Learning As I Go…

For the first time in my life, I find moments will open themselves and give me rest. They allow rest in my body and my mind. It is a foreshadowing of inner peace; it is a promise of what’s to come. Life no longer feels counterfeit. For years I tried to do what was “good,” “nice,” and “right” as prescribed to be my others. I tried, but the weight of it was too heavy.

I am not yet a constant resident of the peace and love that come from owning all of myself. It is not as if someone has turned on a light switch and changed me overnight. I am still a human being. I still allow myself to be baited into battles of egos. In some areas, it happens a lot. In others, I am quicker to see the lesson.

Life is a marvelous teacher and I am learning every day. Each day, I am a little more confident. Each day, I am more secure with my own voice. I am quicker to ask forgiveness. I am quicker to forgive. I measure myself more based on who I know I am. It is easier to recognize when I am with “my tribe” or just surrounded by “some people.” It is easier for me to see and release what was designed to last only for a season. I think it is called, “growing up.”

When I feel fear is tightening around my heart, I exhale deeply but then I walk forward. At times, I am terrified and I move painstakingly slow. I acknowledge my own fear and then remember fear is not real. My prayer is, “God, I am scared but You gave me a vision. I will move forward and allow You to handle the details. You say I can do it; all things working together for my good. I don’t see it, but I trust You.”

Time has also taught me a few more lessons. The first thing is, “if you find yourself trying to fit into your life, run! That’s not your life.” There should be an ease about being in your life; a peace about being in your own skin. However, there is no instant falling away of insecurities. If you find yourself too often wondering what people will think, you are missing the uniqueness of you. You are missing the power within.

The second thing I have learned is to trust the weight of my own voice. I hear it. I don’t have to ask people if I hear it. I don’t have to ask them if it is okay that I hear it. I hear it. I need only trust it and listen. The problem is not that God does not speak to us. He’s speaking to us through our inner voices, but we have been taught not to trust it. We are taught not to know what we know. Do safe things. Think nothing of the value of who you are. Line up with all the other sheep and die. Or as I use to say the world told me, “Smile, eat it and die.” The alternative is to trust your own voice, know you are on purpose, and the only limitations on your life are placed there by you.

The third thing is, “The more I fear something, the more resolute my walk must be towards it.” Not walking haphazard and without wisdom. Many of us are waiting for a time when the insecurities will fall away and we can move forward with our lives. When the little insecurities say, “Turn and run away,” you must keep walking. I don’t believe there is ever a time when fear does not whisper. I do believe we reach a time when we no longer listen.

My Daughter, My Teacher

It is rare for me to pick up my daughter from daycare. Five days a week, I am at home with her. On the two days I work outside the home, my job is 30 minutes from her daycare and then another 30 minutes north to get to our home. Her dad, on the other hand, works only two highway exits away from her. Tonight, it is past 5:30PM when I arrive. I work through the maze of itty, bitty chairs and teeny, tiny tables to find my daughter’s room.

“Mommy!” she yells as she runs to meet me. She puts a vice grip hug on my leg and beams a smile up towards me. I return a big smile to her. She does not know that seeing her makes my whole spirit smile. All is right in my world. My baby is safe. She is well and she is here with me.

I allow myself to be dragged forward lead by my three year old. She pulls me in front of a cubby with her name written in black magic marker on clear tape. “Julia,” my mind confirms before I begin unpacking the 10,000 items she brings to school. There is “Blankie” and “Paci” and “Big Blankie.” There is my T-Shirt and her father’s T-Shirt that she wears at naptime to smell us because it makes her feel safe. There is a hat, a backpack and a handful of papers to tell me what my little girl has been doing throughout the day.

The last item is her pink hooded sweatshirt. I undo the zipper in the front and tell her it is time to put on her jacket. She spins her back towards me and slides her left arm into the sleeve. Before she can get into the second sleeve, I feel a hard thump on my left foot. I look down. It is “Adam” on a toy motorcycle.

I smile at the top of his head, crowned with curly golden locks and say, “Hey Baby, please don’t bump me with your bike.” With that, I put my hands on the handlebars and back him up. As I help Julia slide her right arm into the hoodie, I feel another, harder thump from the ride-on toy against my foot and leg. When that does not draw a reaction, he backs up his bike and runs over my foot entirely. I look down and think what we all want to say, “Oh no this little sum-ma-na-gun, didn’t! This little dude is tripping.”

I wrinkle my brow, tell him he is not being “nice” and walk from the room. With Julia in tow, I start the walk from the preschool to my car. She’s about 3 inches behind me to my right when I say, “So, how was your day?” I squeeze her hand in mine and look back at her, waiting to hear her reply.

“That was Adam!”

“Yes. I met him before.”

“He is my husband!”

(Sound of the needle dragging across the record. What the?)

I ask myself, “So little dude was trying to punk me for making his ‘woman’ leave?” I shake my head and dismiss the thought, assuming I am reading too much into a child’s behavior. Adults tend to put their meaning – guilt, anxiety and shame – on what children do and rush to judge the child good or bad. Instead, I ask her directly what she means.

“You’re husband?” I turn my face from her because I want to be the protective Mama Bear and tell her she is too young to know anything about such things, but I am wearing a big toothy grin. My baby has her first crush and she feels safe enough to share it with me. If I knew how to do a cartwheel, I would do one and then fall right back into step with her. Outside, I look like I am chilling, but inside my heart is melting.

She stops walking and looks up at me. She shrugs and begins to state her case. “He sits next to me at lunchtime. His cot is next to mine at naptime. He helps me when I do art or numbers or letters.” She looks down at the ground searching for words, and then looks back up at me. “He is my best friend.”

