Finding Freedom

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free·dom

ˈfrēdəm/

noun

noun: freedom

  1. the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.
  2. the power of self-determination attributed to the will; the quality of being independent of fate or necessity.

What is freedom? What does it look like, or even feel like? How can we harness it’s elements and truly experience freedom’s full potential? Is liberation a single event? Or is it a series of small moments that are equal to that amount? These are answers I find myself searching for more each day. In previous posts, I have spoken about wanting to live a fearless and meaningful life. Until recently, I thought that’s what I was doing. But I’ve come to realize that I haven’t lived by my own words: let your Faith be greater than your Fear. And I own that. That’s my truth. I needed someone else to help me see my own flawed thinking.

For so long, I have let past traumas and anxiety stop me from living my life in its entirety. I have been traveling through life Surviving. It’s all I have known for the majority of my life. Food, shelter, money, clothes, safety. These are the things I have spent my life focusing on. What kind of life is that? Waking up everyday, afraid of the world–afraid to let people close to my heart because of the damage others have caused? Surviving is existing–it is not living.

As I kid, I don’t remember being afraid of much besides being abandoned. In my adolescence, that changed. The Big Bang happened and I had more to lose, (what I thought to be) less to live for. I became crippled by PTSD and my anxiety has never completely subsided despite the fact that I emerged from the Flames a new Woman. And because of this, I’m scared to take chances. I’m terrified to allow others into my Space. I built these Walls to protect my true self from ever having to experience the Heartbreak I once endured. But is that fair? It isn’t. It isn’t fair to myself or to the people around me who genuinely care.

I’ve realized that you can’t find Happiness in your own expectations of how other people treat you or perceive you. It took me a long time to realize that as long as I am living my truth in the best way I know how, others’ actions should not affect me. This is true with my family and friendships. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I have so much to give and some people just simply aren’t ready for what it is that I have to offer. There’s Freedom in that knowledge. I don’t have to be held captive by my anger. It doesn’t exist anymore.

The root of my anxiety is the fear of not being in control. In my mind, being able to control every situation leaves less room for error. In other words, when I can’t control how things go, bad things happen. Whether that is true or not, that is how I have Survived. But the reality is that Surviving serves a purpose for only so long. There is no added danger in my life at this point. It has taken some time but I understand now that Freedom is taking a deep breath and saying ‘let’s go.’ Freedom is being at Peace with my Fears and owning them. But Liberation is being courageous enough to be afraid and keep going.

For me, Freedom and Liberation come in small doses. I feel the most Freedom when I am most afraid and most vulnerable. In the moments where I feel safe enough to share my soul with someone or when I find the courage to push through my own demons. I’ve discovered Happiness in these moments of Freedom. And there will be day when I can fully harness the Light inside my soul and truly shine. Until then, I’m living in the moment, smiling through my tears, and conquering my fears.

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Finding Balance: Life After the Tilt

BloomFor some time now, I have struggled to find my baseline. Whether I like to admit it or not, I have lived my life in Fight or Flight Mode. I had to. It served its purpose. I had to find a way to survive the pain and darkness that life has always seemed throw me. There have been times that I have been in Fight Mode whereas other times, I was in Flight Mode. And there have been times where I have been somewhere in between. I learned to function in the chaos around me at a level of comfort that fit me at the time. I learned to Survive by building walls around me and shutting people out. Because in my mind, if I don’t allow anyone that close to me, then they can’t hurt me. Like so many people before them have.

Since I was a young girl, I have struggled with interpersonal relationships and just relating to others in general. I have always been more comfortable alone and finding Peace and Stability within myself. With the exception of my Grandparents, I have never given my whole self to anyone else. For the last 27 years, I have stacked brick after brick in an effort to make sure that I never give anyone else the power to cause me pain. Before my Grandmother passed away, I was mostly unable to properly communicate my feelings and often bottled things away. Until the rage would set in and I would explode. The tilt. It might not have been healthy, but it worked. For a period of time. It’s how I survived high school and most of college.

And then my Grandmother passed away and something in me shifted. Suddenly, I knew how to identify my emotions and their triggers. I was crying at movies–both happy and sad. This was foreign to me. I wasn’t raised in a family where emotions were easily placed on display or communicated. I felt raw and overstimulated. Again, I pushed people away because I could feel those walls tumbling and everything I thought I knew about strength was crumbling along with it. For a long time, being strong was being tough and never allowing anyone too close.

