Trying To Like My Mother

A few months back, my mother and I got into yet another disagreement.  It consisted of the usual talking points: She failed as a mother, her daughter is selfish, her daughter doesn’t subscribe to the same moral code as she does, etc.  Typical Haitian mother dramatics.  She told me that it upsets her that I don’t speak to her and that she doesn’t understand why.  She went on about how she wants to be able to communicate with me and still complained that she had failed as a mother because her daughter didn’t grow up to be exactly as she had planned.   While she talked, I sat on the edge of her bed growing angry.  It was time to give it to her straight.  Maybe then, I thought, she would leave me alone.  Maybe if I finally tell her exactly how I feel about her, she will get the point and just leave me alone.  And so I said it.  “You’re my mother and I love you.  But I don’t like you.  I don’t want to talk to you.  And since I’m such a disappointment, once I move out, you won’t hear from me ever again and you can still make things right with your son.  Hopefully he doesn’t disappoint you.”

Saying those words felt good.  I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t give me some pleasure seeing the look of hurt on her face after hearing what I really felt.  She had hurt me and I wanted to hurt her back.  I felt lighter.  And so I kept going.  I told her how her wishy-washy behavior is damaging and confusing. I told her that she needs to say what she means the first time and stop trying to be a “cool mom” when she will only regret it later after I’ve acted in accordance to what she has said.  I told her that she has to accept that I am not and never have been another version of her.  I told her that I am ME and will continue to be me.  I told her that in order to preserve my sanity, I’ve decided to be selfish in ways that she is not because I see how her selflessness has negatively affected her.  I told her everything.  “Well I’m sorry.  But you don’t know the truth about why I have done much of what I have to you.” she replied.   I looked at her confused.  She was saying there was a reason behind everything, so what is it?  But when I asked, she refused to speak of it.  “If you won’t tell me WHY you do these things, I won’t understand and we won’t get anywhere,” I explained.  Still she refused to tell me about whatever she had been hiding.  “So then nothing will be resolved and there is no need to continue with our conversation.” I concluded.  She tried to get me to accept her apology but I saw no need for it. She was not willing to help me understand and so I was unwilling to forgive her.   And then she finally opened up and told me everything.  My mother finally shared with me the secrets of her life that she vowed to never tell me out of fear that I would look at her differently.  It wasn’t easy for her and when she was done speaking she looked at me as if I had stripped her naked and left her raw and exposed.  She looked at me as if she hated me for making her bare her soul to her first born and only daughter after she had spent much of her life burying those experiences and secrets.  I hugged my mother and told her that I loved her.  I thanked her for finally trusting me enough to tell me what she promised herself and God that she would take to her grave.  I assured her that what she told me would not make me look at her differently.  However, since that day, I do see her differently.

My mother’s fear of her children knowing these things about her and looking at her differently is valid.  She’s afraid that her experiences would cause her children to see her negatively.  But it is quite the opposite.  Growing up I’d always seen my mother as tough and able to withstand anything.  Everyday I see the physical scars life and love have left on her.  They tell everyone that she is a survivor of tragedy.  She is a miracle.  My mother was not supposed to be alive today but she beat the odds.  But for some reason I never thought about the emotional scars.  The scars and still open wounds on her heart and soul.  Now I’ve seen them.  I’ve smelled the blood.  I’m beginning to understand.  And because I’m starting to understand, I’m trying harder.

Since the day my mother opened up to me, we have argued some.  To say that we’ve become the black version of the Gilmore girls would be a farce.  She still has a hard time understanding some things about me and I still think she is crazy.  There are still times when I’m angry and think to myself that I will move far away and never reach out to her.   There is still a lot of work to be done and truthfully, I’m unsure of just how much progress will be made.  The difference is that before, I had come to accept that she and I will never get along.  I had decided that I will never like my mother and maybe I just don’t want to like her.  But today, I no longer feel that way.  Today, I want to like her.  Today, I am trying to like my mother.

 

26 and Counting: A Birthday Post

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A fresh sew-in is always worthy of celebration.

