratulations! I’m happy that you have a healthy, not perfect, relationship with your family. It’s amazing to experience love and compassion and to have a place to turn for a helping hand or a listening ear. It brings comfort to have a family that can come together in good times but can also weather any storm that comes your way. Family disputes are settled with same love and empathy that connects you. It’s absolutely beautiful.
For the rest of us…
Yes, that is your mother, father, sister, brother, grandmother, auntie, cousin, uncle, or whomever you need to insert in that spot. They are blood, and even if they aren’t, they have been there since the beginning. They are like family. They've seen the best of the best and been there for the worst of the worst.
And they are toxic.
They can’t teach you shit but how to attract more toxicity. They will trample your self-esteem and enjoy it. They will watch you fail and revel in it. They will sabotage you and beam over the victory. It’s ok to set boundaries. It’s ok to walk away. It’s ok to find peace. It’s ok to be ok.
And on my own journey to being ok, I often refer back to the mantra that got me here.
“My grandmother doesn’t love me. You think I give a fuck about how you feel?”
“I’ve been on her waiting list for months! How did you get in with her?”
When my therapist took me on as a client, she told me that she had a six-month waiting list. It’s not that I didn’t believe her. I just wondered who can wait six months for something like trauma therapy. However, she agreed to take me on as a client and I graciously accepted.
So how did I get an almost instant appointment with the highly sought-after CEO and trauma therapist, Dr. Kim? Well, it was a struggle!
When I first left Baltimore I knew I wanted to continue with therapy, but I had some other pressing issues to address first. After about three months I was ready to tackle my mental health. I called a few local counseling centers and asked for what I needed – a therapist who specialized in trauma that could see me on either Tuesday or Thursday from 9:30am to 10:30am. Most didn’t even call me back, but this one not only called me back, they said they had someone for me!
My new therapist was a white male in his early 20’s interning for the facility. Most people would’ve thought I was crazy for even agreeing to something like that. I was a 40-year old black woman with a child his age. I was seeking help with PTSD from child abuse, sexual assault, and domestic violence. What could this kid have to offer me on this journey?
The answer to that is...nothing! In fact, I started feeling more burned out during our four months together. I was tired and cranky from morning til night. I had insomnia. I would have dizzy spells throughout the day. I stopped sending weekly emails to my supporters, recording podcast episodes, and blogging. I even shut down my social media accounts. I would snap at my twins for the smallest infractions. I even gained 25 pounds in just three months. I felt even more disconnected than I did when I started.
Of course, I contemplated not going back week after week, but I really wanted to keep trying. Maybe there was a breakthrough coming. But alas, I accepted that it just wasn’t worth the effort. I needed to find a new therapist. Then, came the breakup.
I did express my concerns to him, and he asked for another opportunity to help. I agreed and we had our session as scheduled that day. When I left, I felt even more sure that he could not help me. I called a few therapists and even some support group coordinators in an effort to find an alternative to therapy during that week before our final appointment. Then, I went back to address him face to face and let him know I was ending my treatment. We shook hands and said our goodbyes.
I was scared shitless!!
I was actually in worse shape than when I started therapy. Not only was my PTSD still an issue, I was now burned out and feeling dejected. None of the other therapist were able to accommodate my schedule. If this was the only therapist in this small town that could take me, what was I going to do?
Just then, my prayers were answered! I found a company that had mobile therapists that come to the client's home for appointments and they took my insurance. I scheduled an appointment during the twins’ usual nap time and was ready!
By the second appointment, the therapist insisted on meeting the twins, told me that one of them appears to have autism, but not to worry, her company has some great resources for kiddos like her.
I was pissed beyond measure!
At this point I wasn’t sure what to do. I hadn’t given up on therapy as a modality for my healing, I just didn’t know where to turn. The very next day I received a call and voice mail message from a number I didn’t recognize. When I checked the voice mail it was the owner of the therapy place where I was seeing the intern. She wanted to talk to me about my experience with him.
