Read a good poem

Jun 15, 2012

 It's called "The Five Stages of Grief" and is written by E. Ethelbert Miller, director of African American Resouce Center at Howard University. 

The Five Stages of Grief

This has nothing ot do with blackness
This has everything to do with blackness

I could break things
but everything is broken

Maybe I should have left
with the slave catchers

I will die in this same skin 
that I'm living in

Cotton never left the plantation
only my mind did

I've been thinking on this poem, ever since I read it. I can relate to it in a lot of ways. Not just from a racial standpoint.

For Denial - many times we either give too little or too much credence to how outside influences affect our lifes. For the WLS patient it could be "This has nothing to do with food. This has everything to do with food." In reality, whatever the factor, the truth lies somewhere between those two points and it isn't always an easy delineation. With my grief, my mother's death, my emotional instability as of late isn't 100% about her death. But it isn't 100% about her life. She's gone. And sometimes I wish her back but why? So I could be the kind of person to her that I was? That's no good. Or so she could be in pain? That's especially no good. So that middle ground is hard to deal with. It's easier to deny how gray and muddy life can be and assign blame to something we can call concretely evil or wrong.

For Anger - How many times have I felt this way just in the last few months?? Being mad because there's nothing left to break. My life is, for all intents and purposes, a hot mess. I had to give up the home I own. I moved on...nothing. And I spent $10k burying my mother. There is no room for me to fuck up. There's nothing that I can easily "break" that won't severely affect my life in a very negative way. I feel unsafe and I have no way to lash out. I'm basically being forced to deal with all this constructively which makes me angry. I should be able to have the opportunity to zap out. To go crazy. To "lose my head" as my grandma would have said. I should have that right. But I don't. And that makes me angry.

Bargaining - take your mind off the literal sense of the word "slave catchers." There are slave catchers all around us. For me, it's those people who can give up neurotic thought and control and acquiesce themselves to a significant other or partner. I often look back on my life and think how much easier it would have been if I had submited to a man, became his wife. I may not be what I am today but I also would not be alone. I'd have a partner, someone with whom to face life's biggest challenges. But to me that seemed like enslavement. I am enlightened (or at least I tell myself that). I'm liberated. I am INDEPENDENT. But it's all so tiring. Let someone else worry about the bills. Let someone else worry about the day to day. Let someone else think about how the children will get to school or be fed or how the car will get maintained of the lawn will be cut. If I'd been willing to make that live a simple not go after my so-called dreams...I'd have that. I suppose the grass always looks greener.

Depression - This one seems pretty straight forward to me. For the slave it is the realization that you are black. You're born black, you've lived black, you'll die black and you'll never, ever be free. Well...we all have some form of blackness. For me it's food addiction. I am what I am and I'll die what I am. I don't know that I'll ever get the inner peace some of you find from WLS. I don't know if there'll ever be a day when I am free from those obsessive food thoughts. A day when my mind can rest from them. Some days I allow myself to be depressed about that. Some days I choose to ignore it. Somedays I practice denial.

Acceptance - related to the thoughts on depression, for me that could be re-worded to say "Food never left the equation, only my mind did." It's always going to be here. In our lives there's always going to be adversity. There's always going to be some unfair system over which we have little to no control. But notice that last line. "Only  my mind did." That's the ONLY thing, friends, that we ever have control over. We don't have control over other people and things. Insofar as our actions are, in part, in reaction to other people and things (over which we have no control) we don't even have complete control over our own actions. But in the realm of our mind we do have control!

There is a saying I got on a fortune cookie that stands out to me. "In the realm of our minds, whatever we believe to be true either is true or becomes true." You can make the choice about what truth is in your life and you can believe it.

That's what I'm struggling with now. What is my truth? What is the story I'm wiling to tell myself for the rest of my life and can I really, really believe it?

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Just feeling a little...

Jun 10, 2012

 I dunno. 

Life is settling down. The girls are about to set off on summer adventures. And I am scared to death. 

Ordinarily I don't mind being alone (although I truly do hate it when my children go away for so long) but t his year I can already feel that this separation is going to be tough for me.

