I Am Becoming

I am becoming…someone unknown to me.  I have never met her, but I know she is confident; I have never seen her, but I know she is brave.  I am obsessed with my outer appearance, while her infatuation is the well-being of her soul. I am deafened by the silence around me, yet in stillness her spirit whispers wisdom.  She tells me that my scars quilt the patchwork of her essence; my stumbling blocks, the stepping stones to her destiny.  She is unintimidated by the things that frighten me…unflinching at what makes me afraid.  She wears my dishonor like a cloak, unashamed and unabashedly pursuing that which fulfills her.  She is not deterred by the distractions that beguile me; steadfast in her purpose, with blinders she progresses.  My doubts ignite her determination; my trepidation, her certainty.  She was conceived in my passion, birthed from my dreams.

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The Power of No

How many times a day does the average two-year old say no?  Whether refusing to eat vegetables or protesting bath time, toddlers have no problem speaking out against things they don’t want to do.  As we grow up and are socialized into polite and obedient children, our contrary nature is curbed and we learn to acquiesce to others’ needs and desires.  I can remember being a teenager, in many adolescent angst-ridden moments, yearning for the day I became an adult and no longer had to do things I didn’t want to do.  I can’t wait to grow up so I can do what I want when I want!  The “grown woman” in me chuckles at the naiveté of my younger self.

How many times did you say no today?  Or perhaps more to the point, how many times did you say yes to something you didn’t want to do?  Because it was inconvenient, bothered you, was uncomfortable, or just because you didn’t feel like doing it. Often we struggle with saying no because we either feel obligated or want others to see us in a positive light.  We are taught that it is selfish to say no when we have the ability to say yes and that we should treat others how we want them to treat us.  The truth is saying no is possibly the least selfish thing you can do.

When we do things out of obligation or with resistance, it is often from a place of resentment instead of love.  Saying no allows us to recharge and fill up our reserve so that we can give from our overflow; it allows us to give without expectation of reciprocation.  Putting ourselves first and saying no to things that do not serve us empowers others to do the same and many times, quite frankly, gives people permission to do things for themselves that they would otherwise depend on you to do. If you cannot say no, you can never say a full yes; the ability to say no gives meaning to your yes. Think of no as your personal gift to those you care about.

Does this mean that we should all become contentious and cantakerous and only agree to things that make us feel good?  Of course not!  What it does mean, however, is that when the answer is no, it should be without guilt. No does not require explanation or justification.  No is a complete sentence.  We should reserve yes for when we mean it and can fully understand the implications of yes.  Our agreement should come from a place power and not pressure.

Today, I challenge you to say no to three things that do not serve you.

“But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’. Anything more is from the evil one.” — Matthew 5:37 (New King James Version)

Love At The Bottom Of The Sea

“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” — Guatama Buddha

I recently had an inspiring conversation with a dear friend, Jenna Abernathy.  As is normally the case with our discussions, I was both equipped with small nuggets of wisdom and, simultaneously, challenged to grow.  “What if,” she proposed, “we learned to be gentle and kind to ourselves at our worst instead of berating and guilting ourselves?”

I’ve often heard it said that only those who can accept us at our worst deserve us at our best, but how often do we accept ourselves in that place?  When we are at our lowest and need our own full support and acceptance, how often do we extend grace and forgiveness to Self?

The funny thing about depression is that in the midst of my darkest moments where joy is a fleeting thought and hope a distant memory, there is an abundance of guilt over the fact that I’m depressed in the first place.  I have learned that the more I criticize myself for my lack of motivation, inexplicable sadness and inability to do all of the many things that the taskmaster side of me feels I should be doing, the deeper and more profound the decline.  Only in those moments of grace and self-love am I able to make out flashes of light at the end of a murky tunnel.