I called her back for what I thought would be a very uncomfortable conversation, but she was very down-to-earth and kind, yet straight-forward. She was even from Baltimore as well! She offered a truly authentic apology for my experience with him. She also told me about her waiting list and her upcoming month-long trip out of the country but offered to see me during that same day and time if I was still looking for counseling services when she returned.
She has been absolutely phenomenal! And to think, had I not been willing to endure the struggle of telling my most shameful life details to some college kid, I would have been on a six-month waiting list too. Or worse, I could have been still sifting through shitty therapist.
How did I get in with her? Through the struggle! I wasn’t willing to accept the waiting list. The struggle is dirty and messy sometimes, but it could be the quickest way to what we need.
We often try to skip the struggle for a multitude of reasons. Most of them are pretty good! We don’t want heartache or disappointment. We don’t want to waste our time or any other resource. Shit, we just don’t want to struggle. All valid arguments, but the struggle is often the preparation. The journey isn’t easy nor is it gentle. The journey to greatness is full of bullshit and chaos. Parts of it can be relatively decent, but most of it is hard. It’s the struggle. Gear up, takes notes, and get messy. It’s worth it.
Yes, in that struggle I did land a pretty good therapist, but I also practiced standing up and advocating for myself. I practiced persistence and resilience. These are all things that get lost when you become a victim of abuse. I was able to practice some pretty important skills that aid in my healing and recovery while still getting what I needed in the end.
Don’t skip the struggle.
There are people that voted for Donald Trump in 2016 not because they are racist, but because they wanted something different. They were hoping to take this country in a different direction, and they felt Trump was the man to do it! He was going to run this country like a business - a thriving business - and that’s what they were signing up for.
However, his political business model was the exact reason I didn’t vote for him. We all know that businesses have target markets. Old Navy does not target the same market as Banana Republic. Lexus does not target the same market as Toyota. In both examples the brands are run by the same company, but the targets are different, and they don’t try to reach out to the others’ base. I knew this is where Trump was going with his politics. He was going to pander to his target audience and create division to keep them on board.
In actual business, this isn’t an immoral practice. Banana Republic not catering to lower income consumers doesn’t hurt anyone. If everyone in your community doesn’t have access to a Lexus, no one is going to die. However, if an elected official has decided that members of certain communities are not worth the time and effort it would take to assist them in surviving, that could be detrimental. The decisions they make and laws they pass will make a difference in the quality of life for those citizens.
But this has historically been America’s political model.
When the original rapists and murderers migrated to this country (Europe did not send its best to America), they betrayed the natives and stole the land from them. After executing this heinous act, they were ready to build this great country! Realizing this would be quite a task, the immigrants decided to travel to another country, kidnap a different race of people, bring them back to America, and enslave them.
This free labor helped these immigrants build massive amounts of wealth over centuries in this country. In my son’s high school U.S. History class where he was the only person of color, even he was able to recognize that abolishing slavery would have been devastating to the economy. Slavery was abolished, but oppression was still very much a common and enforced practice. Quite frankly, it was necessary for the political business model to work.
Let’s fast forward to today.
Think about how much money companies like Walmart and Amazon make a year. Imagine how much money they would make if they didn’t have to pay any of their employees.
Now, imagine how much money they would lose if they paid all their employees a livable wage.
It’s the political business model, folks! Somebody has to work these plantations. Somebody has to fill these for-profit prisons. Somebody has to graduate high school reading on a 3rd grade level, keeping them from attaining gainful employment, and somebody has to keep the cycle going by raising children in these same oppressive environments. When you voted to have this country run like a business, this is the business model you voted for.
I lived in Baltimore for almost four decades and spent a few of those years working for the city government. I have seen the political business model in action behind the scenes. There is city legislation that upholds the harassment of constituents with frivolous citations while refusing to fine or prosecute affluent property owners for their egregious city code violations.
I once talked to a Baltimore city high school sophomore that had never heard of a FAFSA and had no clue that colleges had dormitories on campus to house its students. I’ve even talked to a 3rd grader that wanted to be a news reporter so we discussed steps to becoming a journalist, only to have him return to me the next day to tell me his parent called me stupid for encouraging him to pursue such a dumb job. So please don’t tell me about life choices or equal opportunities either.