When someone major in your life dies, there is the weeping and gnashing of teeth that is requisite for the occasion but I'd like to posit that the REAL grieving doesn't quite begin then. It's sort of like getting a deep cut or injury. Your initial reaction is to the pain. You cry out for help and someone assists you, so that you don't perish. But in the days, weeks and months that follow you begin the process of recovery, which can be every bit as painful as that initial wound, just in a different way. And that's precisely what the quietness and emptyness of my house will elicit.

I suppose I should feel glad for that. I hear there is peace on the other side of that long, difficult road. The sooner I get on the road, the sooner I reach my destination, right? Except I am not yet fully convinced I WANT the peace of accepting that my mother is gone from me. Part of me doesn't believe I deserve that peace and the other part of me doesn't want to let go of any scrap of time and space where she actively exists. And yes I do know she still does exist. She was here. There is evidence. But you know what I mean. I have not, in my head, put her in the ground. I still use her phone number as my supermarket discount code. Her number is still programmed into my phone. Her bedroom remains in tact and for that matter I've not been to her house since the funeral. I've not let her go yet and I'm just not sure I am ready to. 

Lately, particularly, I've been feeling what I'm sure someone must have deemed "motherless child syndrome." I would even go a step further and call it "SINGLE motherless child syndrome."

Do any of you watch Grey's Anatomy? Well if you did you know what I mean when I say my mother was my "person." She was who I belonged to. Who I came from. I don't know much of my other family well. I don't feel particularly connected to them. They don't feel particularly connected to me. 

I am a member of many different kinds of family, plenty of which are not based on blood relations but there is something to be said for HAVING connections with blood relations. I have my brother and we'll build a new family consciousness. I have become the matriarch, a role that I don't accept yet but that everyone has bestowed on me. It's an honor, to be sure. I just don't know how to deal that or where to put the associated feelings.

So, that's a bit of why I am half dreading the summer. I can't fully dread it. It's always been my absolute favorite season. I'll try to post here throughout just to draw on your wisdom and experience and advice. Everyone has been so wonderful thus far.

Thank you.

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Damn, damn, damn

Apr 22, 2012

That's how I feel today. Poor little old me. Dammit. I hate that feeling! 

I am not a big fan of what I consider whinyness and today I feel whiny.

I've been experiencing insomnia and I'm tired.

My car got hit by some idiot who wasn't looking when backing up.

I have less than two weeks until my move and the motivation to pack is just not there.

My kids argue with me.

It's cold and rainy.

And I miss my mommy.

So here I work...trying. I really am trying. I work for a wonderful organization that brings hope and help to impoverished people around the world. It is my job to convey that message through my writing. 

But today I don't feel very hopeful.

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All packed up and nowhere to go

Apr 11, 2012

Aside from my mom passing away, I've been dealing with the process of letting go of my home of the last 12 years.

This has been such an interesting process. In the past instead of making big decisions, I'd let them make me. I'd wait until I had few options left and then make an emergency decision (which USUALLY meant a bad decision). This time I was proactive.

It's also funny to me how sometimes in life you have to let yourself free fall into an inferno to avoid the worst kind of burns. This time last year I was trapped. Suffocated by a mortgage I couldn't afford. My house was in extreme disrepair. I had no money for anything but paying the damn mortgage. Some weeks I wondered where my grocery money would come from.

My mortgage company wouldn't help me. They said, "well you're paying on time every month so it can't be that bad, right?"

And when the idea first came along to stop paying them I was vehemently against it. I, after all, am a responsible person. I pay my taxes. I go to church. I keep my word. This is not something an honest person does, is it?

So I did what I do most of the time when I am conflicted. I sat on it and did nothing. But I could tell fast that that wasn't going to work. Then I prayed. And sought the counsel of...just about everybody. And after a lot of soul searching I finally felt ok about what I was doing. I am not justifying here. It was what I had to do to get out of this situation. And I needed out badly.