And then I discovered Chakras and Crystals and Energy. And I realized that I wanted people to know me. All the parts of the whole. And yet I still hold most people at an arm’s length–no matter how close they think we are. I am a lot people’s friend…but I don’t have a lot of friends. I have lived life on this never-ending tilting axis of fear and strength. I adapted during times of chaos and learned to live in fear of others and the pain I know they are capable of causing me.

I had to learn at a young age that the only person I know for sure I can depend on, is me. I know that I will always look out for self first because there have been few others to do so in the past. Abuse and self-harm come in many forms and my weapon of choice just happened to be isolation. In hindsight, how could I ever really have been upset about being misunderstood when I never allowed anyone close enough to understand?

Old habits die hard and at this point it is so difficult–painful, really– to try to navigate life in such a way that makes it feel okay for me to let someone in. For them to see me at my most raw and vulnerable. The thought that someone could ever touch my soul that deep terrifies me on another level. I have always found clarity in solitude–despite my loneliness–and I have always found Peace in my time alone.

Until now. Once again, my World has shifted and I don’t know how to handle it. I have lived in a tilted world for so long that it became my baseline. But now, somehow my soul feels balanced. My vision has shifted and I feel exposed and emotional and to be honest, a little bit crazy. The fact that someone else can see the best parts of me without me having to explain who I am or how I operate is amazing. I have never felt so immediately comfortable and safe in any relationship to be as vulnerable as I am with this individual. I crave the Energy and the stillness I feel with this person. But at the same time, I am terrified and every bit of me wants to run. But my soul…she wants to feel and be felt.

My Soul craves this newfound balance but my mind is causing me to over think and second guess. I need to reeducate myself on just being and feeling. There have been very few times in my life where my Indigo Instincts were wrong. And right now, my instincts are telling me to be patient, be present, but most of all: be happy. Strength comes in more forms than just fighting and being guarded. This next chapter in my life is about deconstructing each brick so that I can live at my fullest capacity. Nothing will demonstrate my strength more than allowing someone else to touch my soul. To have that power. And to trust them enough to cultivate my Garden instead of trampling my flowers.

I am but a rosebud now, but feed my soul and I just might Bloom.

Energy Is Everything

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Guard your Energy. Protect your Peace.

It seems that for the most part, the weather here in New England has finally broken. Aside from a few rain showers and a little wind, the Sun is blessing us with its presence. It also means that I’m feeling more inspired now that the days are longer and the weather is getting warmer. I have more energy these days and I’m smiling more.

In January, I decided that I would live my best life in 2018–whatever that might look like. I made a conscious choice to be positive. And for me…positivity is something I have struggled with for most of my life. It’s difficult to be positive when it seems like life has its heel at your neck. I also made the choice to encourage someone else in my life each day to live their best life. This involved copious amounts of craft supplies from Michael’s and bullet journals from Barnes & Noble. 2017 was the year of re-building, or the Re-Birth; but 2018 is the year of reconnection–the year of Flight.

I find myself reaching out to family and friends consistently  to reconnect, rebuild, and restore our relationships. I want to be the best version of myself. But that also means that I want the people around me to be the best version of themselves. Life has taught me that the people you surround yourself with are a reflection of you and your vision. Surround yourself with like-minded people who possess focus and drive–they will help build you up instead of holding you back. It’s all about the Energy you surround yourself with.

Energy is everything. In my past, I harbored a lot of negative energy in my heart and in my soul because that is all I knew in life. If I’m being honest, it wasn’t until these last few months that I realized that I had been holding myself back this whole time. All it takes is a positive affirmation and a change of perspective and the Energy shifts immediately. Good vibes attract more good vibes. And these days…if it’s not a good vibe, then I don’t want it.

You may have heard the saying “Guard your Energy. Protect your Peace.” This has been my mantra. There are few things in life that we actually have control over and the one thing that we absolutely have power over is how we use our Energy. And how we choose to use that Energy defines us. My goal is to empower everyone around me to be their best self. I refuse to allow someone to come into my space and offset my energy. Because that gives them the power to disrupt my inner peace…and I just can’t have that. My time and Energy are far too precious to waste on trivial things.

