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Go to the River (unfinished)

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I stood at the river bank and envied the water. Despite the scattering of debris left by my careless fellow humans, the water flowed, disturbed yet determined. Twisting, turning. Making paths around, over and through plastic water bottles, lost toys and a used condom. I longed to be like the river, to keep to my path and maintain peace amidst internal chaos. I rolled up my pant legs and stepped in. Balancing myself on two half-submerged rocks, I reached down and extracted an empty bottle of Light Beer from the sand. I turned it over and poured the water out, feeling my stress ease into the river along with it, and my tears.

I woke up that morning feeling inadequate and sorry for myself. I wanted to do more, be more. More than a mom. More than a receptionist. More than someone who spends her barely-existent free time watching indie films and reading books. My friends were child- and care-free. They were brilliant, ambitious, creative geniuses who won awards and accolades for their artistic, scholastic and political achievements. They traveled the world and met interesting people, engaged in conversation about white supremacist patriarchy and the evils of capitalism. They had dinner parties with sexy women who had multiple letters behind their names. I wiped noses, kissed boo-boos and changed sheets on pee-soaked mattresses at three o’clock in the morning. We all chose our paths, but somehow I felt like I hadn’t been told the whole story before I chose mine – or maybe I didn’t want to believe what I’d heard.

I salted my self-inflicted wound by social media-stalking my crush’s lover: an amazing writer who combines the same words afforded to all of us, and weaves them into a beautiful, soul-stirring tapestry of poetic prose. She’s a natural – artistic and dynamic and free, the perfect other half of a boho-chic power lesbian couple. They traveled the world together, wandering in love and lust. I hadn’t had a vacation in seven years.

So I went to the river – the only entity that can hold all my tears, listen to me bitch and moan, watch my pity party of one and never judge. I knew She would help me find my purpose. Give me something to do – a way to be more. The awards and recognition wouldn’t come, but peace was guaranteed. The love I’d been looking for whispered to me through the rippling of her waves.

I wasn’t prepared for the remnants of an abandoned party. I wanted it to be just the two of us, the river and me. I wanted it to look like it did when I last visited, six months earlier. An unrealistic expectation, I knew, but it was the one area of my life that I’d hope had gone unchanged.  

Aluminum bins overflowed with paper plates, red cups, and cardboard boxes that once contained 24 cans of beer. Squirrels and ants dined on leftover rib and chicken bones and birds picked at the dried up baked beans and cole slaw. Trash that wouldn’t fit in the cans besieged picnic tables and accompanying benches. A forgotten football sat alone next to a tree whose heavy branches kissed the water’s surface. I wondered if maybe the football, now without hands to appreciate its form, was left unsure of its purpose, or if it was happily at rest, no longer subject to be sent spinning through the air to fulfill someone else’s temporary desires to end their boredom.

I sat on one of the rocks and planted my feet, burying my toes into the sand. I watched the minnows scatter, then return and swim between my legs. They knew me. They remembered me, and welcomed me home. The birds, full from barbecue side dishes, sang melodies in worship of the sun that blazed above. I felt a fullness that couldn’t come from eating and released a sigh of gratitude.

It’d been six months since my mother died from a drug overdose, and it left me empty. The depth of this void was unimaginable and unexpected. I’d felt like a motherless child for 15 years ago when she abandoned my sister and me, and I’d often felt like (and sometimes hoped) that she was already dead. But three years ago, when she came back, she told me she was clean.  She lied, as parents often do.

I felt numb. Part of me was relieved, and that made me feel guilty. I didn’t want to admit that I loved my mother. She’d hurt me. Continuously. Made promises that maybe we both hoped she’d be able to keep but we both knew she wouldn’t. I often found myself angry at myself for wanting her to be the mother her sickness would never allow, and angry at her for not being what I needed. There were times when I wanted her dead so I wouldn’t feel the pain of the reality of our estrangement. So when she died, I was confused.

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Letting Go: The Ex Files

I found this just browsing my writings. I wrote it near the end of September 2013. Don’t know why I never posted it, but I like it. I hope you do too…

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I had dinner with my ex two weeks ago. The ex. The woman to whom no one else could ever compare.

She was the first and only woman that I wanted to settle down and spend my life with. We were perfectly opposite and complementary – yin-yang type shit. The reformed hood chick turned semi-conservative police officer, and the free-spirited hippie with Black Panther leanings who can’t stand the police (though seeing her in her uniform turned me on). Our meeting and walking into long-distance love was completely unexpected, gradual and everything I wanted and needed it to be at the time. I had never felt so connected to someone. The best part about being a lesbian (for me) is getting to have sex with your best friend. And for a long time, we had that. With her I felt safe, protected, loved and at home.