The same empathy and soft landing place I afford to others without question is the same love of which I, myself, am worthy.  It’s easy to practice inner love and self-care when we are pleased with ourselves, but it’s in the depths of the cave that we need ourselves to show up and be present the most.  It’s easy to be our own worst critic; the challenge is to be our own biggest fan.

When do you find it hardest to practice self love?  In what ways can you be more conscious about caring for yourself during those times?

“I have seen the best of you, and the worst of you, and I choose both.” — Sarah Kay

Thank You Letter to Pain

Dear Pain,

Thank you for the lessons that you have taught me and for being a constant catalyst to my growth.  Thank you for your subtle reminders that I need to move from my comfort zone to grow into the person I’m destined to be.

Your presence — in the form of abuse, harsh words, disrespect, shame, intolerance, judgment, abandonment, and neglect — has been the greatest gift of my life.  Through you I was able to realize my power; through you, I recognized my strength.  For years I tried to push you out of my life, but I know now that you only came to help me.

Thank you for providing the obstacles I need to step upon to reach my highest dreams.  Thank you for the scars that created the patchwork of my soul’s greatness.  Thank you for the hurts that allow me to appreciate how wonderful true love feels.

You meant it for my destruction, but it turned out to be the greatest blessing I could ever imagine.  I forgive myself for all the times I took you for granted.

Gratefully yours,

A Rising Phoenix

Liebster Award

Thank you mittymoonshine for nominating me for the Liebster Award.  This is a great opportunity to learn about new bloggers and discover amazing new content!

I had to do a bit of research about the nomination as I haven’t participated previously.  From my understanding, the rules are:

  • Link back to the blogger that nominated you.
  • Answer the questions set by them.
  • Nominate other new blogs in your post.
  • Create your own questions.
  • Notify the nominated blogs once you have published your Liebster post.

My Liebster Q&A

1. What is your biggest passion in life?
My passion in life is to empower those seeking lasting change to live life without fear, without apology and without limits.

2. What do your family and friends think about your blogging?
My friends are excited that I’m writing again, though due to the sensitive nature of many of my posts, I haven’t shared this blog with much of my family.

3. Where is your favourite place in the world?
My favorite place in the world is home in her arms.

4. What is your ideal job?
My ideal job is working as a personal power coach and helping clients overcome obstacles that prohibit them from living the life of their dreams.

5. What are your hobbies (other than blogging)?
My hobbies include spoken word, hiking, logic puzzles, reading and karaoke.

6. What is your biggest fear?
My greatest fear is dying without fulfilling my dreams and visions.

7. If your life was a movie, what movie would it be?
If my life was a movie (based on title alone), it would be Pursuit of Happyness.

8. What do you enjoy most about blogging?
The thing I most enjoy about blogging is the ability to heal myself through my writing and, at the same time, empower others to find their inner warrior.

9. What is your favourite song lyric?
Cause you’re beautiful like a flower/More valuable than a diamond/You are powerful like a fire/You can heal the world with your mind/There is nothing in the world that you cannot do/When you believe in you, who are beautiful/Yeah, you who are brilliant/Yeah, you who are powerful/Yeah you who are resilient  (Beautiful Flower, India.Arie)

10. What has been the happiest moment in life for you so far?
The happiest moment of my life was a surprise visit from my brother a few years ago.  I hadn’t seen him in several years and it was an incredibly sweet birthday present.

My Liebster Nominations: the blogs below are pages that I personally follow that have provided encouragement, motivation and support.  I guarantee that every one of the pages below will challenge you, inspire you and leave you wanting more!  It is an honor and privilege to nominate the following writers for the Liebster Award:

  1. Finally Felix
  2. Race Baitr
  3. Quiet As It’s Kept
  4. The Realm of Empathy
  5. Amber Keeps Breathing

My Questions for You

  1. What person, past or present, has been your biggest influence?
  2. What do you wish to accomplish through your blog?
  3. Where do you see yourself five years from today?
  4. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
  5. What is your greatest passion in life?
  6. What was your most embarrassing moment?
  7. What has been your greatest accomplishment thus far?
  8. What are five things you are grateful for?
  9. When was the last time you cried and why?
  10. When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Conversations With God: How I Got Over

A friend recently asked, “what was your ‘aha moment’?  What was your moment of realization that there has to be more: more to [this experience], more to love, more to everything lacking in your life?”  My moment of realization came eleven years ago, lost somewhere between death and fighting desperately for life.