26 years ago today, I made my grand entrance into this not-always-so grand world.  I must have always known that I’d feel indifferent about my birthday because I even slept through my actual birth. Yep. I was asleep the whole time. Or at least that’s what my mother told me.
As a kid, birthdays were great!  Cake, pizza, presents, all the attention I wanted.  March 3rd was all about me and how great I am.  What a time to be alive!  But after high school, I wanted to go back to my infant days and just sleep through March 3rd every year.  My birthdays went unnoticed, uncelebrated, overlooked, and pushed aside by people I thought cared about me. This caused my attitude about my birthday to turn a bit sour. I mean, nobody else cared, why should I?

Thankfully, towards the end of college, I welcomed people into my life that have shown that they care about me. Not just on birthdays but every day.  However, this year, while I’m not feeling like a Granny Smith Apple, I’m not bubbling with excitement either.

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How I should feel


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How I really feel

Yes, my friends are very correct about how this is one of my best years to date. I’m finally settling into my desired career at a great school that has a great staff and great students. I’m in a loving, supportive relationship. I’m going back to school in a few months to pursue a second degree. On paper, you could say that I’m in a good space in my adult life. These are all positives right?  I should be going into my 26th birthday joyful and enthusiastic. But I’m not and I think I finally know why.

I’ve been mulling over what the hell my birthday post would be about for bit. And since that conversation shown above, I’ve been extra focused on trying to put my finger on why I feel this way.  I’ve asked myself what my problem is over and over just to hear my inner self reply, “girl, who knows!”  Finally, I think I’ve got it.  And it only came to me a few moments ago while drafting up this piece and stumbling upon an over looked connection between Shonda Rhimes’s new book The Year of Yes and my current state of being.

You ready?  Ok. So, I’ve got all of these great things happening for me right?  Here’s what’s got me down though.  I’m simply not enjoying life. I’m not LIVING.  I’m not DOING anything.  I’m merely going through the motions and doing what I’ve convinced myself I have to do. I’m existing. I’m taking up space. That’s a pretty wack realization, right?  And while reading Rhimes’s book, while i was thoroughly entertained, I didn’t notice how much i related to what she was saying.  I just thought the woman was being a great writer.  But really, she was secretly exposing my own personal issues through wit, Beyonce references and jokes about red wine that are funny because they’re true.  I mean, that woman is GOOD!

Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy as hell to have found a better job in a field of work that I love.  The education system isn’t perfect and needs A LOT of work but I’m happy to make lasting impressions on the ones that have our future in their tiny, germy, peanut butter and jelly covered hands. Doubling my monthly income is pretty fucking sweet too, am I right?  And being in a relationship where I know I’m being loved and supported how I know I deserve to be loved and supported is wonderful. My guy is a gem. Going back to school and receiving financial help that won’t leave me in even more debt than undergrad did is a fucking win too. But what have I actually done in these past few years?  What has been memorable about my life?  I can’t think of anything.  Nothing.  Zilch.  Khleo Thomas in Holes.

Every day, Monday through Friday, I wake up at 4 AM to make my commute to work. Every day at 4:30 PM, I commute back home. I’m in bed and asleep by 9:00 PM so that I can do it all over again. My weekends consist of falling sleep early, writing lesson plans and loafing around in bed alone or with my boyfriend. Occasionally I go get my hair and nails done. And every blue moon I’ll go be social. But a majority of the time, I’m not doing shit. I am bored out of my fucking mind.

I don’t see anyone. I barely talk to anyone. I don’t do epic shit. I don’t travel internationally. Not even a domestic flight. I’m still living at home. I’m still poor (thank you student loans). I’m just here going to work and going to sleep. And while I usually wear my laziness as a badge of honor as a means to justify my selfishness, this feels like I’m wasting my youth.

So now that I know what my problem is, how do I fix it?  Do I just get up and go?  I have a feeling the answer is yes. Yes, book that flight. Yes, go to that restaurant. Yes, visit that museum. Even if you go alone, yes. Do that thing. Do all those things. Live, bitch!  Live!

But, I’m weirdly afraid to.

And so I don’t book that flight. I don’t go to that restaurant. I don’t visit any museums. I don’t do anything. I do nothing. I go to work and I go to sleep. I just exist. Take up space. Just like I did last year and the years before that.