I laugh when I think about that first month I did not send in my payment. I thought I'd be kicked out the next month. Here it is a year later and I am still here. After a few months a funny thing happened. The company that did not want to help me before all of a sudden presented options! Exit options, mind you, but I didn't care. This house is sort of like a container of old self. Anthony (my ex) and I moved here together 12 years ago with our then only child. And our relationship died in this house. I had a nervous breakdown in this house. I had another child and I struggled and I triumphed. But this house very much represents who I WAS: a person who hadn't started her journey yet. I'm now well on my way.

We are set to close on the house on April 30th. So I know the next natural question. "Where are you moving?" I HAVE NO CLUE! I am all packed up and yet have not yet secured a new house yet. Last week was supposed to be about doing that but instead I spent the week fulfilling THE most important duty a child can do for their parent: I was burying my mother.

Am I scared? Ohhhhh yes. Excited? Definitely. I feel like I am entering a new chapter in my life. And I feel like my mom is in an even better position to see it now than she was before. She is watching over me and if she has anything to do with it, her baby will never go without.

So thank you, friends, for your advice, your wisdom, your experiences, your PMs explaining how you went through the same things. I appreciate that so much. I definitely do NOT feel like I am alone. And even though I am fricking bawling right now (my youngest calls it "having a moment") I am actually very comforted inside.

In the still of the night

Apr 06, 2012

Today was the first full day after my mother's death that I did not have somewhere I HAD to be: someone to pay, arrangements to make, someone to call or console. It was actually very nice to have some autonomy.

I suppose this is the first day of the rest of my life without my mother.

It's strange. I feel...unanchored. I have 2nd and 3rd cousins and whatnot in the area but my brother lives in Indiana and my mom was an only child so there are no aunts, uncles or first cousins. I sort of feel alone. I know I am not. I've built up quite the extended family. But there is something about that blood connection.

You know she and I had the same blood type, which happens to be THE rarest blood type of all of them: AB negative. That fact always sort of made me feel connected to her. We both went through having that God-awful shot during our pregnancies to keep our bodies from building up anti-bodies to the RH factors our babies may or may not have carried (as it turns out I had negative blood my brother is positive. Both my children are positive so that shot actually made it possible for #2 to be born. Left untreated, antibodies to RH factor will attack an RH positive fetus in utero). She often joked that she was glad we had the same blood type because who else was there to give US blood?

Isn't it strange the thoughts you think about a person when they are gone?

I named this post in the still of the night because that's been the hardest time for me. Last night I had a dream that I saw her. She was in her wedding dress and a beautiful head wrap. Her "butt-length" dread locks (she'd admonish me for using the word "dread") were flowing beautifully down her back. her face was full and she was standing upright with her Afro-centric jewelry on. I ran to her and embraced her tightly. She took my head in her hands and caressed my cheek. She took both my hands in hers and squeezed them, but then let them go. She took a step backward and she was as she was in her early 40's, before the locks, with shoulder-length brown permed hair. Another step back and she was as she was in her 30's. And another step back and she was in her 20's wit her big Afro and tiny body. One more step back and she was the little girl I'd seen a million times in my grandfather's photo album and she was flanked on either side by my grandfather, as his younger self and my grandmother, as her younger self. They each took one hand and led her away. As she left she looked back at me over her shoulder and smiled.

It was a nice dream. I woke up crying happy tears. But then as fast as the happiness came, there came the vacant space. The selfish part of me that just wants my mommy back. I just want her to nag me to chop veggies for dinner or to vacuum the carpet correctly like when I was little. I long for her to call and bug me about something one more time or tell a story she's told me two million times. If only she could "hold me hostage" on the phone one last time.

These are the thoughts I have at night. When it is quiet, after the children have gone to sleep.

I don't think she wanted to die. I think she wanted to live but did not want to live the way she was living: in pain, in turmoil, disconnected from the people, places and things she loved. I can feel the feelings that are down below the surface bubbling. I found a grief support group and I intend to go because I know what these feelings can do. And for the life of me I will NOT regress over this. She was so proud of what I'd accomplished. And I am too. I feel like it would be the utmost dishonor to go back to who I was before, what I was before. So I need to figure out how to deal with this place in my life that used to belong to her. I need to figure out how to get through the night and back into the light of day.