On a Tuesday afternoon in the spring of 2004, at twenty years old, I decided that the pain of living was more frightening than the uncertainty of death and washed a Dixie cup full of medication down with gulps of Tanqueray.  This was my third suicide attempt within four years and I thought I’d finally figured out the perfect combination to successfully end my life.    I was alone at college in Washington, DC, shrouded in the anonymity of being nearly 2500 miles away from home.  The depression and sadness I’d attempted to leave behind when I left for college simply festered and grew.  My mother and I were not speaking at the time (and hadn’t been for nearly a year) and the resulting relationship with most of my birth family was strained.  In the dark crevices of a mind far from any semblance of a support system, my depression became too much to bear.  The funny thing about depression is that, disguised simply as a chronic state of melancholy, the most seemingly insignificant event can be the final straw on the back of an already fractured camel.  I think that day I was worried about how I would come up with money to cover room and board: I was at Howard University on a full-ride scholarship, excluding room and board which should have been covered by a second scholarship that I’d lost but hadn’t told anyone.  The shame of being honest about the actions that had caused me to lose my secondary scholarship, my constant feelings of guilt and regret about things that had happened outside of my control, embarrassment about my closeted attraction to women, the weight of childhood trauma and feeling alone in the world was enough to cause me to forget my divine purpose.

I had been contemplating viable options for suicide for at least six months prior to that day and, as such, had been “collecting” prescription pills.  Some Vicodin taken from a medicine cabinet here, a few Flexeril there, leftover Trazadone, a few Seroquel and Ambien; I’d also somehow gotten my hands on some Prednisone which, unbeknownst to me, was a steroid that quite possibly combated the deadly effects of the mixture of different medications and drug classes.  I made a cocktail of the pills, nearly filling a four-ounce paper cup.  A male companion had given me a fifth of Tanqueray after a rendezvous on the floor of his barroom; the gin was strong and bitter, but Sprite made it more tolerable — I filled a 24-ounce cup with half gin and half soda.  Glancing at my stoic reflection in the mirror, I tilted my head back and dropped the pills into my mouth along with a swallow of gin.  I repeated, drinking down more pills and liquor.  When I felt like I would throw up, I stopped drinking and stared into my own lifeless eyes.

No panic overtook me as it had immediately after previous attempts.  On the contrary, I was clear-headed and sure of my decision.  I remember looking at the clock and wondering how long it would take for eternal sleep to beckon me unto her bosom.  Even though I wanted to die, the cowardice of taking my own life was a shame I didn’t wish to bring upon my family.  There was no suicide note or letter of explanation.  Earlier that morning, I had gathered all of my personal, and otherwise potentially embarrassing, items into a small bag; I tossed the Dixie cup, the remainder of the alcohol, and the empty pill bottles into the garbage bag and went down the hall to the refuse bin.  Pausing as I pulled back the handle to the trash chute, I wondered what my eulogy would read–how I would be described by family and friends who had no idea who I really was.  The walk back to my dorm room felt like the green mile: time seemed to pause, my feet dragged as I made my way to my demise, faceless students breezed past offering compulsory smiles and greetings to which I averted my eyes and mumbled in response.  I entered my room and slammed the door, cursing the clock for its lack of urgency.  I remember folding a load of laundry and making my bed because I didn’t want whoever found me to think I was messy.  Time crept past.  When I grew tired of pacing the floor as I awaited the Grim Reaper, I decided to watch a movie.  It was a comedy.