But I don’t want that for myself anymore. I want to stop being afraid to live and stop making excuses as to why I can’t do something. I don’t want to go into 27 still existing. I want to have done more by the end of this year. I want to have grown more in ways that a larger paycheck, and a job can’t help me grow (although I am very supportive of those things growing all they want). I want real life experiences. I want to be like Shonda Rhimes. I want to start saying, “yes.”

So I’m making 26 my year of yes. I’m done merely existing and taking up space. I’m going to go out and do things, see things, eat things. I’m booking that domestic flight and saving for that international one (ya girl is still poor. Let’s not get crazy). I’m going to that museum or gallery. Alone or with company. I’m saying yes.  Yes to 26 and counting.

Now…

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Hazy Pt 3

His lips grazed my collarbone. Biting on my bottom lip, I suppressed a moan. His hand had found its way underneath my skirt and with a slip of a finger, he began to make the motions of a guitarist gently strumming. I began to hum along to his melody.
Chad embraced me and I could smell the mixture of cigarettes and Calvin Klein on his shirt. I caught a few glares from both men and women.
“I almost didn’t recognize you standing there!  You look great!”
“Thank! So do you!”
We had to scream over the music. However, Chad’s baritone came through a lot clearer than my own voice. I wasn’t sure if it was the bass from the speakers that I felt, or the bass coming from Chad’s voice box. 
            “Tasha has done it again.”
            “Doesn’t she always?”
            “You’re right about that.”
We stopped for a moment and just stared at each other. I waited for him to ask about Juelz but he didn’t.
            “Still painting?”
            “Of course. Still writing?”
“Of course. When is your next art showing? I really enjoyed myself at the last one.”
“I’m not sure yet. I’m working on a piece now but it’s taking longer than expected. I’m at a sort of loss for inspiration.”
“Maybe you need some excitement.”
“Yeah, maybe. That’s why I came out. I’m hoping that the big rotten apple has something for me tonight.”
“Well, if it doesn’t, at least you still look great. What are you drinking?”
“Anything that will get me drunk.”
Chad turned to the bar and flagged down the bartender. She flirted with Chad as he ordered shots for the both of us and glared at me standing beside him. After about 4 shots I began to feel warm. I knew that pretty soon I’d be very drunk and so I should stick to beer for the rest of the night. 
            “Chad, I think you’ve done your duty.”
            “Drunk already? You used to be able to handle more than this.”
He laughed and ordered us two beers. The same bartender glared at me but with the liquid courage flowing through my veins I smiled and gave her the finger. She rolled her eyes and turned to retrieve our drinks.
            “Still a feisty drunk I see.”
            “Old habits die hard. I’ll be right back though. I have to go to the bathroom.”
“You’re breaking the seal already? Oh come on!  When did you become such a softy?”
I shrugged and smiled as I took off my jacket.
            “Keep this safe. I’ll be right back.”
I pushed my way through the crowd and towards the back of the club. I spotted Tasha in the VIP section sitting on some man’s lap. Same old Tasha. I made my way to the bathroom and was surprised that there wasn’t a line outside of the door. Was it out of order? Whatever. I just wanted to sprinkle some cool water on my neck. 
I walked inside and turned on the faucet. Just then I heard a knock at the door.
            “Busy!” I shouted.
There was another knock.
            “Hold on!”
I was rummaging through my purse when I heard the door open.
            “Jesus Christ! I said someone…”

Hazy Pt. 2

I felt his hand travel up my thigh, stopping at the seam of my skirt. I watched him examine my face. I felt the blood rushing to my head and there was a pulse between my thighs. He smirked and flashed his teeth a bit. What did he have in mind here? Where was I letting this lead? And why did I want it to lead anywhere at all?