It took me two years to get over her. Two years of false starts and start agains. Two years to be able to be completely emotionally available to someone – most importantly, to myself.

Our break up was hard. There was no bad blood or drama, only fear, lack of communication, too much assumption and unhealthy comfort. We thought we could handle the distance – we were wrong. We equally contributed to the demise of our relationship and I think we both wish we would have done things differently. Now, we watch The Fosters and see who we think we could have been.

But I also think we both knew that our time has ended, and there’s no need for us to hold on. I think we – okay, lemme stop speaking for this woman – I know that I spent too much time comparing other people to her. Women I met after we broke up would never measure up to who I imagined she would be as a full-time, close-distance lover. I’m a dreamer, and I was in love with a dream. I loved who I wanted us to be, not who we were.  I knew that was foolish and based in ego, but I was afraid that once I let go of the dream, of the longing for her, all I would have is… me. As if I’m not more than enough. I knew better. I just needed to give myself time to do better.

When we had dinner, I was finally able to make peace with the fact that we were over. But the love will last. My love for her reminds me that when it’s real, it never goes away. It just transforms.  I’d like for us to be friends one day, but I’m open to whatever the universe has in store for us. Accepting that our relationship was not about the destination of marriage, but the journey of growth, made it easier for me to understand that we’ll always be connected by our love for one another. That kiss two weeks ago was a goodbye kiss. It was a “letting go with love” kiss. Through dinner and the processing of my emotions, I found myself embracing the modification of our connection. And now I’m ready to move on.

So many lessons I gained from our relationship. Learning some of my partnering necessities: tons of laughter, being able to cuddle in bed or on the couch, watch a movie and be content in the simplicity of it all. I felt free to be my complete self – silly, sarcastic, cynically optimistic. Emotionally vulnerable.

Because of my experience with her, I’m constantly developing new ways to actively love myself – beyond quoting positive affirmations and posting “no filter” selfies. It’s a life-long process, this self-love thang. And it’s something I have to commit to every day. It’s cliché, but it works (it’s cliché because it works): I focus on the things that I have and love. My health, employment, a working car, healthy happy children, friends that love me, books, the ability to wake up in the morning and sit in silence, stretch and do five push-ups before I start my day. It means not worrying about how the world may see me. It’s okay to not wash the dishes every night. It’s okay to just be.

I’m more in tune with and observant of myself. I’m deeply aware of and unapologetic about my needs, and my desires. I hear my quiet voices and the ones that scream at me. I’m learning when to listen to them and when to tell them to shut the fuck up.

Those moments when I feel lonely – and they can happen out of nowhere – I stop and allow myself to feel the sun on my skin. The breeze kisses my face and I listen to the birds and crickets weave their tales. And I know the loneliness is just passing through, giving me a chance to remember that I am surrounded in, and held by Love, that I am one with the Great Mystery that sustains life. I am walking, swimming in Love. Living it and breathing it, every day.

The most important thing to me right now is to build a village for myself and my daughters. I want them to know they are held up by strong, vulnerable, intelligent, emotionally mature, protective and protected women. Women who are full of flaws and forgiveness. And when the time is right, I hope for one of those women, one of those villagers to be my partner. But for now, I am in an open relationship with myself. I know the success of all of my present and future connections – friendship and romantic – depends first on the relationship I have with the many women that make up the whole of who I am.

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A Perfect Face for Radio

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Claudia Moss, host of internet radio show Talk Shoe, asked me to speak with her this afternoon about some of my blog pieces and my love for editing. I was very nervous at first, because for one, I cuss a lot and I’m afraid to let one fly on the air, and also because I’m fearful of public speaking. I’m a writer – I write, I don’t talk. But Claudia made me feel so very comfortable, and at the same time she motivated me as a writer, and reminded me that I do have people out there that are learning and growing and healing from my writing. She made me renew my dedication to writing and realize how very much I love copy editing and how passionate I am for it. And not one cuss word left my mouth!

If you’re interested, you can listen to the interview here.

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“I’d expect more out of someone who was pre-med. You should wash your hands.”

She licked her fingers, smacking loudly as she pulled each one from her mouth. “I told you not to expect anything from me.”

“Don’t you have to live up to some Hippocratic oath of cleanliness?” She waved me away as she pushed the body off the operating table and hopped on, swinging her legs like an excited child. I watched Smalls’ hollowed-out carcass hit the floor with a thud. I smiled, satisfied. I conjuretold that bitch not to fuck with me.