The following account is exactly as I remember it, untainted by poetic license and artistic flourish.  I don’t remember falling asleep.  I don’t remember any physical sensations within my body.  I don’t remember what last conscious thoughts I had before I dozed off.  As evidenced by the fact that I’m writing this, I obviously did not die that day.  Over the course of the next three days I did, however, experience rebirth.

I don’t know how long I’d been unconscious, but at some point I became aware of the fact that I was watching myself from a vantage point somewhere high in the room.  I was aware of a presence beside me.  I don’t remember the presence having any distinguishable characteristics, but there was an instant familiarity.  An all-encompassing light, safety, peace.  A knowing.  I accepted the presence as God.

Becoming aware, once again, of my body lying across the bed and understanding that I was in a space between life and death, I began to speak to God with a closeness and honesty that I’d never experienced even after spending nearly half my life in church.  The prayer that first night was more a plea for grace.  I was afraid that I would be forever damned to hell for my actions: I begged for mercy.  I didn’t ask for my life to be spared; I didn’t regret choosing to take my life, I simply didn’t want to pay for the pain that led to that decision with my soul.

The second day, perhaps after watching myself unconsciously stumble to use the bathroom and immediately pass out across the bed again, I realized I wasn’t dead.  At some point the prayer changed.  If God wasn’t going to allow me to die, I implored that my physical and mental capacity not be compromised.  It’s amazing to me that my ego was so strong, even as my life was hanging in the balance.  I had built an identity centered around my intelligence and if I was damned to continue this existence on earth, I begged to keep things as normal as possible (I didn’t realize how ridiculously ableist and self-righteous that request was at the time).  I remember becoming aware of the phone ringing at some point.  I watched as my body staggered to my desk and grabbed the cordless phone from the cradle.  I have splintered memories of my best friend calling; I hadn’t been to class in days.  I muttered something about being sick.  I was asleep again before the call ended.

The conversation on that third day is where things began to change.   I don’t remember God ever speaking in response to my prayers.  The image I’d had of God as an impossible dictator from years of well-intended religious teaching began to fade away.  There, alone with God, I found understanding.  My prayer changed to one of contrition.  My life flashed before my eyes: protected in the womb of a teenager who received no prenatal care, protected from animals and environment for more than a week as a newborn in a shallow hole beside a Louisiana bayou, protected through physical, mental and sexual childhood abuse, protected even from my own hands the three times when death had felt like the only escape.  I had a greater purpose; there had to be a reason I had been protected all those years.

I began to beg forgiveness from the depths of my soul.  For being so arrogant to believe that my life was my own, I apologized.  For being self-righteous enough to take the precious and unique gift of my existence and throw it in my creator’s face as worthless, I apologized.  For being so filled with ego that I was foolish enough to believe this life was even about me, I apologized.  I presented my broken pieces to God.  I vowed that if God promised to live within me and provide a constant and undeniable reminder of the safety and peace to be found in the Presence, I would never be so selfish as to try to kill myself again.  I don’t know how much longer I slept after that prayer, but I remember being cradled in peace.

I awakened slightly groggy late Friday morning.  I was sick to my stomach and I was weak.  But I was alive. And in that moment, aha!

Things since then have not been perfect, but even in the darkest nights, I am aware of God’s presence within me.  Depression didn’t go away immediately and, even now, there are still some days when my pain feels greater than my promise.  But things are very different today than they were that lonely afternoon more than a decade ago.  These days, instead of lamenting over temporary pain and what is lacking in my life, I remember the things that I do have.

I have a reason to fight for life.  I have a testimony.  I have purpose.  And in that knowledge, I have hope.

