home is where my heart is

Six by Polly Nor

I only recently realized that all of these years I was looking for a home. I was looking for a place to say, “That’s where I’m from.” But home has always been right here inbetween by rib cage and my spinal cord. Home has always been right up behind my ruined face. Home has been home has been home has been home.

I was wandering and searching and flailing about but I just had to sit still and see that I was already right where I needed to be.

I love how Facebook gives you snippets of your memories from the year before or years ago. I look at those pictures and I see that I was always whole. I was always the person I was meant to be. It just took some time to love Mwongeli. It took some time to look in the mirror and see that I was complete and loved and real.

I always wondered how some people are so authentically themselves. How some people are so comfortable in their skin. And now I know how. People come to a place of self-love after years of self-loathing. After years of heartbreak and brokenness and sadness and loss.

I am almost certain I will be heartbroken again (how else do we grow?) but at least the next time my heart breaks I will have myself to cry with. I will be my own support and cheerleader and teammate.

God, how beautiful is that?


you are allowed to be crazy so long as you read the fine print

art by lora mathis

Last night I took an inordinate amount of shrooms and I suddenly found myself feeling every repressed feeling surrounding my father’s passing. I was just out with a friend and then BOOM! I was pressed down by the immensity of the love and loss I quieted nearly six years ago. And obviously because I am the most irrational rational human this side of the Mason-Dixon line then I decided I needed to go see my dad.


I wanted to be where my dad was. I wanted to fly directly to Kenya and sit with him for the first time since the pallbearers lowered his casket into the red soil of the village. I wanted to feel his presence one more time by any means necessary.

I regret now that I tried to share my experience with various family members and friends. I regret that I was vulnerable and naked and I showed the part of myself I worked so hard to hide from the world all these years.

And the emotions I felt were not limited to my father’s passing. I was also feeling the entire weight of years of repressing my emotions and ideas in order to make other people feel comfortable. I quieted my own heart song in order to allow other people to feel more at ease.

I wanted to go to Kenya because that is where it all began and daily I wonder who I would be had my parents not decided for me at such a young age that I had to grow up in America. That I had to be oppressed and silenced and broken down because of the color of my skin or a difference in chromosomes.

So I went to the airport. I made the decision to purchase a one way ticket and just go home. I just wanted to go home and be next to my father. I wanted to see my family. I wanted to just give the big ole middle finger to this American dream and go back to where my dreams all began.

I made the mistake of calling my mom and one of my best friends to tell them where I was and where I was going and of course they attempted to intervene. Christ, I have had so many interventions that I could probably start sitting in on them and guiding people as to the correct and incorrect modus operandi.

I was met by a delightful young man named Rod who worked for United Airlines and he told me he didn’t think I really wanted to go to Kenya with just a backpack and two books. He kept telling me what I wanted as if I wasn’t fully present and fully capable of discerning what going to Kenya on a whim meant.

But I did understand and I still understand. And when two paramedics showed up with six police officers I fully understood that what I wanted was irrelevant. I understood that it didn’t matter if I recited Dante’s Inferno in its original language and told you all of Anna Karenina’s family members names or what Sylvia Plath was wearing when she died.

None of that mattered because everyone else saw what they wanted to see even though I was trying to show them what I was seeing. I was seeing my truth. I was seeing things more clearly than I had ever seen them before.

I am back in Logan Square after signing an AMA form for the paramedics and rolling my eyes at the people in blue. Because I might be crazy but I am free from the chains and weight of other people’s expectations. And next time I’ll just smoke a joint and buy my boarding pass before going to O’Hare and I certainly will not call my mom or my best friend.

I am a smart, strong, and genuine individual and gone are the days of asking permission to be who I am. Gone are the days of feeling as if I am stepping on someone’s toes by experiencing the world the way I experience it. I have spent time being psychoanalyzed. I have taken the countless medications. I have talked to multitudes of people and no one has ever offered me something even close to insight as to why I got the brain that I did.