I heard a whistle from behind me and turned around to see Phil giving me a once over. 
“Isn’t it past your bedtime, Phillip?”
“You gonna tuck me in?”
“No. That’s your mommy’s job.”
Phil was a 21 year old that lived across the hall. He moved in a year ago with his girlfriend but she soon left when she caught him red handed with another woman in their living room. Phil didn’t seem too disappointed by the split. Now he could shuffle women in and out of his apartment without having to answer to anybody.  According to him, that was what being 21 was all about. Must be nice. 
“I’ll be home all night waiting for you.”
“Don’t hold your breath. Good night, Phil.”
I continued my trek down to the lobby where Juelz was waiting for me. 
“Look at you! Finally out of those filthy chucks and into some grown woman shoes! Bravo!”
“You and Tasha are paying my hospital bill when I break my ankle.”
“Oh hush.”
We walked outside and the brisk air smacked me right in the face. I had stopped going to clubs a year ago. I forgot how it felt to wear barely anything during February in New York. I was cold. I clutched my leather jacket closer to my body. It barely helped. The doorman hailed a yellow taxi for Juelz and I and within 5 minutes we were on our way. Juelz wasted no time taking out his black, sequenced flask and taking a swig. He swallowed hard and twisted his face. He handed me the flask and I followed suit, taking 3 shots of the mystery elixir. I wanted to be on the road to inebriation well before the party got to be too much. It was 12 midnight and I planned on sneaking out by 2:00 if I could shake Juelz and Tasha. 
            “Chad is coming.”
            “Oh?”
            “He sent me a text saying how he can’t wait to see me. Bitch.”
Chad was Juelz’s kryptonite. He would walk into a room and Juelz would turn into mush. Juelz put up a pretty good front to the untrained eye and ear about how much he hated the man, but I saw right through it. Besides, Chad made heterosexual women wish that they were homosexual men. Little did they know, penis or no penis, Chad only had eyes for Juelz. He, like many other men, gay or straight, just had a very fucked up way of showing it. 
The cab stopped in front a long line of people that seemed to stretch across the entire island of Manhattan. We didn’t do lines though. I stepped out of the backseat and stumbled a bit. Yup. The alcohol was starting to take effect. Juelz scanned the crowd at the front door and spotted Benny. Benny was a bouncer that had stopped a bar fight I was in once. Since then, he’s been like a big brother. And like an all access V.I.P pass to every event we ever wanted to go to in the city.
“Benny!”
“Va-va-voom! Check you out! Not your usual garb but I’m into it!”
I blushed and played with the hem of my skirt. I felt like everyone could see my ovaries.
            “Our names are on the list.”
Benny scanned his clipboard. Even if the names weren’t there, he had to put on a show for the crowd that he wasn’t letting just anyone inside. He nodded his head and stepped aside so that Juelz and I could enter. 
            “Stay outta trouble, Tyson.”
            “Haha. Very funny, Benny.”
The music was blaring and almost deafening. I needed another drink. Juelz and I separated and I made a beeline for the bar. I figured he was going to find Tasha. I’d find them eventually. I approached the bar and squeezed through the crowd. I glanced to my right and spotted Chad. He flashed his million dollar smile and made his was in my direction.

Beastly

I opened my eyes and forced them shut again. Was I even alive? I had to be. Either that or I was in hell and being forced to relive a hangover for all eternity. The air in the room was thick with the smell of the alcohol that I was sweating out through my pores. I surveyed the room, now illuminated by sunlight. What time was it? I sat up, searching for my cellphone that was undoubtably lost in a sea of blanks. On the nightstand was an empty cognac bottle. That explained the wicked headache I had. I cursed myself. I finally found my phone and tapped it’s home button to awaken it.
But before noticing the time, I noticed the green bubble next to a name I was all too familiar with seeing on my screen when nights like last night happen.I’d gone there again. I’d done it again. I’d opened that cage within me that was dead-bolted shut whenever I was in my sober, less impulsive frame of mind. Funny how alcohol made me forget everything else but where I’d hidden the keys that unlocked this kennel and let loose beastly urges and rabid emotions that liked to sink their teeth into victims and lock their jaws. The last time I unleashed these beasts, there wasn’t a survivor in sight.

What did you do? No. Don’t open it. Delete. Delete. Delete. You were drunk. You still kind of are. What are you doing? You’ll be sorry. Stop!

Swipe

I scrolled up. I cursed myself again. It’s also funny how hard liquor can make me so soft.

“I miss you”

“You must be drunk”

“Why I gotta be all that?”

“You’re only nice to me when you’re drunk.”

“Man whatever”

“That was fast”

“You miss me?”

