herstory, history, ourstory

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circa 1994

My sister and her Conservative, religious, homophobic, intolerant, and selfish husband recently decided that neither me or my mother are allowed to see my niece Zora. Because we are toxic individuals who are going to negatively impact the young life of their child. Because I am emotionally abusive and have said “hurtful” things about their marriage like the fact that my sister is an actual hostage in her own “home”. Because I have a mental illness they don’t feel comfortable leaving me alone with their precious little human.

It’s a lot to process and even after you process it, none of it makes sense.

My mom continuously wants to talk about it. She wants to understand where and how my sister became this stranger that stands before us all. And I admit that, I too, would like to understand. But I have also come to accept that I don’t need to understand.

I lived with my sister for nearly eighteen years. She has known me since the day I was born and she has seen the highs and the lows and we were both raised by two of the most amazing humans to ever grace this planet.

And yet here we are, my father is dead and my mom is a widow who is just trying to make it from day to day without collapsing under the weight of her grief.

And yet here we are, my sister’s husband has decided and she has agreed that the people who merely want to love and care for her child are horrible people.

Goddess, I wish I could lie to myself so soundly that I begin to believe it so wholeheartedly.

I am not perfect. I accepted long ago that perfection is impossible and my mom is no exception to that rule. But we are good, if not exceptional, people. We want nothing from either my sister or her husband except to help them and love them and their young family.

But apparently speaking the truth and living honestly is too much for good Christians. Apparently that’s one of the commandments they glossed over.

Thou shalt not lie.

Thou shalt not lie.

Thou. Shalt. Not. Lie.

Richard Yates once wrote, “No one forgets the truth; they just get better at lying.”

I don’t know what truth my sister is living, or her husband, or what truth they plan to share with my niece but it breaks my heart to know that whatever truth they share it won’t be one that helps Zora grow or learn or become the human our ancestors hoped we’d become.

I would never ask my sister to live for anyone else or to allow anyone else to tell her the way she should live her life but my parents sacrificed and did so, so much in order for her to be free to choose and I just hope that at some point she chooses the side of love and kindness.

I don’t even care if I never see her again. She made very clear that I am not welcome in her life or her home as a result of my mental illness and various other life choices. But it kills me to see her cut my mom out of her life. It kills me to see her keep a child away from a woman who has done nothing but love and care for everyone around her.

I was conflicted as to how I wanted this essay to unfold but I am pleased with the end result and I stand behind everything I have shared. My sister is off somewhere in the universe telling people I’m crazy or that I don’t respect her marriage (hostage situation) but I genuinely don’t care what she says about me because the people who need to know the truth know and everyone is entitled to tell their side of the story.

I believe it was Ernest Hemingway who said, “Write hard and clear about what hurts.”

Well, this hurts. It hurts more than losing my father because my niece and my sister are alive and well, but I am not welcome in their life because of factors outside of my control.

I have done the self-care. I have seen the doctors. I have worked on myself for years now and as a mental health professional I find it astonishing that my sister has made this decision.

But like I said, there are a hundred different stories. I just needed to tell mine in the only way I know how. And regardless of the choices my sister and her husband make, I will always, always pick up the phone or book a flight to see my niece and support her no matter what.

So this is my truth.

And this is my story.

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hurt people obviously hurt people

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Five by Polly Nor

I have essentially barricaded myself in my room and I have every intention of either dying here or disintegrating into nothingness. I am open to either option quite honestly.

It’s been a trying couple of weeks. I have learned a lot, lost some friends, and gained some new ones. I have been struggling a lot with knowing how to pick my battles while also maintaining my integrity. I admit it has not been an easy journey.

I’m tired of defending myself or defending others (no one ever asked me to be their advocate). I am tired of being told that “hurt people hurt people”. I am well aware of that fact as someone who is hurting day in and day out.

We are all hurting.

I wish I didn’t feel the need to comment on every little thing. I wish my brain would turn off and not judge people or come up with snarky commentary. But at the same time I don’t wish any of these things because my voice is my strongest asset.

I am entitled to speak up when I see something that is not okay. I am allowed to call someone out if they’re being disrespectful. And I am more than allowed to tell you if I think you’re a total two-faced scumbag.

And conversely, you are all entitled and allowed the same things.

It’s what you do with the “constructive” criticism or the character assassinations.

I have learned the most when someone looked me in the eye and told me I was acting like a complete moron and that I needed to check myself. But I also learned the most by taking that commentary and sitting alone with it. By sitting alone and parsing through it to see if there was any validity to the words.

Were the words to help me or hurt me? And ultimately, does it even matter?

You answer to yourself every morning and every night.

We are essentially lonely beings who search for something to fill the void but I am slowly learning the void is there for a reason and it will most likely not be filled.

I think that’s okay. I think it’s okay that we’re all empty, broken, and complicated humans. I think it’s okay for people to engage in dialogues or monologues or endless diatribes.

A friend recently told me, “you can always change the channel.”

Sit with that for a while.

You.

Can.

Always.

Change.

The.

Channel.

And you can always turn off the TV if it really comes down to it.