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Apr 01, 2012

It's 7:30 a.m. I am sleepy and tired (and today I get the distinction). Technically I am off work this week. I want to go back to bed. But my to do list is long. I have to:

1. Go with my stepdad to see cemeteries because the one the funeral home recommended has terrible reviews.
2. Take mom's clothes and jewelry that we want her buried in to the funeral home.
3. Call my financial planner and see what heavily protected funds I can rob to pay for this whole thing.
4. Link up the people who expressed that they want to help with something with something they can help do

I know they say take it one step at a time, but damn. There are a lot of steps. I will do them for my mother because I love her and I want her homegoing to be a loving event. But if I am being completely honest, I don't think my closure will even begin to come until I can just lie down in quiet, stare at my blue wall and process.

The Kid Chronicles (Part One)

Mar 21, 2012

 Welp. There comes a time in any parent’s life, I think, where you have to take responsibility for your parental shortcomings. I think this is the season I am moving into right now.


I have two very indulged children. In the beginning they were indulged to placate. I couldn’t deal with life so I couldn’t deal with them so I occupied them as best I could. Don’t get me wrong, I know my kids. I talk to them. I hug them. I kiss them. But I’ve also had my fair share (more than actually) of days where I allowed them to watch television or play Xbox or surf the net for HOURS just so they’d be quiet.


So here we are. Both kids are too big for their ages and I really do want to make an effort in earnest to encourage them to care about their health and to take the initiative in being active and healthy. But at the same time…as I said…I have very indulged children. They are resistant, make excuses, everything I used to do.

What I figured was this. I either needed to help them find some activity they REALLY like doing but also an activity they’ve avoided doing for the perception that they cannot do it. The former to be for learning to enjoy activities, the latter being for achievement but also I wanted them to get a little pissed off about not being able to do something. They, like many kids, take the “oh well, can’t do it, guess I won’t even try” approach. I am living proof that thinking does not work!


So fast forward to yesterday. The youngest one (who is the one I am most worried about health-wise) told me some time ago she’d like to go with me in the evenings when I walked. I said ok. Now my goal is not to push her to be a race runner or anything but I did tell her this is a part of my activity for the day so it would not be slow and leisurely walking. She did not seem to mind.


Well, how it played out was a whole different story! The walk began nicely enough. She even wanted to jog a little and so we did. Now anyone who knows me knows that I have a kinship with trees and this particular park has some great ones that I’ve introduced the kids to. At a point in the walking path there is a particularly haunting tree. It’s actually two trees that grew so close together they branch out from one another and look like just one tree. It’s not an easy tree to climb but I learned to climb it. My daughter tries too but has not been successful yet.


We get to the tree and she wants to climb it. Before we started I explained we’d walk the entire loop of the park (the remainder of which was up and then down a hill but on the bright side, at the top of the hill is a beautifully restored pre-antebellum mansion that we like to peek into every now and again). Girlfriend was MAD! She wanted the tree and she wanted it NOW.


And like any 10 year old she began to get obnoxious about it. With each step up the hill she verbalized things she “hates” (thankfully I am not yet one of those things). She hates the trees, she hates the birds, she hates the grass, she hates walking (and she’s never going again).


Now understand this walk is usually my end of the day wind down. It’s how I get into “home” mode. It makes it possible for me to mother these children without going postal. So I am trying…really hard…not to react. I know she wants a reaction.


What’s interesting for me is the WAY I was first inclined to react. I wanted to shake the child and say “Do you know that you are not healthy? Do you know you that you need to be doing this or else you might face a lifetime of obesity and ridicule? Do you know what kind of life that is, how painful it is? Do you???”


But that’s what my mom did to me. Over and over and over again. And slowly but surely a kid who thought she was ok turned into a kid who loathed herself. I don’t want that for my daughter. So after a point I simply went with, “You’re not being very nice. You are welcome to THINK whatever you want to think but please be quiet for a few minutes.” I don’t know if that was right or wrong but it kept me from saying the other things.


So we got around the rest of the loop in good time and we get to the tree. She half-heartedly tries to climb it. Fails. I show her how to climb it: where to put your feet, when to push up, what to grab. She again tries, half-heartedly and again does not make it. Then she proclaims “this tree is stupid and I want to go home!” At this point I said, “fine.” We would be coming back the next day for a walk so if she wanted to try again she’d get the opportunity. But she hung back. In a smaller voice she said, “But I want to climb that tree.”