“Lol”

“Don’t play with me”

“Who’s playing?”

“Fuck you”

“See this is why I can’t fucking stand you”

“Blah blah”

“Leave me alone. Bye”

“When am I going to see you?”

“Never.”

“Keep playing with me.”

“I’m not doing this with you.”

“Listen man”

“Door plz”

Huh? Did I miss something? I checked my call log. 3 outgoing calls had gone unanswered but the fourth and last must have been received. The call lasted 15 minutes. That was just enough time for those monsters to prepare to feast.

I put the phone down. There was the sound of bare feet padding against the hardwood floor in the hallway, heading in the direction of my bedroom door. I caught myself holding my breath as I waited for the doorknob to turn. In she walked. Without a word she climbed back into bed with me. Securing herself in my arms she planted a kiss on my lips. The beast salivated. She looked at me as if she already knew that she was now in the lion’s den. And while we both hoped that this time would be different we knew she would not leave here in one piece. Without intending to, I’d once again sink my teeth in and treat her heart like a chew toy. She looked away and sighed, ready to be eaten alive.

Hazy

We were nose to nose. Both of us breathing heavily. My skin felt as though it had been set ablaze. I inhaled. His cologne was intoxicating. He brushed a thumb across my bottom lip and gazed into my eyes intensely. I felt light-headed. I hadn’t even noticed him follow me into the bathroom.
Tasha was infamous for throwing the best parties. She was “close” with all of the popular club owners and they never had any objections when she asked to use their venues for her own personal gatherings at barely any price. At least not a price many self-respecting women would be willing to pay. But then again, who is anyone to say that Tasha had no self-respect. 
“No, Ramon! I said I wanted 50 bottles of your best champagne. Not 50 bottles of the cheap shit that nouveau riche, hip-hop artists waste by pouring on an underage hoodrat’s ass! Get me what I asked for!”
She tossed her cellular phone down on the couch and put her hands on her hips, looking flustered. She was such a drama queen. 
“I swear its like talking to a brick wall when I have to plan anything with that man.”
I continued to stare at my canvas. My blank canvas. Lately, inspiration had been hard to come by. I had hit a month long roadblock. Maybe if I sat in front of the canvas long enough, something would just happen. 
“You’re coming tonight right?”
“No. I have to paint.” I didn’t look away from the canvas.
“Paint like you’re doing now?”
I glared over my shoulder and sent imaginary knives straight for her.
“I’m just saying,” she responded when she noticed my death stare. 
“You’re always saying something. How about you shut up for once?”
I heard Tasha make a hissing noise at me as her heels clicked against my hardwood floor towards the kitchen. I went back to my canvas and back to trying to will something to happen. It was a failed attempt. I was beginning to get a headache. Closing my eyes and rubbing my temples, I got up from my stool and walked into the kitchen. Maybe I should eat something I thought. There I found Tasha picking at a bowl of grapes on the counter. 
“I’m coming to your stupid party.”
“Good. Now get dressed. We’re going shopping because I know that not a thing you own will do for this event.”

New Career, Who Dis?

You know the saying, “life comes at you fast?” Well, since completing my undergraduate studies, life has been moving at light-speed. No more than 2 hours after crossing that stage in the middle of my alma mater’s football stadium on May 18, 2013, everybody asked, “So will/when are you going back?” and “What’s next?” And at that moment, and for the two summer months that were to come, my only response was, “I don’t know. Can’t I just take a moment to breathe and enjoy myself for a little?” I mean I’d just spent 5 hellish years in Baltimore, Maryland aka The Devil’s Asshole, USA. I was exhausted. I didn’t even want to think about being in school for another two years. So, with that, I packed my shit, left Baltimore and headed home to New York for a post grad summer. It was fun, but it was over sooner than I would’ve liked it to be. And with it’s end, came the inevitable return of the “what now?” Only this time, I was the one asking myself that question.

It has been two years since I’ve completed my undergraduate matriculation and those two years have had their share of ups and downs in all aspects of my life. But the professional and financial sides are the parts of my life that I always stress myself out about most. After the summer of 2013 came to a close, I began grappling with the idea of what I would be doing with myself career wise. I’d earned my BA in English with a concentration in creative writing and the only thing it’s gotten me is 92K worth of student loan debt. I had no idea how to put this expensive ass accomplishment to good use.