 

me, myself, & carrie bradshaw

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image courtesy of HBO

When I was seventeen my first boyfriend and the guy I lost my virginity to broke up with me and my entire world was shattered. I immediately shame spiraled into drugs, alcohol, and irresponsible sex with a much older guy in order to forget how fucking sad I really was. Little did I know this behavior would carry me through most of my early twenties until about three months ago.

I remember going to Barnes & Noble after the initial break-up and purchasing the entire series of Sex and the City on DVD. I watched every single episode and memorized every piece of advice on dating and relationships that Carrie, Sam, Miranda, and Charlotte had to offer.

I wanted to be this strong, liberated, and sexually confident woman and I looked to those four angels for the guidebook.

I’ve read a lot of articles about how the women of SATC were horrible humans with questionable morals but aren’t we all? Aren’t we all just trying to get from heartbreak to heartbreak and sunrise to sunset with our psyches slightly in tact? Why on earth would four fictional women on a flawed television show be good role models for anyone?

And honestly, what the fuck is a good role model?

I guess what I’m trying to get at is that I learned so much from those women and I will carry all of that knowledge—the good, the bad, the questionable and the creepy—to the grave. I am a little bummed that I am a freelance writer in 2017 and I don’t have an endless supply of Manolo Blahnik’s and Vogue hasn’t yet asked me to shoot my future wedding. But I am happy that I am a woman, I am happy that I have had the dating experiences that I’ve had, and that I enjoy sex immensely.

And that’s why one day I will look back on these words that I wrote and I will stand behind them and I will be proud to show my children that life is messy, relationships are messy and everyone is flawed but they are certainly trying.

I probably don’t need to keep searching for my Aidan or Mr. Big or Berger or Aleksandr Petrovsky…but honestly, I enjoy it and it’s my choice. It’s not some fictional characters life that I am living. It is my little pseudo RomCom/love story/whatever.

And I am in love with the journey of love.

faking it through life

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art by lora mathis

I wonder what it would be like to be simple. To experience the world without complication or anxiety or over-thinking. To wake up and face the sun and not feel overwhelmed by what it means to be in your body, your mind, your own little world.

But mostly I wonder if that is the case for anyone or are some people just so adept at faking it through the day that it appears as if they are fully functioning and worry free.

White people especially are amazing at appearing unbothered.

I work so fucking hard to appear as if I have it together that honestly I think I am two seconds away from giving myself an aneurysm.

I feel like I am tap dancing and the music is speeding up and I am trying to keep up but honestly I just want to sleep or die or cry. And the cycle just repeats itself moment after moment, day after day, year after year.

What I wouldn’t give to be simple. To sit down on a park bench and for my mind not to be racing. I would love to walk down the street at night and not be sure someone is going to stab me to death and then rape my corpse.

But I don’t get that luxury as a woman. As a minority. As an artist.

I have to try ten times as hard every single day just to have even the tiniest bit of normalcy or be emotionally stable.

And all for what? So that in fifty years I can say I tried? So that I can finally understand Bukowski’s line, “It’s been a good fight, still is.”

Ha!

It’s all so laughable.

Maybe Hemingway was right. Maybe it is all nada y nada y nada y nada.

We’re killing ourselves just to live for a blink of a moment in this sad and broken world.

Maybe not all of us but enough of us that this existence seems virtually senseless. It seems trite. It seems like simplicity is laughable but instead we are crying.

Crying.

Lying.

Dying.

the divorce is final and i don’t have to pay alimony

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break up letters by wastedrita

I recently made the very adult decision to break up with my best friend. Well, we broke up six years ago but we have been in each other’s lives in one way or another for eight years. He took care of me when I couldn’t get out of bed. I did my best to take care of him whenever he allowed me to.  But the time has come and we are no longer growing together…we have grown apart.

I thought it would be harder than this but it’s kinda like getting a haircut. At first it’s weird and you don’t know if you like the person reflected back at you but then a few days pass and life goes on and hair grows back or it doesn’t or it does.

WHATEVER.

I think he loved me in his own way but he never loved me the way I needed him to and that’s ultimately why I am choosing to leave. I am choosing to close the chapter on our life together in order to love myself more completely and not shoulder the guilt of years of toxic love.

I should have known a white dude from the Northwest suburbs and I couldn’t be best friends for life. But I tried anyway because that’s the only way you learn. And my god, did I learn.

It is not his fault he is willfully ignorant and selfish and insensitive but at the same time, it is his fault. Because I had every opportunity to remain ignorant and selfish and insensitive but I chose life. I chose to open my heart up to the world and get hurt and learn and love people the best way I can.

I know a lot of you are probably wide-eyed as you read this scathing review but I honestly, truly, legitimately do not give a flying fuck.

Because when I was fifteen my sister looked me dead in the eyes and said, “You are a waste of god given talent.”

And I never forgot those words. I never, ever, ever let those words go.

Because I would rather have a serpent in my home that I can talk to than a fucking panda bear that lies all the time.

I firmly believe that the things which are the most difficult to hear are the things which need to be repeated over and over and over. Only then can we live authentically. Only then can we move forward and make America……………………………great?

Yeah, I did that.

WHATEVER.

So I am moving on with my life. I have decades left and I haven’t the energy to waste it on people who add nothing to my experience. It’s as plain and as simple as that.

Who wants to be my new best friend?

Nah, I’ll be my own best friend.

home is where my heart is

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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

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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.

Naturally.

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.