And I replied, “Would you like me to show you again?” She nodded and I showed her again after which she AGAIN only put partial effort into climbing the tree.


Walking home I was angry. What did she expect? If she didn’t try to really climb the tree she wasn’t going to get up the tree!


But then it occurred to me that maybe why she was frustrated was BECAUSE it was not easy. When she saw me do it, it might have looked easy because I’ve done it so many times I can do it pretty quickly. For her it wasn’t easy. And I believe (though there are few ways to tell) that she felt frustrated because in thinking it SHOULD be easy and accepting that it was NOT easy for her, she made some sort of judgment on herself.


I used to do this a lot in my bigger days. I’d see thin people working out and think it was easy for them where it was so hard for me and I’d resent them so much! Now as a smaller person I know working out is hard at any size. The only difference between then and now is that I am willing to push through the hard parts and keep going.


So that’s my nugget for today. Tonight we go back to the walking path and we walk again. Last night we talked and she said she really wants to learn to climb that tree and I assured her I’d be willing to go with her to the tree as many days as she’d like.


I didn’t like what I saw come out of my daughter yesterday during the walk. I didn’t like what  saw come out of me. We both have stuff to work on. But I pray, SO HARD, that by trying, by facing these issues, by talking things out, by getting pissed off, by setting seemingly impossible goals (and hopefully achieving them) I am helping her escape decades of misery that I inflicted upon myself.


The most stressful weekend EVER!

Feb 21, 2012

“Your belief in me is both inspiring and petrifying at the same time.”


I thought this thought to myself today. There is, of course, a story behind it.


Most of you know I am a writer by trade. I recently took on an assignment to write an article on my organization’s behalf for a magazine that is well respected in our little corner of the world. But the audience for this magazine was one for which I’d never written before. If I was successful, it would be a great thing for my organization. If I failed, it would be a terrible thing for me.


(No pressure, right?)


I went at the task with fervor. I interviewed experts on my subject matter. I held little focus group discussions. I asked questions, drafted drafts, drafted more drafts, got feedback and…completely melted down.

The problem was that I didn’t give myself time to process all the feedback I was getting. I was on deadline and I didn’t have time to just sit with it. I had to write it! For some people this works (my cousin, she writes for a daily newspaper and for her this works). For me, this is a sure route to failure.


And that is what I did. I failed. Big. Last Friday, after staring at the cursor on my computer for four straight hours I cobbled together a sub-par draft and sent it to my supervisor and left for the weekend, feeling dejected and wondering if I’d still have a job come Tuesday.


And my whole weekend was ruined by it. One thing you have to understand about me is that I was raised in an abusive home. As an adult, I know, academically, that making mistakes will not result in violence, but still knowingly making mistakes makes me feel very unsafe. I tend to be very much like Dobby, from Harry Potter. I beat myself up before anyone else has a chance to do it.


Now before you say it, no I am not exaggerating. The story DID suck that bad. Even my supervisor said so (but, thankfully, not in those exact words). But what she sent me back was obviously not violent, but it also wasn’t an admonition or any statement of me being a bad writer, employee or person. Walking to work Tuesday I didn’t know what we should do about the story. My inclination was to beg her to drop the whole thing. I mean, we did REALLY have to turn a story in, did we?


But she was extremely encouraging. She took the time to read over my draft (and a few others I’d send over the course of the week preliminarily) and give suggestions on how I could complete the story. Never once did she suggest that I give up. And not in a “you better do this or else” sort of way but a “I believe you can do this and you know you can too” sort of way.


So I’ve spent the better part of the day re-crafting the story. A funny thing happens when you allow yourself time and space to process things. You see what you could not see before. You get ideas that seem to have come out of nowhere, but really are the result of our brain running all the possibilities and coming up with the most logical solution.


It was in the drafting of the story that I thought the first line of this blog post. Her belief in me did inspire me to rewrite a better story. But it also scared the holy crap out of me. Expectations are meant to be met or exceeded. Falling short of expectations is absolutely awful. It doesn’t make anybody feel good, especially when you know what you are capable of.