***Depression is a very serious mental illness.  Take seriously any comments about suicide or wishing to die.  If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs immediate help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). ***

Finding Balance: Part IV

Part IV: Mind Over Matter

“Be careful of your thoughts, for your thoughts become your words.  Be careful of your words, for your words become your actions.  Be careful of your actions, for your actions become your habits.  Be careful of your habits, for your habits become your character.  Be careful of your character, for your character becomes your destiny.” — Chinese Proverb

It’s all in your mind.  The choice between life or death, joy or sadness, peace or chaos.  Our thoughts shape the reality we experience; to wit, different perception of the same event can shift our experience and, thus, our reality.  We can’t control what happens outside of us, but we can absolutely control our thoughts.

If you’ve read a few of my previous posts, you know that my life experience has not always been an easy one.  Childhood trauma was beyond my control and, its residual effects, shaped much of my adult experience.  I am a firm believer that once we become aware of the obstacles to our peace and freedom, we then become accountable for that knowledge and are responsible for whether we choose to continue to give away our peace and freedom.  People often ask how I’m able to remain hopeful and keep a positive outlook after the past I’ve endured.  My answer is simple: it’s all in my mind.  There are still days that I find myself reeling when something touches a tender scar, but most days I find peace and grace through gratitude.  Gratitude is the key to controlling our thoughts.

How can a situation be shifted by gratitude?  Take a relationship breakup for example.  Person A experiences the expected emotions: uncertainty, sadness and loss.  This person reacts to these emotions with angry outbursts, words to possibly be regretted later and, if anything like me, plenty of Talenti gelato.  The pain is amplified, every memory like a fresh injury.  Heartbreak turns to anger, anger to bitterness, and bitterness, when left unchecked, to hatred.  Anger and bitterness close our hearts from receiving real and pure love.

Person B experiences the same situation and same resulting emotions: uncertainty, sadness and loss.  This person, instead, chooses an attitude of gratitude.  She recognizes the situation as a necessary part of her evolution and her current emotions as a reminder that she is human and that her heart is still open.  Instead of fighting her emotions, she uses them as fuel to ignite her passions.  She chooses to find joy from the good parts of the relationship and looks for the lessons to be learned from the difficult parts.  She accepts her role in the demise of the partnership and forgives both herself and her partner for past offenses.  She uses the pain to grow.  While her thoughts, alone, can’t mend the lost relationship, they change her experience of the journey.

Whatever situation you are experiencing can be transformed through your thoughts.  I challenge you to make gratitude a daily practice.  The Bible tells us to pray without ceasing: think of gratitude as quick prayers to God and the universe inviting grace and more things for which to be thankful.  At the very least, it’s hard to feel sad and angry while you’re saying “thank you”!

Today, I choose to align my thoughts with the reality of the divine within me.  I experience peace and grace through gratitude.

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing.  Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable.  Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” — Philippians 4:8 (New Living Translation)

Finding Balance: Part III

Part III: The Body Exhibition

“To keep the body in good health is duty, otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.” — Buddha

My body and I always had a love-hate relationship: my body simply loved me and, in turn, I hated it.  My body awakens each morning inhaling oxygen into fully-functioning lungs, my heart pumping blood through my veins, my brain powering the muscles that give movement and strength.  In return, I have abused it with poor diet, lack of exercise, long hours at work, missed sleep, and in darker times, cutting and starvation.  Like a faithful servant, my body has always reported for duty whenever called upon no matter how much I assault, misuse and debase it.

These days, my body is starting to speak out against my savage treatment: knees creak in protest against the strain that my weight places upon them, headaches riot my demanding schedule and lack of proper nutrition, and concentration eludes me much as sleep does.  A lifetime of destructive habits and burning the proverbial candle at both ends now threatens to rob me of the vigor of youth.  Spiritual and emotional health are irrelevant if the body is not healthy.