Time and Energy are two of the most valuable elements in my life. And I am not willing to sacrifice my sense of self and stability for someone else’s benefit. I simply will not do it. I am a Woman with a lifetime’s worth of bricks laid out around me to protect me from others. But every now and then, I open a door for someone to enter into my space on good faith. The old me would do anything possible to keep people from getting to know me. But now, I want people to feel me. I want them to see inside my soul. I want to share my Energy with people who will be affected in a positive way.

Being the true introvert that I am, it has always been hard for me to connect with others on any level. I have never been able to be my most authentic self. Until now. And I am finding it easier everyday to be candid with a chosen few and expose the deepest parts of my soul. I don’t know if my walls will ever fall completely, but I am enjoying the fact that I can share parts of myself with others and it be reflected in their smile.

You gotta be the change, to see the change.

Just Because You Can Get a Seat at the Table, Doesn’t Mean You Should Sit There

Just Because You Can Get a Seat at the Table, Doesn’t Mean You Should Sit There

In keeping up with the theme of relationships that I seem to be writing about lately, let’s talk about friendship. But not in the way that I have written about them before. Let’s talk about something a little more uncomfortable. Something that some might consider to be controversial. I want to talk about what it is like to be a black woman in a racially charged, Trump-Driven America with predominantly white friends–in the predominantly white region of America called New England.

My Grandparents raised me to be understanding of all types of people. But they also raised me to be cautious of white people. There is no other way to explain it. My Grandparents were brought up in the Jim Crow South and experienced much of the trauma and racism that is taught about in our schools in what feels like only Black History Month. I say this because when I was in school, the only time I ever remember learning about any sort of Black History was in February. I often felt enraged or uncomfortable. But because I didn’t feel safe enough, I never spoke up about my feelings.

I use the word safe because I used to believe that if I could fit in–or blend in–then I would be safe from being labeled terms like ‘ghetto’ or ‘underprivileged.’ I wanted to be like my white friends–a part of me wanted to be white. Life would be easier. I wanted light-colored eyes and straight hair. I had my first relaxer at age 5 and learned to hate my natural hair. I wanted to be skinny–I didn’t want these curves that seemed to develop too fast at age 12. I wanted to be light-skinned so that I could be considered beautiful. I wanted to shop at Old Navy and Aeropostale. I wanted to wear skater shoes.  I listened to Pop, Rock, and Country music. All in public or around my friends. Whatever it took to fit in as best as I could.

But when I went home, I listened to the hip-hop and R&B radio stations. I listened to the Motown and Southern Spiritual music my grandmother played on her record player. I spoke in the southern slang that my Grandparents raised me with. I ate Soul Food and watched black sitcoms. I was comfortable in my home life–in my culture. I didn’t have to wear a mask–I could be as I am and there would be no repercussions for being myself.

So I learned to compartmentalize. I split myself in two. Even if it was glaringly evident that I was different (i.e. black). In elementary school, I was always aware of the fact that I was black because I was the only black (and sometimes the only brown) kid in class. Middle School and High School were much more diverse because unless you went to private school, the only alternative were the public schools. As a result, I was exposed to other black people who I wasn’t related to. Not all of my friends were black–that’s near impossible in the North East–but there was…balance. Thinking back, there were some things I would do with my black friends that I simply wouldn’t (or really, couldn’t) with my white friends. And I am finding that in my adult life, that hasn’t changed much.

By the time I reached high school, I started to realize that I had suppressed some of the best parts of personality. The more black friends I made, the more comfortable within myself I felt. I didn’t have to pretend with them. I didn’t have to watch what I talked about and they would understand my humor. We shared all the same interests and it was fluid.

Fast forward to college. I went to a private University where again, I was a minority. There were a few other black kids on campus, but I didn’t feel like I fit in with them. Again, I found myself surrounded by white friends. In college, I learned what kind of person I wanted to be. I started walking the path that I wanted to walk. I stopped relaxing my hair and went natural. And for the most part, I stopped censoring myself for my white friends. I started waking up.

I was asleep for so long–trying to fit in with people I will probably never be able to fit in with at the cost of myself. I traded all the best parts of my Blackness for people who can’t actually truly relate to me. I always wondered what it feels like to be white. Is life easy? Would I ever be questioned in odd situations? I have never known any white person to ask the same about being black. That’s what privilege is.