The political business model was built on oppression and that hasn’t changed. It just puzzles me that some people voted for this business-style of politics and still can’t recognize how well it’s going. These “crime-infested, drug-infested, rodent-infested” or whatever label you’d like to give these neighborhoods is 100% by design. It supports the model that keeps the upper echelon thriving.
Where is all that federal money going? It’s going to Canton. It’s going to Westport. It’s going to all those waterfront landscapes and similar prime real estate areas that will no longer be low income. They are getting it ready for the business model supporters that can also support the business model itself. The real question is where will all those families have to go?
It’s not corruption. It’s not even a failed government. It’s the Trump-style system that was voted for.
The month of July kicked my ass! Yes, my late boyfriend’s birthday is right at the beginning of the month and that possibly put me in a funk, but I haven’t been able to fully pull out of it. I’m feeling really burned out and I’m not sure when the recovery is coming.
When I’m feeling like I’m at my wits end I often think about my mom. I admired my mom’s strength growing up and thought that’s how I was supposed to be. My mom was resilient, tough, and didn’t take no shit! She wasn’t very cuddly or emotionally available but she was always ready for war. War could mean taking up for us at school or working overtime to cover unexpected expenses. Whatever it was, she was ready!
My mom was also fighting a war within herself. Her alcoholism wasn’t noticeable to me until the end of my Elementary school years. That is how I found out about her Bi-Polar disorder which explained a lot of her past behaviors for me. My mom held a job and attended church. She would receive awards for her performance on the job and was an amazing matriarch to our family, something I couldn’t really appreciate until she was gone. I think about everything my mother accomplished even with her mental illness and alcohol addiction and I can’t help but wonder…
What could she have done if she wasn’t broken?
Anything that’s broken doesn’t work as well as it could, even people. As I moved through my healing process with my grief counselor in 2017, I started to understand what those faulty ideals and defective practices create.
They create an inability to connect. A guard goes up to protect the person from more damage and make real emotional connections an impossibility, even with close family. Deep inside, the broken person knows they love their kids, their spouse, their siblings, but how to love them is a mystery. The right words and actions continue to elude them, and they implement the defective practices that push love away and draw in the negativity and more distance.
They create the darkest tomorrows. Something that’s broken doesn’t have a long-life expectancy. We are just waiting for the day that it will completely break, fail, or become obsolete. Broken people move through life with no sight of tomorrow. They are broken, and any day now they will no longer be able to fill in the blank. They lack the self-confidence to start healing and repairing themselves. They even lack the support system to help because they never had the ability to connect with others. They don’t have a where or a why for life. Their future looks bleak and they don’t even know what to do about it.
They create/cultivate a community of brokenness. Each one, teach one, right? Broken people live normal lives. They are active in church, they raise children, and they make friends. They influence the lives of others intentionally or unintentionally. Broken people often raise broken children. They have broken friends. They even pass their tainted ideals and flawed practices to the people they simply associate with. It’s not even malicious. Some of the ideals my mother passed onto me was to protect me, I’m sure. Be strong! Never need anyone for anything, and don’t let them see you crying! They will think you are weak! She meant well, but her ideals and practices still cultivated brokenness. Then I had my own kids…
I’ve found so much progress on my journey with therapy! Talking through my broken ideologies, understanding where they come from, and getting feedback on what it takes to eradicate them has been monumental. I’m able to see that I’m not actually broken. There is nothing defective about the person I am. That was something I believed for so long. I see that my home was broken and my way of seeing things was broken, but I have everything I need to fix it. This is why I’m really looking forward to starting therapy again this week because…
What could I do with my life, if I stopped being broken?
I’m excited to see.
"Why you always bringing up old shit?”