I have spent the majority of my adult life in a pendulum swing between vigorous attempts at weight loss and unhealthy food habits and inactivity.  Losing weight is not the issue; I lost sixty-five pounds a few years ago and more than forty pounds twice prior, for a combined total of over 145 pounds gone.  Every pound was regained.  Every.  Single.  Pound.  Losing weight is not the issue.  Instead, the problem has been refusal to love my current body through the process: shaming myself for the visual result of emotional eating, criticizing myself for mistakes in the past instead of praising myself for present efforts, disappointment with the number on the scale with no acknowledgement of progress that can’t be measured in numbers.  This journey is about total health and bringing mind, body and spirit into alignment.

Today, I vow to be more loving towards the body that cares for me daily and enables me to fulfill my goals and visions.

Finding Balance: Part II

Part II: Spiritual Awakening

“We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

I grew up Christian: product of a Bible-thumping grandmother intent upon saving our souls from hell fire and brimstone.  At 11 years old, I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and savior and was indoctrinated into a rigid and narrow mindset of God.  The dress code — no pants for women, no makeup (especially red lipstick or polish), no earrings bigger than a quarter,  no open-toed shoes, no bare legs, no short  haircut — combined with the image of God as an untouchable daddy in the sky waiting to chastise us unless we lived according to strict guidelines for navigating a very uncertain life, made it seemingly impossible to live up to the standards of Christianity. But I enjoyed going to church.

Church filled a void in my life. There were grannies and mommas and aunties: black women who loved on me because I was smart, I loved God and I was chubby.  For a while, it provided an escape from the deep depression I felt at home, so I was in the sanctuary every opportunity I had.  In church at least four nights a week and bruised knees bent in prayer, I struggled desperately to live up to the impossible expectations of church and God, but the dogma became more a constant source of shame and inadequacy and less about true relationship with a higher being.

Around the age of sixteen, the weight of years of battling severe depression became unbearable.  No amount of prayer and Holy Ghost saved me from my internal struggle; no amount of blessed oil and tongues exorcised the demons that tormented my mind and spirit.  At the height of my cutting and after two failed suicide attempts, I found the church I’d grown to accept as my second family was more concerned with my soul’s salvation than my human condition. My depression was seen as a lack of faith; my self-injury, a sin. Life on earth felt more painful than any threat of hell and the God I thought I knew had seemingly failed to protect me. Eventually, I left that congregation. I didn’t realize it at the time, but as badly as I thought I wanted to die, I was starting to fight for life.

For the next five years, I bounced through a few churches and, while the human connection was more pronounced, the same rigid view of God and spirituality was taught. I was suffocating beneath the weight of a boxed and limited God. When I admitted my attraction to women at age 21, I knew that it went against everything I’d learned about the Divine yet it was the most honest and natural thing I’d known in my life. The dichotomy between the God I knew was real and the very real emotions I’d felt towards women from a young age caused me to question everything I had always blindly accepted as truth.

What if God is as omnipotent as we believe? What if God is as omnipresent as we hope? What if God is as omniscient as we claim? If we are truly made in the image of the Divine, who knew us before we were formed in our mothers’ wombs, then how could an all-powerful, ever-present, all-knowing God hate me for the way He or She created me? I began to seek out truth.

In the years since, I can’t say that I’ve quite discovered the full truth of who God is, but there are a few things I have discovered: the Divine lives within each of us, more important than any sin is the commandment to love one another as we also love ourselves, personal relationship with God is more critical than any fellowship within the walls of a sanctuary. Today, I find God in the whisper of the wind, in the laughter of children, in happenstance life-changing encounters with strangers, in the healing power of random acts of kindness, in the grace of a friend’s forgiveness, in the beacon of light that shines within me even in the midst of the darkest night and, yes, occasionally in hard wooden pews surrounded by black folks singing “Nothing but the Blood of Jesus”.

My religion is love and inner-peace, my salvation.