After the rise of the Black  Live Matter Movement, I started doing my research. I taught myself about the real Black History. I fell in love with my roots all over again. I discovered my Black Girl Magic and I am no longer afraid to speak my true mind on matters of race and social justice. As I have risen out of my sunken place, I have become hyper -aware of racism and microaggressions projected by white people. I have questioned many friendships and associations as a result. In my awareness, I have found myself feeling awkward in my friendships. All but two of my friends are white. I have maybe 7 friends. And although I no longer censor myself, I find myself questioning people I thought I knew. I love my friends–I truly do. But they will never understand my experience in the world in the way that other black people–especially black women– can. They just can’t.

My reality as a black woman is different from that of my white friends. In the last year alone, I have been told (by the same white woman)  that there is no such thing as African-American culture by a white woman. I have been told by a white woman that she will never have children with a black man because she wants her children to look like her–and she honestly though that wasn’t a racist comment (Hitler, anyone?). I’ve had a white person tell me that the African lady who must do my hair has done a beautiful job and how she [the white lady] wishes she could wear her hair in long purple braids. I’ve had a white girl pat my curls and say that my hair is ‘so cool’– as if I were some display in a zoo somewhere.

My goal for this Black History Month was to stop explaining my Blackness to white people–that includes my friends. My experiences have taught me that if someone truly values your friendship and culture, they will make an effort to research and learn about it. Being able to say that you have a Black friend doesn’t make you any less of a bigot than the woman with Hitler-esque views. I am not a trophy and there is no award for how many black friends you have.

The same goes for me. It doesn’t matter how many white friends I have–I will never be white. I will never experience those privileges. I will never be able to truly fit in. I am finally okay with that.

I know what you’re thinking. You don’t see color, right? The truth is, WE ALL SEE COLOR. However, the way we see that color and how we choose to treat people is what defines us. I see color. I see black and white–I have to. But I beyond that, I see PEOPLE. And we are all human. I value the differences we share as humans. But I also value the comfort I feel in my own Community. There is strength in numbers. Science teaches us that.

Just because you can get in, doesn’t always mean that you can fit in.

Don’t Tell Me I Have ‘Daddy Issues’

Don’t Tell Me I Have ‘Daddy Issues’

My Grandfather was the lighthouse in the middle of the ocean on a dark, foggy night: steadfast and spearhead.

I recently realized that I have shared a lot about my Grandmother but only limited amounts about my Grandfather. This isn’t because I didn’t have a good relationship with him. He just happened to pass away during some of my most impressionable years. I was 12 when he passed away.

My GrandDad was the son of sharecroppers and was built for hard labor. He was a carpenter–a builder. His hands were large and calloused from years of construction but he was always gentle with his family. He was a big man–standing at 6 foot 2, 250 lbs–but his heart was bigger than his frame. He was secure in his manhood and put his faith in God. He was a provider for his family in more ways than money could buy. He had a 6th grade education but he was the smartest man I have ever known. Most of all, he loved my Grandmother unequivocally.

When I was a youngin’,  I was very much a Daddy’s girl. As a small child, I spent a lot of time sitting at the kitchen table–or on the porch–with my GrandDad. Besides fishing, this was literally his favorite thing to do. “Turn on the news,” he would say. It always had to be Channel 12 WPRI. When I was in preschool, my bus would leave early in the morning. My Grandfather got up every single day around 5:00am like clockwork. By the time I was up and ready–by 6:00am–he had a fresh pot of coffee brewed with the tv tuned into the news. He would sit me in his lap and I would steal sips of his coffee (a Maxwell House blend with milk and sugar). I would watch along with him and shout “look Daddy, I’m on tv!” whenever our local Meteorologist Tony Petrarca would predict warm and breezy weather. Breezy is a family/childhood nickname of mine.

My Grandfather was very hard on me and was strict in his guidance–but with good intention. As I grew older, we would bump heads when I tried to push his limits. I wouldn’t push too hard. It wasn’t his judgement I was afraid of–it was his disappointment that terrified me.

My favorite memories of my Grandfather are those of love and laughter. He was never afraid to get dirty with the kids, and he was never afraid to stand up for his family. He could hold a grudge, but still he loved his family unconditionally. Because of my Grandfather, I know what love from a Dad should feel like. I know what love from a husband looks like. I am spoiled with the fact that my Grandparents loved each other unconditionally and fearfully. Because of them, I know love. Because of them, I know what I want my marriage (if I should be blessed) will look like.