It’s the infamous line of every lame ass dude that doesn’t want to discuss his past indiscretions that led to the distrust and betrayal their partner is feeling. I know I’ve heard it quite a few times! In some cases, it could be a legitimate argument. How are we going to move forward if you keep bringing up the past? In some cases, it’s an attempt to avoid the past to keep from addressing it. Whether you bring it up or not, you are moving forward, but that “old shit” could be the determining factor in where you are headed.
I met with a therapist recently that felt like I was just bringing up old shit. I specifically said that I wanted to address the trauma in my past and she suggested I leave it in the past and worry more about the future. I totally disagreed. It’s the avoidance of my past that has had me traveling a path to nowhere pleasant. I need to address it.
However, I’ve heard differing professional opinions on this. Some feel like drudging up the past is an archaic method to healing from trauma, while others believe you must understand where you’ve been to truly understand where you are and where you want to go. Here is why I believe the latter.
My oldest son’s grades started to slip around middle school. I had the typical parent response of talking to him as well as his teachers about how to improve his grades. It didn’t help. By high school his grades were still pretty mediocre although he stood steadfast in his dream of becoming a medical doctor. I could see there was a disconnect but didn’t know how to get through to him. I talked to him repeatedly. I talked to his teacher. I offered to get him a tutor. I took away privileges. Nothing seemed to work.
It wasn’t until the second week of his senior year in high school that I decided to bring up some old shit.
I asked him if he remembered what he wanted to be before deciding to be a doctor. He looked like a deer in headlights. He didn’t even remember wanting to be anything before committing to being a doctor. Having that conversation with him helped him clear the fog and confidently find the path that not only led to success but, more importantly, happiness.
And that could not have been accomplished without bringing up old shit.
There are instances when misdiagnosing the past to understand your present can happen. However, understanding where you’ve been usually helps you understand where you are. It’s the equivalent of showing your work in a complex math equation. Looking back at your steps can often explain how you arrived at the wrong answer.
In grief counseling, my therapist called the final stage of grief the meaning-making stage. It sounded like bullshit until I got there. What does it mean? What does any of it mean? If it has no purpose, then it means you had a shitty life and you will probably continue to have the same. But if it has purpose, then your past will manifest something great. It will be a story of inspiration and not shame. It will be the type of story when people ask, “Why you bringing up old shit?” The reply will be…
“Because my come up is FIRE!!!”
I recently posted in a discussion forum to talk about this decision. I didn’t offer a whole lot of detail. Just that my boyfriend died, I went to counseling, and although I want to start dating again, I still don’t want to start having sex yet. I asked for opinions on the matter.
Boy, did they have opinions! Men and women alike were totally against it. I was told everything from I was acting childish to I was mentally unstable. The sentiments didn’t do anything but confirm that this is exactly the riff raff I’m trying to avoid when I start dating. Quite frankly, I have twin toddlers at home. I’m not trying to waste my time with anything that’s not high quality. Any man that gets the time I could be giving to my kids, has to be worth it!
However, the reason I chose celibacy at age 40 is a little deeper than just waiting for Mr. Right. I uncovered it in counseling and didn’t even discuss it with her. It actually made me feel a little shameful, but this is the real reason.
My first sexual assault/encounter was at age 11. It definitely did some damage to my already fragile self-esteem and the subsequent assaults by several different people didn’t help. It distorted my views on sex tremendously.
By high school, sex and relationships had nothing to do with each other. This belief got worse as I got older. I had numerous partners and didn’t care much. Sometimes, I wished I was deserving of love like normal people but tried to settle in the acceptance that I just wasn’t. I was in relationships where I got cheated on and I was in relationships where I was the cheater. I was in relationships where we both were the cheaters. I understood that cheating was supposed to be bad but deep down I couldn’t relate to why.
I have had my feeling hurt and my heart broken before, but I did my fair share of hurting people I claimed to love and care for. It often baffled me because men weren’t supposed to get hurt the way woman do, but apparently, they did. I watched a man I swore I was in love with cry his eyes out because I’d confessed to cheating…again. I promised I’d stop and once again, I lied.