Finding Balance: Part I

Part I: Matters of the Heart

“The heart is more deceitful than anything. It is incurable— who can know it?” — Jeremiah 17:9

I have loved and I have lost.  While the leading lady may have changed throughout the years, decidedly the most devastating loss has been the parts of me that I have neglected, silenced and given away in pursuit of another’s love.  My heart, deceived and disillusioned by unhealthy love, has led to a repetition of the same cycle: girl meets girl, girl falls for said girl and, like a peacock displaying his plumage to court a peahen, girl proceeds to woo, entice and induce swoons in girls who are unable, unavailable or unwilling to properly love girl back.  I become fluent in girl’s love language, spend time getting to know her and learning how to love her the way she needs, do everything in all of my gentlemanly power to make girl feel protected and valued only to find myself alone and broken.  I don’t ask for much, but require a lot.  Do I simply choose the wrong women or is it something more personal than that?  In my effort to become a good lover, have I neglected to love myself in the process?  Have I forgotten what it means to love from my overflow?

Overflow: excess or surplus; to be so full that the contents flood beyond a container’s walls.  Perhaps it’s a natural tendency of women to pour ourselves into our spouses, partners, children, jobs, friendships and family, yet feel guilty about making ourselves first priority in our own lives.  We pour every ounce of ourselves into others with the expectation that if we give our all we will be replenished by those into whom we give our best, often left empty and parched in return.  Loving from the overflow simply means to devote the best of our energy, love and affection to ourselves first; to fill ourselves beyond capacity with things that heal and nourish our hearts, minds and souls before a single drop is given to another person.  Loving from the overflow is the art of falling in love with Self.

We teach others how to love us by the way we love ourselves.  In relationships, I have often been guilty of treating women as queens and myself as paltry pauper–blindly forgiving the most heinous offenses in others while relentlessly berating myself for minor mistakes.  In my attempt to bring mind, body, spirit and heart into balance, I am committing to loving myself first and caring for others from the spilling over of that affection.  Fancy solo date nights, candle lit hand-crafted dinners, flowers, sexy clothing, heels, happy endings…for no reason other than it makes me feel beautiful.  Long walks, massages, pedicures, lazy afternoons lost in a favorite book…for no reason other than it makes me feel at peace.  Rekindled social connections, gut-busting laughter, impromptu jam sessions, long goodbyes…for no reason other than it makes me feel alive.

For no reason other than the fact that I deserve it, I vow to love myself better than I have ever loved another woman and to walk away from people and situations that do not serve me.

I Am

I am of African ancestors tinged with Creole blood.  Royalty stolen and sold into slavery, pain-laced hymnals lighting shadowed paths to guide feet through underground trails.  Brown folks blackened in fields beneath blazing suns, crosses burned on negro lawns, effigies hung high upon Sycamores bearing strange fruit.  I am of bullet-ridden black boys and souls of grandmothers’ blood spilled across church pews.  I am of Martin, Malcolm and Marcus…of Angela, Rosa and Fannie.  I am of a legacy of strength.  Deafening silence pierced with voices singing “we shall overcome”.  Someday.

I am of two x-chromosomes entrenched in feminist ideals.  Of women’s suffrage and suffering at the hands of misogynistic society.  Catcalls, conspicuous stares at tight-jeaned asses, slut-shaming; hungry hands of oversexed boys and unrelenting men.  Injustice in the face of our abusers…free choice denied in place of the life inside growing wombs.  I am of Malala, Gloria and Bell…of Maya, Susan B and Janelle.  I am of a legacy of power.  Chorus of phenomenal women singing “I am woman, hear me roar”.

I am of rainbow kisses and sapphic desires.  Colorful children forced into concrete closets, gay youth discarded to streets for self-expression.  Hate-fueled attacks in response to love, religious dogma robbing of esteem, pride and identity.  I am of Josephine, James and Audre…of Harvey, Langston and Bessie.  I am of a legacy of resilience.   Melodies rising above homophobia joining in a harmony of “we are family”.

I am of bruised knees bent in prayer.  I am daughter, sister and friend.  I am perfectly flawed.  I am all of these, yet none defines me.

I am of the realization that I AM is the only of that matters.