My last memory of my GrandDad is the morning that would ultimately lead to his hospitalization and shortly after, his death. It was before 6am and I was getting ready for school. He was waiting for his ride to bring him to dialysis. He seemed to be disoriented and out of it.  He didn’t really know where he was or where he was actually supposed to be going. He was stumbling and slurring his words. My Grandmother was already in the hospital at the time, so I couldn’t go to her for help. So I called my aunt, who then directed me to call 911. But I was 12 and confused. So my aunt called. My Grandfather had fallen on his way out the door to meet his ride and I remember becoming hysterical. I couldn’t help him get up and he was completely out of it. The paramedics arrived and I told my Grandfather I loved him as they wheeled him out of the house. Then I went to school. A few days later, I came home from school and my Grandmother told me with tears in her eyes that GrandDad was gone. I didn’t cry then. I didn’t cry at his memorial service. I willed myself to cry. Because that’s what you should do when someone you love dies, right? I was sad, and I missed him. But those tears never came. It wasn’t until my Grandmother passed away that I would cry for my Grandfather. 12 years later. I’d like to think that somewhere–deep inside my soul– I knew that I would be okay. Because I still had my Grandmother. And she was every bit of him as she was herself.

I think it was about a year after my GrandDad passed that I began looking for my biological father. I was unsuccessful. I wrote a lot of poetry during my middle school years, and most of my poems were about feeling lost and out-of-place. In hindsight, a lot of this had to do with the loss of my Grandfather–I didn’t have Dad around anymore. But once I couldn’t find my biological father, I realized that my GrandDad had given me all that I needed–he was more than enough.

And then a few years later, my biological father found me on Myspace. A part of me was excited. Because, in theory, I should have been able to make up for all that lost time. But there was an even bigger part of me that wanted to (and still does) push him away. I had a vision of what he was supposed to look like in my head from stories my family told me-but he didn’t live up to those expectations. I had dreams of he and I immediately clicking and bonding over funny stories–but again, he couldn’t deliver.

When my Grandmother passed, my father didn’t call to check on me, or pay his respects at her memorial service. The woman who essentially (in my eyes) did what he should have done as a parent had just passed away and he did not even have the decency to attend her service. Despite the many differences my father and I  have, some part of me was willing to sacrifice my comfort in exchange for knowing him. This was not one of those things–this was the ultimate disrespect. How could he care about me–his only child– when he didn’t care enough to be there during those crucial moments? I still don’t understand. A part of me doesn’t want to. So I cut him off. Entirely. But life has taught me that people don’t always learn from silence–especially men. So now, when he calls, I don’t send him straight to voicemail. I answer the phone. I don’t have much to say, but I indulge him.

I may never have a “normal” relationship with my biological father, but at least I know that I possess the ability to forgive the people who have hurt me most. Every time I answer his call–that’s my growth and forgiveness. I will probably never be the one to pick up the phone and call him. At this point, I don’t feel that I am the one with something to prove. I am now at a point in my life where I can finally see things from someone else’s perspective. Who knows what he thinks of this whole situation? But I am at peace with my feelings. Finally.

So, no, I don’t have “daddy issues.” I have people issues. I have trusting issues. I had a Dad–my GrandDad. And he was the light of my life. There are bits of him engrained in the darkest parts of my soul. And those pieces of him I carry with me each day, are the very pieces that have helped me grow into the woman I am today.

Finding Family

Finding Family

For the last few years– since my Grandmother’s passing–I have struggled to find where I fit in the world. A major part of who I am–or rather, who I was– depended on her. She was the Matriarch, and I was her dutiful right hand. With her being gone, I felt like I didn’t have any family that I knew inherently that I could count on. I’m an only child but I grew up surrounded by my aunts, uncle, and cousins. I never felt alone. Even after my family had issues, I still had my G-Ma. But with her gone, and my family members dealing with their own grief in the best way they knew how, I felt alone again. Whether it was true or not.

I wrote letters to my family a year after my Grandmother passed explaining my feelings of loneliness and the depression I suffered from. Not a single family member responded to my letters. It would be months before I learned about the apparent issues some of my family members had with me. For a while, I let my pride get the best of me and I had made up in mind  that it was their problem. I decided that it wasn’t even about me. I decided that I didn’t need them. But then the depression started to seep in around the holidays I spent alone.

