Starting about three weeks ago, as Life tends to do, my ability to maintain inner peace in the midst of chaos was tested to a brand new level. In a matter of two weeks – exactly seven days apart, actually – I stood nose-deep in heartache. One immediate family member was diagnosed with cancer, and another attempted suicide (twice before I found out).
And then there’s my mother. If you’ve read some of my previous writings, you know that she battled with drug addiction for over twenty years. Last weekend, I found out that the focus of her addiction has shifted from crack cocaine to alcohol. I knew she drank, and I had voiced my issues with it several times, but I guess I wasn’t ready to accept the reality of her being an alcoholic. Last weekend forced me to face reality. And it was discovered in a moment of crisis. I went to her hurting, seeking solace, and left her home in more pain. I understand addiction as a disease, and I carry love and tenderness in my heart for my mother, a woman who tries her best, but has a hard time battling her demons. But this brought up a lot of old, childhood pains that I’ve been working hard to heal, and the whole situation has caused me to really examine what my relationship with her will be as her daughter, and as a mother – a woman who is committed to protecting my peace and the emotional stability of my children.
I have worn the brave face. Not once did I break down. I have neither the space nor the time, and I know that in the grand scheme of things, it could be a lot worse. I have my health, a job that pays the bills – usually on time – and my children and I eat every day. I am sustained and secure in a way that many of my societal and global neighbors are not. But this pain of mine is real. And valid, and no matter how “lucky” I am, hurt is hurt. I have made sure to do the things necessary to facilitate a healthy processing of my emotions, like journaling, cleaning, listening and dancing to music that uplifts my soul. Yesterday was my first time at House in the Park, and I left it all on the floor, in the rain.
This was a rough one: I’ve never had to deal with this much heartbreak at one time by myself. In the midst of all of this, the most consistent feeling has been loneliness. I have my friends – three, specifically – who have been essential for my emotional health and well-being during this particular time of struggle. They have been there when I called on them, and left me alone when I just needed time inside my head. For the most part, I requested the latter. Some of that is due to that damn Leo pride, and also because everyone has their own issues to deal with. It seems like everyone is going through something right now and who am I to add my troubles to someone else’s pile?
“Why didn’t I know?” is what one of my friends asked when I told her I’d been dealing with some depression because I hadn’t allowed myself to really feel what I was going through. “That’s not fair,” she said. “You know you’re the first one I call when I’m going through it. I can and will put my shit aside to be there for you. Let me.”
What I wanted most though, at this time, more than any other time, was a partner. A wife, a lap I could lay my head in and cry. Someone who would tell me that everything would be fine. Someone I could trust to let me break down for a few days while she cooks dinner, cleans the house, plays with Bean and makes sure the bills are paid. Someone who would massage my scalp, kiss my tears, and make love to me, because the erotic is healing, and communicates a spiritual, fortified bond in a language only lovers can speak.
I’ve been single for two years. And I haven’t dated in over eight months. I’ve made it successfully through the single stages:
1) celebrating my freedom; 2) lamenting being single while everyone is seemingly boo’d up; 3) attempting online dating and running away screaming, and finally 4) finding and again celebrating the contentment and peace in my healthy, monogamous relationship with myself. Hearing the relationship woes of my friends is really helpful in this last stage.
After these last couple of weeks though, I longed for a lover, a true lover, in every sense of the word.
As a practicing minimalist (and I think sometimes I’m a secret Buddhist) I’m working on not dwelling on the things that I don’t have, and focusing on and appreciating the things that I do have. And dealing with this pain alone, not having anyone to fall apart on, led me to understand some things:
Sometimes you have to go through shit alone, just so you know that you have the strength within you to find your peace in the middle of the chaos, so you are confident that with your wings alone, you will soar above the storm.
Conversely, reach out to your friends. My homegirl Michelle says, “We heal not in isolation, but in community,” or some shit like that. And that’s true. We are here to help each other heal. True friends will make it easy – almost unavoidable. They take care of your heart. They remind you that they are there for you. They check on you, offer to love on you, come over and sit with you. They make you laugh, encourage you to dance, and hug you with their full bodies. Hug them back. Allow them to help you heal.
Healing is a process that never ends, and it often happens in cycles. Life will test you on the lessons you say you have learned. My coping mechanisms involve music, books, large bodies of water (or just nature as a substitute), and meditation. My Spirit knew some shit was gonna pop off, and it led me to participate in some full moon meditation and yoga the Wednesday before hell broke loose. I really don’t know how I would have handled everything had I not listened to my Spirit. My former coping mechanisms involved retail therapy, hours of mindless television and endless thoughts of despair, self-pity, and hopelessness. When I think about the way the old me would have handled things, I can see my growth and evolution and I’m freaking proud of me. Okay, so maybe I did indulge in a little retail therapy. But the green Chucks and that dress were too cute to pass up, and they were on sale. Like I said, healing is a process.
Healing not only requires vulnerability, but discernment – knowing who should receive and will be protective of your vulnerability and who will not. I have less of a problem being vulnerable (duh, I’m a writer) than I do discerning with whom I will be vulnerable. Some people are not meant to fill that role. Not that they’re the wrong people to open up to, but when your Spirit needs a pick me up, when your heart needs to be handled with care, you must know who to go to. Some people just don’t know what to do with my vulnerability. And that’s okay. That is part of understanding the different levels of connection with different people in my life. Those who most honor your vulnerability will require it. They will be present when in your presence (i.e., not on the phone, listening and not just waiting for their turn to talk, etc). Choose carefully.
What you do have makes it easier to make peace with what you do not. There are times when I feel un-evolved, or un-enlightened, for desiring a life partner. Being single is fun, healthy, and cost efficient in this dreadful economy. But my wanting to share my intimate, personal life with someone is valid, and my honoring of that desire is liberating, because it’s grounded in self-awareness. It’s my truth. I don’t deny my desire, but it doesn’t consume me. It is balanced with a deep appreciation for the loving connections that I already have – with my friends, certain blood and made-up family members, and my whole self. I swim in varying depths of love every day, and it fills me, keeps me aligned with the Divine and helps me get through my “going through(s)”.
My personal journey to maintain and protect my peace and that of my children is my purpose and my priority. I exist on the periphery, both socially and residentially, of Atlanta’s Queer Black scene. I’m not one of the cool kids. I’m sure this lends to my current single status, and also some of my feelings of being alone in this little big city. Sometimes I want to be in the center of it all. Sometimes I want to be known for making a difference, for my wit, charm and intellect; I want my contributions shouted from the tops of the newsfeeds and trending retweets. But not really. I get exhausted just answering emails every day. I am happiest when I am present with the small details of my life, like painting with Bean to teach her about primary colors, and watching her face light up in Eureka! as she swirls a little red on her blue and it turns purple. Or watching Chicken and Bean play together, make up songs, cherishing the short amount of time the three of us have together before this long-distance parenting thing temporarily separates us again.
I write, I edit, I drown myself in my books, and sometimes I practice my guitar. I love my friends and my daughters with everything in me, and when it comes to weekends that threaten to drain the peace out of my life, these are the things that sustain me. I find my best, most loving partner, in myself.