Right before I met my late boyfriend, I decided that I was turning a new leaf. If I was going to enter into another relationship with anyone, I needed to be the woman we both deserved or not be in the relationship at all.
Meeting him was a love of first sight type thing and it startled me. I think it startled both of us. It took us eight months to get the nerve to speak to each other, and that nerve quickly escalated to sex – THAT SAME NIGHT! I was sure I’d jumped right back into my old ways. I was so disappointed because I felt something special in him from the moment I laid eyes on him. I knew I’d blown it!
Oh well. Whaddaya gonna do?
We did continue to hook up for the next few weeks until one day he called me and said something I found strange. He told me that he wanted to see me the next day as planned. However, he made it clear that we were not having sex. He wanted me to see that he was not just spending time with me for sex. I said alright.
We didn’t stop having sex altogether, just less often. He started to put more emphasis on his displays of affection when I saw him. He would invite me over for a dinner he’d prepared. He’d draw a bubble bath for me to soak in before going to bed at night. He’d pick up little gifts like flowers and teddy bears. He’d set lit candles upon the nightstand and play in my hair until I feel asleep in his arms.
It was all very nice. Most women would have been thrilled, but all I could think about was how extra he was being. All this really wasn’t necessary. We weren’t even a real couple yet. However, I went along with it. It seemed to make him happy and it wasn’t the worse thing he could be doing.
Once the relationship became official, it got worse! The gifts got more expensive and spontaneous. The gestures became more elaborate. He would open my car door for me even when I was the one driving! It felt so unnecessary, but he insisted so I didn’t complain.
Although we had our fair share of problems as a couple, cheating was never one of them and his displays of affection never faltered. He insisted on opening my car door and other acts of adoration until the day he died.
After he was gone, I obviously felt a huge void. However, I missed having sex with him too - him specifically. The thought of anyone else touching me ever again made me feel sick. I missed HIS touch. Somewhere inside, I felt like sex should be the last thing on my mind, but I couldn’t help it. I missed that part of him too.
As I moved through the grieving process with my therapist, I talked about the ups and downs of our relationship. I talked about all the bullshit he’d put me through and all the bullshit gestures he’d try to do to make up for it.
But the more I talked about it, the more I realized that those bullshit gestures was all he knew, so he did what he knew. He was a broken man with abandonment issues. He didn’t understand everything required for a healthy relationship. He wasn’t taught true love, honor, and respect, so he took what little he did understand, and tried his hardest to give it to me. He was building an intimate relationship which is probably why it felt so foreign to me.
And I took it for granted.
Even now, I know I’m willing to move on and date someone new. However, there is nothing in me that says the person I’m dating will get to experience a sexual relationship with me if they are not willing to put in that type of effort towards true intimacy. Sex had finally become an intimate experience for me, whether I relished in it or not. I’m not going back to that bullshit I was living in before. Craig showed me better, and that is now what I want - better.
Sex is the act. The relationship dictates what the act expresses. Sex does not manifest passion, love, or intimacy. It must already exist for sex to be an expression of it. That concept gets lost sometimes. I’m not looking for sex. I’m looking for intimacy – a true connection. I’m looking for someone I can feel just as connected and close to clothes on or off.
I say that I’m waiting for marriage, but I haven’t taken an actual vow of celibacy. Celibacy is just a tangible concept. Saying I’m waiting for “the one” sounds abstract. It gives men a false sense of hope or it can make them believe I’m just leading them on. When I say I’m waiting for marriage, they can make their decision to stay or leave with that information. If I give in early, great for them! But if I don’t, they can’t say they were unaware.
My days of chasing scattered ass are behind me. My partner should be in the same position. He should be in search of the same thing I am. I’m sure I don’t need to fuck everyone I date to find him. In fact, I’m sure that not fucking everyone I date, will be the quickest way to find him.
After spending a year in grief counseling, I started to see that my life needed a major overhaul. Yes, my boyfriend died making me the single mom of our infant twins, but I was still grieving my loss of innocence from decades of abuse. I decided to turn my pain into a new purpose and to share this journey with others that may need some motivation.