“So that’s what marriage is? He is with you when you are being fed? He is there with you as you rest? He helps you as you learn and grow? He is your best friend? That’s what it means to be married?”

She is looking at me and furrows her brow as she answers me. “Yes! That is what it is supposed to be.” Then she turns and makes her way towards my truck. I follow her, shaking my head. What is more amazing, the message or the chosen messenger? “Schooled” by a preschooler.

Whispers in the Womb

In my mother’s womb, I am pushed from spirit into flesh. Plucked from eternity and plunged into space and time. I move from that dimension to this and immediately feel a sense of loss. What once was light is now darkness. I look back to find my Source. I cannot catch sight of Him, but I hear when He speaks. “I am here, My Child. I am here with you.”

I am aware of the one who carries me before she knows I am here. He spends this time speaking clearly to me. “This is the one you have chosen. You are connected. Your purpose is to stay awake. They have all fallen asleep and refuse to wake up. They have forgotten who they are.”

“How could they forget? What if I forget? If this world is such chaos, what will keep me from falling asleep too?”

“You may fall asleep as well, but I will never stop waking you. The world will tell you love must be earned, but know this: as I love you now, I will love you then. The world will tell you not to hear me, but know this: as I speak to you now, I will speak to you then. The world will tell you that you are alone, but know this: as I am with you now, I will be with you then.”

“Even in the dark places?”

“Even where the only light is Me shining through you.”

“Even if I mess up?”

“Even if you stumble, you will learn and grow.”

“Even when I get lost and think life is really about me?”

“Even if you mistake your life as your purpose, I will be there whispering a reminder.”

“If you think I can make a difference, then I will go and do my best.”

“I do not think you can make a difference in this world. I know you can!”

Untitled

This is an excerpt from my novel about a young Black woman and a young White man who are desperately in love with each other.  They live in South Carolina in 1872… and therein lies the problem.

“Iron this shirt for me,” Thomas says pushing a man’s shirt into my hands. As soon as it touches me I know it’s already been pressed. Normally, I ain’t fool enough to question when white folks tell me to do something. But this is not just any white man. This is Thomas. And I am me. This is us.

“Why you asking me to iron a shirt that’s already pressed?” Laughing a little, I lift my head to look into his eyes. Something is wrong. It’s clear as day on his face. His eyes look funny, stretched wide like he’s trying to let me see inside his head.

“The front pocket needs special attention,” he puffs in a voice sounding like he’s yelling and whispering at the same time. Then he spins on his heels and walks off through the row of wet clothes I just hung on the line. I hold my breath as I dig in the pocket of the shirt to see why he called my attention to it. There is a tiny slip of paper tucked way down deep inside. Slow as I can, I look around to make sure nobody is watching me. It’s not good to be able to read and be colored around here. They tell us we ain’t slaves no more, but Lord knows, we ain’t free.

“Meet me at the place. Thomas.” I’m frozen; stuck on this spot. My legs dig down in the earth like the roots of a tree and I can’t move no more. He has sent me notes before asking if we could steal away together. The problem is not the words. The problem is the lack of words. His other notes were full of words sticky like honey and dripping off the page. Words that told me his hand moved slowly across the page like they are dancing for my eyes only. Words to make a smart colored girl like me forget the cost of her feelings and steal off into the woods in behind a white boy. Words making plain his need to have me and his willingness to beg. And we both know that around these parts, white men never ask permission.

But this voice is different. It is a stranger’s voice. Has someone found out about us? Is he trying to warn me? There must be something pressing to make him lose his voice this way, to be this cold with me. For the first time since I met him, this thing we have feels dangerous. I want to take off running to where he is but I can’t let nobody see me making a fuss. He would not be this different unless something is really wrong. I can’t hardly breathe and my heart is racing. I’m working hard inside my skin to be “regular” but he needs me and I need to be there.

The rest of the clothes go up two at a time. I know I’m going to get it for the mistakes later, but I’ll rearrange them when I get back. I shove the slip of paper in my mouth and begin to chew it as I arrange the last of the clothes. I swallow it before I head off towards the swamp. If somebody stops me, I will tell them I am getting brick top mushrooms for dinner as a surprise for Missus. Considering how scared everybody is of Missus, no one will try to stop me. I fix the story in my mind and rehearse it enough so it won’t sound like a lie, just as I come around the bend and see him.

He’s not alone. Next to him is a small child. A girl. The little colored girl with no kin sent from the orphanage to work for Missus. I stop. I’m stuck again. He got a great big old smile on his face, but his eyes still big like they were before. I feel my ears getting hot and hear my heart pounding in them. “I know good and well you ain’t calling me out here for no foolishness. You know I got work to do! What you want me to stand here with you and grin at this child?” My words sound angry, but it’s more than that. Thomas is mine. We are supposed to be out here alone pretending we the only two people in the whole world but instead, he done brought this child into us.

His head starts moving back and forth and he reaches out his hand to me. “No. No. No. I know you are busy, but you have to see this. Show her,” he tells the girl and puts his other hand on her shoulder. How is he so familiar with her that he got his hands on her? He motions again for me to take his hand, even while he’s still nodding approval at this child. I take his hand, but my heart got questions. The small girl in front of me starts to lift up the front of her dress. I look between Thomas and the child. He don’t see me cause he’s so busy grinning at her and she got those sorrowful eyes stuck to me. I don’t wanna see what for a woman is supposed to be kept covered. Not from a child I don’t.

“What the…” The child freezes at the sound of my voice. He squeezes my hand, and then nods to her giving her permission to go on. Again she starts to lift her dress. I fix myself inside into stone so no matter what she is going to show me, I will be alright when it is over. Scars, bruises, whatever is on this child will not crack me open. I promise myself I will not be broken.