“I don’t have to live up to shit,” she said, bringing my attention back to her. “Besides, I haven’t been pre-med in 300 years.” She wiped the remainder of the blood on her pants and licked her lips, catching the pieces of flesh that stuck to the corners of her mouth. “Don’t look at me like that.”

“You’re a vampire,” I said.

She laughed, deep and dark. “I’m not a vampire. I was just hungry.”

My stomach threatened to reverse the chicken salad I had for lunch.

“Killing her wasn’t enough? You had to rip her fucking heart out of her chest? And eat it? You’re so dramatic Marchelle!”

“But it’s what you love about me,” she reminded me. “ And it’s why you called me; I show up and show out. So, what are we going to do about the body?”

“You’re the expert, you figure it out. You may as well finish it off. Or are you full?”

I asked more for my own benefit. If she hadn’t gotten enough, she would feed from me, and I’d be paralyzed for days. That was always the risk when I summoned her. Knowing this, I rarely called, but Smalls had to be dealt with, and Marchelle was the only one to do it.

And I missed her. I would never admit it to her, but she knew. I hadn’t summoned her in over two years. Not since the last time – I liked it more than I should have.

“Come here.” She reached out and grabbed my belt loop, pulling me to her.

“No. You’re all bloody. And we’re not going there again. I don’t even know what that was that time, but -”

I was lost in her gaze. The soft spot between my legs pulsated with whispers of her name. She kissed me, and the blood that she missed on the underside of her lip found its way into my mouth. I closed my eyes and tasted her – and Smalls – and we traveled through the darkness of eternity, stars bursting around us as forgotten souls cried out.

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Book Review: The Other Side of Paradise by Staceyann Chin

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So, I’ve been completely in love with Staceyann Chin for a while now. After reading and reviewing her memoir, “The Other Side of Paradise” for Elixher magazine, my love for her grew even stronger. I think that’s what made it one of the hardest reviews to write so far. I didn’t want to say the wrong things. I wanted to make sure I conveyed my love and admiration for her story, her courage, in the best way possible. Shortening it was a beast; I wanted to pour all my love (i.e., words) into it. The woman is fucking fierce. She’s the stuff single mamas are made of. If I could just touch the hem of her garment. . .

I can’t wait until she finishes and releases her second book, which will be all about parenting and motherhood. I’m all about that queer radical motherhood life. Until then, you can my review of her first memoir here.

 

 

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Let’s Have Brunch

Mimosai sat across the table from them in the overpriced restaurant. the woman that i loved, and her brand new lover. i watched them. listened as they dove into open-ended questions meant for the discovery phase of a new connection. sipped my cucumber water as they flirted in hushed tones. what was i doing here? she wanted to see me, she said. she said missed me during her third trek across the country, seeking…who knows?

she offered us both a taste of the “best chai in town.” i declined. the new lover glanced at me, as if waiting for a sign of approval – or rejection. i gave none, lifting my own mug to sip the nicaraguan coffee my once-lover ordered for me. the new girl brought the porcelain to her lips and sipped, pink lipstick staining the edge. i smiled as she, my now-friend, retrieved her chai and searched my eyes for a response.

i couldn’t determine whether she wanted me to be jealous, approve, or simply accept, but i knew she questioned my silence. she wanted me to talk. she was used to me talking: trying to get her to understand the way i loved her – freely, with no expectations for her to be anything or anyone other than who she is. talking to cover my anxiety about being around her, lest she see me: raw, vulnerable, naked beyond my control, and decide it was too much for her. or not enough.

she mentioned once that my emotional freedom was refreshing, but scary. i attempted to talk her off the cliff, away from the fear, my words assuring her safety. over time, i believe she grew accustomed to my voice, to my talking, my coaxing.

But i had grown tired of it.

so today, i decided to try something different. i listened. i observed the way she moved and spoke in this space between two people who represented her emotional transitions and frequent romantic relocations. i looked into her eyes, peering behind the mask she presented to the new lover, and watched her wordlessly beg me not to pull it from her face, exposing the truth i knew.

i obliged, continuing my meal in silence. once i was full, and decided i’d had my fill, i rose, leaned across the table and kissed her, my lips savoring the cinnamon, peppercorn and hazelnut mix. i turned to the new lover, offered a smile and a wink, and walked out into the street, joining the crowd heading toward the farmer’s market.

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Untitled – Because Peace is a Process and I’m still learning

First picture I took upon seeing the water in Jamaica - 2007

First picture I took upon seeing the water in Jamaica – 2007

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.