I love writing. I love reading. I love words. But after coming home, I remembered that hobbies don’t pay the bills. At least not for me. At least not yet. I’d have to get “a real job.” Along with my reality check, where my student loan debt served as the gratuity that nobody ordered, came a doggy bag filled with post grad style depression. Yum. I felt like a bum. I wasn’t working anymore since my summer gig ended when the summer did, I was broke and my mother was reminding me every day that I’d be getting my first letter from Sallie Mae soon. At that point any job would do. And I got one. You guys remember, right? Nordstrom? Yeah. Retail proved to be a hell almost as bad as living in Baltimore. Sure, the money was decent, but I was miserable and I didn’t go to school to sell old bitches hosiery. But, as all of you also know, I was fired within a month. It was hidden blessing, really.   Right after being let go from that slave ship, I stumbled upon what I’d later realize was my calling.

You guys already know this too, so this is just a recap, but I started working part-time at an afterschool program as a tutor about a month after Nordstrom dumped me. The hours were trash and the money barely covered my financial responsibilities, but I’d had it in my mind that some income was better than no income at all and that I’d just do what I had to do for the time being until I worked out a plan to get a better job that better suited my needs. At this point I was still lost on where the fuck I saw myself 10 years from now. I needed money. That’s all I knew or even cared about. The depression hadn’t subsided. I was still crying every week and had convinced myself that I’d racked up all this debt for nothing. And without noticing, I was started to accept that about myself. The jobs I was applying for to replace the one I had at that moment were still bullshit jobs that surely didn’t put my degree to use. I was being lazy, a character trait that I’ve owned my entire life. Only I didn’t look at it that way until recently. But while I was searching for new employment opportunities, I was unknowingly learning that I loved working with kids. I loved helping them learn. And while having a conversation with a friend of mine about my day at work with a child I’d been working with, he pointed something out to me.

“Sounds like this is something you’re meant to do,” he told me.

Bing! It did sound that way, didn’t it? The way these kids mattered to me wasn’t something I actually paid attention to but it was pretty clear that I cared deeply for them and that I found joy in helping them succeed academically. People always asked me if I wanted to be a teacher once they learned I had an English degree, but I’d always responded indifferently because I was focused on being an author. But look! Unbeknownst to be, I’d found something new to be passionate about. So it was then that I decided that I’d pursue it.

I won’t lie and say that from that moment on I got right to work on becoming a teacher. Unfortunately, it took some shit going wrong for me to get my shit right. The school I worked at offered me a full time position a few months after my conversation with my friend happened and I began getting comfortable in my mediocrity. There was talk of my moving up at the school but it wouldn’t have been much of an accomplishment looking back at it now. However, God makes you uncomfortable when He wants you to grow. And so after two years of employment at that school, they fired me this August off some bullshit. And let me tell you, unemployment is uncomfortable as hell. But thanks to another friend (my mother thinks we should send him a thank you card. She’s sweet.), I was given an opportunity to get into my career.

It’s been two weeks at my new school and I’m in love with it. After my first visit, I knew that it was where I wanted to be. And after I received my official offer to join their team, I committed myself to working at this shit. It’s A LOT of work. I missed the month’s worth of training workshops that my colleagues had attended in August, so I’m playing catch up. Not to mention, I have to wake up at 4:00 AM Mon-Fri to get to work. But I learned that when you find something you want badly enough, you will put in the work and step out of your comfort zone in order to get it done.  Plus, receiving a salary pay with benefits as well as a getting a little help paying for classes to earn my M.A in Education (I enroll August 2016) isn’t a bad motivation factor. I’ve been leading reading and writing lessons in a classroom full of kids and I’m having a blast doing so! I’m helping children learn to love something that I already love. I finally know what it feels like to enjoy going to work.

I always seem to find myself starting over in some way when my summers come to a close. As the weather shifts so does something in my life. Funny how that works. But this time, when I was left asking myself, “what now?” I had an answer. I’m happy to say that I know what to do now and that I’m just anxious start working at it.