I tell you this to say, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves in this WLS process. The whole world is watching us, waiting for us to fail, or so we think. But imagine, in the situation I described, if I had not made it such a big deal to sit with the information over the weekend and resolved to come back to it today. The story is still getting turned in on time and it’s the RIGHT story.


What might happen if you stopped putting so much pressure on yourself to drop so many pounds or to be able or not be able to eat certain amounts of certain foods or have figured out certain head issues or whatever your challenge is. What would happen if you just chilled out for a moment? Gave yourself this one moment of peace to process all the changes that have happened and to figure out where you want to go from here.

Because there is a way to get from where you are to what you want. Your brain just needs to figure out the most logical solution. And to do that, sometimes you just need a little bit of space and time.


I hate depression

Feb 16, 2012

I really don't have much more to say about that than that. That's the worst thing about depression (and I'm talking about depression in terms of biochemistry, not related to any one bad event) is that it robs my words. Steals my joy. Every day is ten times longer. Night cannot come soon enough. And sleep is my only comfort.

It passes. It always passes. But until it does...

Just some thoughts

Feb 14, 2012

My mind is rebellious. If there is something on my mind, it refuses to release thought power until I’ve addressed that thing that’s on my mind.


Four years after bariatric surgery, I wonder if I will ever find peace, a happy medium, a calm and quiet space in even a small corner of my mind.


I manage. I do ok. But I am not “normal.” There is no “natural balance” and there is no “moderation” for me.


Because moderation suggests the ability to moderate. To give validity to both sides while showing favor over neither. To this day, I still cannot do that with regards to food. Either I eat a lot or I eat nothing. I really and truly still do not understand eating just enough.


And at this point, of course, I have to ask myself why. A lot of it has to do with my personal past but today I’d like to speak about environmental challenges, because they are very, very real.


My least favorite saying of post-ops and dieters is, “Food is for fuel only.” That’s a damn lie. Food is for more than fuel. If it were only for fuel why would we bother trying to make it taste good? No, we eat for enjoyment also. It’s built into us as humans and it’s one reason we are still on this planet and not extinct.


And like it or not, food plays a big part in life around us. People use food to connect with one another (family dinner), to mark milestones (the birthday cake), to celebrate tradition (the Thanksgiving Turkey). We use food to express emotions (chicken noodle soup when you are sick) and to pass on culture (Southern food, collard greens, etc.). We even use it to express our faith (Shabbat, Seider, etc.).


So what your surgeon, your support group leader, your psychologist didn’t tell you was this: by attempting to reject food as a central part of your existence, in many ways you are rejecting your own humanity.


That sounds deep doesn’t it? It isn’t that complicated a concept to understand.


It’s the awkwardness you feel when you go to a family dinner and refuse to eat anything. It’s the hurt in your mom or your aunt’s eyes because of that. It’s the confusion people feel on your birthday (after all, if they don’t get you a cake, what should they get you?). It’s the pressure you feel to live healthfully in a way that doesn’t alienate everyone else in your life.


The whole world isn’t necessarily food obsessed. But I am. And because I don’t have the ability to moderate, I have to place myself outside the parameters of community and society to manage my health. That stings a little bit.


This past year I’ve allowed some food tradition back into my life. I’ve always held strong to my weekly church supper, for instance. It’s the carbiest meal ever each week, but it’s a meal shared in fellowship, with people who care for me. And it isn’t about the food. I really don’t care what they serve. It’s about breaking bread together.


I don’t have any conclusions on this post. I’m just getting the thoughts out there. I’m not sure I’ll ever learn to balance naturally. I do want to note, however, that I DO balance, but it is an effort. It’s foreign. I see it as an imposition on precious mental space and I often resent it. I don’t want to wake up in the morning and think about what I’ll eat. I’d like to trust that as I go through my day I will eat the right things.


So anyway…just my rambly thoughts. I think I will post to this blog more often.


About Me
Baltimore, MD
Surgery Date
Jan 21, 2008
Member Since

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