It wouldn’t be until last Spring that one of my older cousins called me out on my hypocrisy. How can we want to be a family when ridicule each other? How can we even begin to build a relationship with each other if we are all afraid of hearing what the other person has to say? I will admit, what my cousin said to me initially pissed me off. But as the year went on, I realized that he was right. And I decided that even if some of my family members weren’t ready to confront their own egos, I was ready to confront mine in an effort to rebuild the relationships I used to have with my family.

I celebrated Easter with two of my older cousins and we reminisced about the times that used to be. I was still cautious, but I began to feel more comfortable with the idea that we could all be connected again. I craved more. I spent a lot of time asking my Grandmother for guidance. I’d like to think that she has helped me knock down all those walls I used to keep stacked high because I was so terrified of being hurt by the ones I loved the most. Fast forward to Thanksgiving and my oldest cousin tells me that we’re all celebrating at his house this year. He tells me that the very cousin that told me about myself only months before would be flying in with his family.

I contemplated not going. A part of me was still angry–or maybe more ashamed about our last interaction. But something told me to go. Be with the people I love. In all honesty, I love my family despite our shortcomings. I will always strive to remain connected to the frayed edges of fabric because we are all cut from the same cloth. And it takes strong fabric to build a garment. So I decided that I wanted to mend the pieces that had come undone.

I went to Thanksgiving dinner not knowing what to expect. I tried not to anticipate any arguments or any sort of drama at all. I got dressed, I slayed my makeup and I showed up. And it was beautiful. I was beautiful. We were beautiful. Magical. I can’t properly express the love and familiarity I felt in the presence of my cousins and their children. I’m not even sure they understand how much one day made up for all the lost time we wasted. I don’t even know if they felt the same. For me, seeing my cousins’ kids play together the way we used to restored my faith that we could do this. If not for us, but for our children. And if not for the kids, then for my Grandparents. Because all they ever wanted for us all to get along.

Fast forward to Christmas. I had this excitement inside me that I hadn’t had maybe since I was a kid. I was giddy for Christmas. Not because I would receive gifts, but because I would spend it with my family, and this new, enriched version of myself. And again, it was magical. And it felt it right.

Shortly after the New Year began, I received a message from the same cousin that helped me realize the flaws in my perception of family. I was snowed in at work, and had just come in from shoveling 14.5 inches of snow when I looked at my phone. To say that I was humbled is an understatement. His words were those of appreciation, admiration, and love. It felt good–deep in my soul– to know that he could see the changes I have been making and how hard I am trying to break through the walls that we have all built over the years. To know that he saw my strength, and that it gave him hope for people, and the future is so incredibly beautiful.

Although I have mended relationships with the majority of my family, there are still a few people I haven’t been able to reach. I have tried, but I suppose it isn’t the right time for them. I’ll keep trying, though. And when they are finally ready to let me back in, those moments will be beautiful, too. I have faith.

I share this story because I know there is someone out there with a family that isn’t perfect. The truth is, no family is. We all have our issues. I remember writing about being able to choose your friends but not being able to choose your family. The truth is, you CAN choose your family. Just because you are related, doesn’t mean that you are a family. Being a family takes work. It’s about love, loyalty, and honesty. All of these are choices that you can make. I choose Family over that dark abyss of loneliness. I choose love. I choose hope. But most of all, I choose to strive to continue to a better person each day so that one day the rest of my family can see what I see. So they can feel what I feel.

For a long time, I struggled with my close friends referring to me as family. But, I get it now. They were the family I had when I felt that my blood family wasn’t around. I’m sorry that it’s taken this long to see that. But again, I’m learning.

Since my Grandmother’s death, I have been searching for the type of wisdom she had that you can only find in the older generation. Little did I know, I would find it in a Monday night knitting group in a cafe. I didn’t know that you could feel so connected to strangers. I didn’t know that I would ever feel the love and wisdom my Grandmother shared with me. But I’ve found it. And it is beautiful. These two little ladies–now known as Gram and Auntie–have given me the pieces of my Grandmother that I couldn’t experience anymore. They each remind me of her in their own ways. And I love them for it.

I strongly believe that everything happens for a reason. My depression and loneliness served a purpose and I am stronger for having experienced. I have no regrets because now I truly appreciate the concept of Family and all the many shades, shapes, and sizes it manifests as.

You don’t have to be alone. I encourage you to have faith and choose love. It’s true what they say: Love conquers all.