Why some days are technicolor and other days are grayscale and other days are a mix of the two.

Honestly, I don’t even care what color my days are anymore. I’m just happy I’m alive to see the entire rainbow and then some.


grieve so that you are free to do something else

art by Jenny Holzer

I remember the night my father died and the doctors let us in to sit with his still warm corpse. It was only hours before he and my mother had returned from vacation in Kenya. I came home to see them and celebrate the holidays at a family friends house. I remember coming home from the friend’s house and my dad going into the garage and leaning up against the tool shelf.

He was clutching his chest and he told me he had to go to the emergency room.

And then a few hours later he was gone. We all sat around his corpse in the sickeningly bright room as my mom wailed over and over as she pressed her face into my dads still chest. I remember I was so embarrassed at how deep and tangible her pain was. I wanted her to stop crying, for my dad to get up, and for us all to return home like every other time my dad had a heart attack.

But this time he wasn’t coming home and we were not returning to the home that we knew before. My sisters eventually showed up from their respective parts of the city and suddenly all of us were in that room with the grief and the pain and the discomfort and we didn’t know what to do with ourselves except continue on with what remained of our lives even though the biggest part of it was being prepared for burial in a morgue.

I listened to my dads voicemail for weeks after he died until my boyfriend told me it wasn’t healthy. Until the university turned off my father’s voicemail and gave his office number to someone else as if he hadn’t worked there and lived there and loved there as he taught preschool teachers.

And when we went to Kenya and we were met by my Uncle Gideon and a whole crowd of friends and relatives at the airport, I was still embarrassed. I was embarrassed that my pain was now on display and that people were taking time away from their lives to grieve my father. I was ashamed of my grief.

I remember being so hot out in the village standing in the house waiting for people to pay their condolences and pretending like I remembered any of my hundreds of relatives. I remember grimacing when people said that my father’s death was for the best and that he was in a better place now.

A better place than with his wife and daughters?

And as they lowered his casket into the grave and people shared their countless memories of my father’s beautiful life I swayed a little in the heat and I felt my heart close in on itself.

My aunts held my mom up as she collapsed under the weight of the grief. And I looked to each of my sisters hoping one of them would show me how to behave. How to move forward when a piece of my heart was being lowered into the ground and covered with dirt and cement.

I still don’t know how to move forward. Some days I think that I have made a little progress but then other days I go to my mom’s one bedroom apartment and I am reminded of what we all lost.

I look at my niece and think about how my dad would be so in love with her and show her picture to all his friends whenever he got the chance.

I look in the mirror and I relax my face and I see my father looking back at me.

I laugh and my eyes crinkle the same way his did.

I am still grieving and I know that I will never be done doing so but at least finally, I am using that grief to do something else. Something my father would be so, so proud of.




And then get up and do something else.

get you a girl who can do both

art by lora mathis

I suppose it would have been easier to sit quietly and maintain what little peace of mind I have left. It would have been easier to change the channel or turn the page rather than bombarding my psyche with all the violence that rains down upon black bodies. It would have been so much easier to post a music video with lyrics under the guise of sharing my feelings through the words of another artist.

But I have a voice. I have something I been dying to say for quite some time. I have something inside of me that is aching to escape.

And before I would have held myself back and not tried to stir the pot in an effort to make people see what a sham this entire existence is but then I only ended up doing myself a disservice in those instances because I internalized my trauma and it compounded my mental health issues.

I realize doing what I did in an effort to open a few people’s eyes was quite risky. It was quite the gamble on my personal well-being and my relationships with various people.

But I have said it before and I can only continue to say it again until I can no longer utter a sentence: If you are silent about your pain they will kill you and say you enjoyed it. Zora Neale Hurston wrote that decades ago and it is the only sentence I play over and over and over in my mind when the world comes stampeding onto my heart.

Was I hurt yesterday? Of course. Did I consider getting drunk to just overcome the sadness? Did I consider causing myself harm in order to escape the pain?