My family is bigger than I could have imagined. Love ya’ll. Always. ❤

Out of Ashes: Finding Faith

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Faith is a fickle thing. I am living proof of that. I’m not just talking about religious or spiritual faith–I mean just faith in general. I have a tendency towards pessimism and cynicism. Life has always shown me it’s ugly side. Logic and things I could tangibly touch and feel where the only things that made sense to me.

I was raised in the Church. A Southern Baptist Church to be exact. So think: lots of old school negro spirituals, folks dressed to impress, baptism, Sunday school, and long, drawn out services. I hated going to church as a kid. I was more or less coerced into going. My Grandmother would bake me cakes if I behaved and my Grandfather would keep me quiet with peppermints and butterscotch candies. When I was about sixteen, I started to rebel against the church. I used to purposefully be scheduled to work so that I could skip out on service. My Grandmother expressed her disappointment in me but I stood my ground.

It was around this time that I stopped believing in God and the church. How could I believe in a God that allowed me to experience the pain I was going through after the Big Bang? What kind of God allows his children to suffer the way that I was? I had an awareness of spirituality and what that might look like, but I just didn’t buy into it. Interestingly enough, around this same time, I started calling myself the Phoenix.

I think I’ve said this before in a previous post, but it makes sense to explain it here. Out of all the magical creatures from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Series, the Phoenix is my favorite. It was the Phoenix that healed Harry’s wounds and brought him the tool to defeat his demons (the basilisk). And it was the Phoenix that allowed me to believe that life was worth living. The Phoenix gave me faith in myself and my abilities. Most of all, the Phoenix gave me faith in something bigger than me. And I have continued to rise again and again.

The Phoenix gave me strength, but my Grandmother continued to talk to me about God. I decided that I could live with being spiritual, but I was not religious in the way that my Grandparents were. I still didn’t go to church, but I found strength and grounding in the gospel music that my Grandmother listened to. It wasn’t until after my Grandmother passed away that I would think about finding my way back to a church. I went to church the day after she passed. And then I didn’t go again for three years. I couldn’t go to her church–it would be too painful. And for a long time I was too afraid to try something new.

The funny thing about faith is that you can possess it without knowing it. You don’t have to believe in God or some invisible divine being to feel trouble within your spirit and soul. My natural school of thought is logic and even I knew when I needed to go to church–or at the very least, hear some words of comfort. Anything to help me make sense of the stress and obstacles of life.

So today I went to church. Something completely different than what I am used to. I grew up with the rigidity of the Baptist church. Today I went to a contemporary church– in a movie theater of all places. I was researching churches and I knew that I didn’t want to be reminded of my Grandmother’s church. I didn’t know what to expect.

What I found was a community of individuals brought together by their shared faith. I didn’t feel pressured to do anything. I was openly welcomed and given a tour. I believe that everything happens for a reason. And I do believe that I was meant to go to church today to hear the message I heard. The message was about listening and obeying. It was about how we have so many distractions in life and we don’t take enough time to be still and listen to what God/the universe is trying to tell us. If we are still and listen, we can obey and understand.

Which brings me to my next point, after my Grandmother passed away, I found comfort in watching Pocahontas. I heavily identified with Disney’s Pocahontas because she relied on her Grandmother Willow for wisdom and comfort. Grandmother Willow says to “Listen with your heart, you will understand.” She also tells Pocahontas that “sometimes the right path is not the easiest one.” It took me up until this very moment to understand that this is just another example of my faith–just like the Phoenix–it gives me strength. It helps me keep the faith that everything happens for a reason.

No matter how hard life gets, no matter how much you want to give up, keep the faith. Find something that keeps you going. Find something or someone that you can resonate with. I am by no means a master of faith, but I have seen first hand how it changes things. Faith comes in all forms–it doesn’t always have to look like a church, or a bible, or even prayer. Faith is the belief that things can change for the better. Faith is believing in the things we cannot see but believing anyway.

I share all of this because I have lived a difficult, painful life. And for a while, I let it get the best of me. I felt defeated and hopeless. I felt like I was covered in darkness for a long time. But one day, I opened my eyes and saw the light. I discovered that life is whatever you decide for it to be. If you think that everything is always going wrong, your life will continue to go in that direction. It’s the law of attraction. You must speak things into existence. But if you dare to choose to keep your head up and see the lesson in every situation, you will find strength. It will make things more bearable.

Here I am, out of ashes. Rising again in a positive light.