Of course. How could I not?

I am only human.

But I chose a few weeks ago to take care of myself. I chose to start running again, cutting down on alcohol and instead opting to be lucid for whatever this world has to throw my way.

It hasn’t been an easy journey but I am finally strong enough to handle the experience. I am finally strong enough not to be broken by broken people.

I know who I am and what I stand for and that is all I need to make it from sunrise to sunset. Well, that and the love and support of countless friends and family.

Everything else that attempts to hold me back is merely that, it’s just “attempting” to extinguish my fire and flame. I am the one who determines how I feel and what I allow to come into my mind and heart.

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.




i hope you know i tried even if you refused to see it

art by lora mathis

people are so odd. i could spend the rest of my life trying to understand and i would just be lowered down into my grave as confused as the first day i discovered the universe.

before i learned to take care of myself i internalized a lot of negative energy from the people around me. i often wonder if i am even truly depressed or i’m just awake. perhaps it is a combination of both.

but i have been working hard on accepting the world and my eventual role in it as a storyteller and artist and human.

and i am saddened by the reality of this existence but i am not disheartened as soundly as the first time i realized the truth.

i am on the more indifferent end of the sadness spectrum if that makes sense.

and i am trying not to let that indifference make me shut out people who are trying to navigate the world in much the same way that i am. people are trying and failing and breaking and laughing and loving like i am trying to do.

i am trying not to let the hate so completely engulf my soul that i don’t create and express myself after years of editing myself and being sidelined because of the color of my skin and the chromosomes i had no control over.

i am trying.

i am trying.


the heart of the matter

Nine by Polly Nor

The shift was imperceptible, much the same as the first, and all of those that came after. I had all but accepted the way things were. I had resigned myself to a life of crippling depression and endless disappointments. But then one day I tilted my head to the side and decided that couldn’t be it. My life was not supposed to be one hangover after another or me continuously being a Grade A douchebag at the mercy of my emotions.

No, nope, not a chance.

And so the shift took place and I’m still making moves and treading water every day because even if you are prepared for war you will still get knocked down a few times.

I don’t know what happens next but I can say that I am excited for life for the first time in what feels like eons.

I know I can do this life thing this time around because I’ve seen the sad broken parts of myself, I’ve looked down the barrel of the proverbial gun, I’ve willed my own death so many times that it’s almost laughably redundant.

Stanley Kunitz once wrote: “…the heart breaks and breaks and lives by breaking.”

Ernest Hemingway reminded us that, “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.”

I am living proof of the words these men once shared and I urge you to take them to heart. Even if your heart is broken or breaking, I promise you’ll get to the other side, wherever the other side is. And if you don’t, well, there are worse things than dying so enjoy the sweet release.


choose your own adventure

art by wastedrita 

It’s been five days now since I had a drink. Someone told me the first week is the hardest. And I’m not gonna lie, there have been several times where whiskey seemed like the only answer, or even a light rose. But then I remember manic, drunk Mwongeli and I drink a glass of water or go for a run.

I’ve been trying to figure out what I want from this dreadful existence for quite some time now. I’ve been scrolling social media looking for inspiration. I’ve been talking to friends, family, therapists. I’ve read books upon books and watched movie after movie and TV show after TV show. All in hopes that someone would tell me what the fuck I was supposed to do with this one wild and semi-precious life. 

And then last Friday I found it staring back at me in the toilet. I was hungover and puking for what felt like the 29714933732 time and I thought to myself, “Is this really where I wanted to be on July 7, 2017…or ever?”

I stood up and looked in the mirror with sweat glistening on my forehead and I realized I didn’t really know much but I did know in that moment that I wasn’t the person staring back at me.

So, I’m giving myself time, I’ve giving myself love, and I’m giving myself a chance. And rather than allowing the anxiety to consume me and succumbing to the need to drink, I am staying alert for it…whatever it is.

I may not know what I want to be when I grow up but I know I don’t want to be a drunk asshole.