Have You Seen This Woman???

There have been times when I have felt the urge to place MISSING signs on doors, trees and lampposts in an effort to find myself. Times when I have looked in the mirror and did not recognize the person staring back. When did those bags appear under my eyes? What’s with the dark circles around my eyes? Is that a furrow between my brow? Are those frown lines on the sides of my mouth? Why do I look and feel as if I have aged 100 years in 100 days?

“Where is Lisa and what the hell have you done with her???” I scream at the mirror.

I used to fancy myself as an okay looking young lady. And I say “okay” because of my head situation. See, when I was born, I came out as a normal, proportionate 9 lb baby. But as I grew into my child body, my head seemed to grow faster than the rest of my body causing me to look like a chocolate Blow Pop. There I was, a little brown pig tailed girl with small shoulders, skinny legs with ashy knees and this big bobble head. True story, my uncle nicknamed me Waterhead! (Ain’t that some shyt!) Fortunately for me, as I grew up, my body caught up with my head. (Okay…let me stop lying…I STILL have a big head but I am working on getting bigger shoulders to balance it out. And so what I am in my 40’s!) The blessing in all of this is that despite my head being so bobble, I had a decent face and felt pretty good about myself for the most part. I was a trained dancer…I danced in a dance company (which was really cool and fun). I loved to draw…I could draw just about any cartoon. Writing was my passion…I kept a writing pad and pen with me at all times. It didn’t matter how good/bad or complex/simple or deep/shallow the content was…all that mattered was that I wrote. I loved to run. Saturday mornings would find me running down MLK Ave at the Big Chair. When I ran, I could think…and when I thought, I could resolve…and when I resolved, I could release…and when I released, I could smile even bigger. I rollerskated. Now THAT was my thing! I would hear The Whispers or Barry White come on and I would get my roll on!!! I could forget about the cares of the world…and in that moment when I am rolling on that cloud of music, in that melodic space, all is right with me. And I loved those carefree years. Those years when I felt free to be myself. When I lived life and fully enjoyed life. When my laughter reached my eyes. When my laughter wasn’t that fake throaty crap, but a loud, hearty belly laugh.

And then I grew up.

What in the hell happened?

Now I know that right here is where I am supposed to cue the dramatic music and insert some huge, life changing event that scarred me for life. Ummm…I hate to disappoint you, but my life was pretty boring. I graduated high school, went to college, got a job and got married. Later on had children.

But somewhere along the way, I lost Lisa…

I look at my reflection…the puffy eyes that used to twinkle when I smiled, now dull and lifeless. I look at the hair that used to be fly. I don’t give half a damn about the hair anymore. The hunched shoulders, sagging ass, lack of motivation and chronic fatigue. And I wonder what the hell happened? Who IS this woman?

When I got married, I felt that my duty as a wife was to make my husband happy. So I was the happy little wife. I learned his favorite foods and cooked them. I kept a clean home while working full time as a police officer. I made sure to keep him happy in the bedroom. I learned his hobbies, listened to his music, met his friends…basically immersed myself in his world…while withdrawing from my world little by little. Did he require this of me? Of course not! But growing up watching Leave it to Beaver, the wife’s life revolved around the husband and family, right? And making her husband happy is the wife’s number one priority, right? It has to be because it’s on freakin Leave it to Beaver and TV doesn’t lie!!! And the mother is ALWAYS smiling and happy as she serves her family. And then in church, there is always the preaching about the Proverbs 31 woman who is up before dawn’s butt crack and then going to bed just before dawn. Of course, the Bible doesn’t mention time, but I am thinking that that Proverbs 31 woman was only operating on like 2 hours sleep, tops. So with those in mind, I made it my business to make sure that my focus was on my husband and his happiness.

As I focused on keeping my happy household, I stopped dancing…cold turkey. My skating dwindled from four to two to one to zero days a week. My writing was stunted because who has time to write when there is vacuuming to be done and dinner to be cooked? My thinking was cloudy because I couldn’t run…which meant no resolve…which meant no release. And little by little, it got harder for my smile to reach my eyes. But in public, I faked the funk. I smiled and laughed…yeah, the fake throaty laugh…but in the middle of the night when my husband was asleep, I lay there staring at the ceiling, feeling a huge hole opening in my core. Trying to convince myself that I am happy and that I really don’t need my own outlet or hobbies anymore. Why do I need those when I am happy and married? And so day in and day out, I smiled my fake smiles and lived my fake life and little by little, bobbleheaded, fun-loving Lisa faded into obscurity.

A couple of years later, children came into the picture. I was excited. No…I was ecstatic!!! I am actually becoming a mother!!! I watched all of the baby shows…read all of the baby books. I wanted to make sure that I had this mothering thing down right. I mean, after all, Claire Huxtable made it look easy! She had like five children and I only have two. So if she can handle her brood, then why can’t I handle my duo…and be happy with it?

And so there I was…wife, mom and full time police officer, living a charmed life. On the outside, I looked like I had it all together. Looked like my life was perfect. I smiled the correct way, said the correct things…did it just like the books said. But on the inside…I was dying.

Do you know what it’s like not to know your favorite food, but you know your husband’s and children’s?

Do you know what it’s like to try to write but cant because you don’t have anything to say?

Do you know what it’s like to know your family’s hobbies but to have forgotten your loves?

I do…and over the years, I became angry and bitter. In my heart, I blamed my husband for taking my individuality from me. I silently accused him of stealing my dreams. I made excuses for my lack of accomplishments independent of the family unit. I used my children as reasons why I could not do anything or go anywhere. I got angry as hell when I would go to church and the minister would preach on this Proverbs 31 woman. I wanted to find that woman and whoop her ass cuz she was making life hella hard for me with all of that overachieving! And I spent several years harboring anger within my heart while smiling (yeah, that fake one) on the outside.

So there I stood looking in the mirror…tired…mentally broken. Daydreams of riding off into the sunset with only the clothes on my back. Wondering how I am going to get through another day. Another bottle of Moscato on the bathroom sink so that I can unwind. Shoulders slumped, feeling beat down…wishing that I could do something…but not quite knowing what to do because I kind of forgot what it was that I liked to do.

And the tears came. One, three, ten…then the floodgates opened.

Who is this broken woman??? And WHERE IS LISA???

And as I stood there crying, I looked at my pitiful reflection. And as I looked back at myself, I saw a glimmer in my eye.

Could it be?

My eyes began to sharpen and focus…my back unhunched itself…my shoulders rolled back…the right eyebrow raised…and I realized that bobblehead Lisa had entered the building. And she was PISSED!!! Enough is Enough! And standing in that mirror, bobblehead Lisa had a talk/showdown with broken Lisa.

The reality is that everything that had happened to me, I did to myself. My husband did not ask me to change. I had some warped, preconceived notion based on television and fairy tales of what a happy wife looks like and what her responsibilities are. And I gave of myself at the expense of myself with no regard for the fact that in order to truly serve and create a happy home, there must be balance and that I had to be…myself. My husband did not fall in love with and marry me for me to be his servant or concubine. He fell in love with my quirky personality, my sense of humor, my love for crazy clothes, my zest for life…all of those things that made me, me. And I did him a disservice by taking that carefree, loving woman away from him because I thought that being a wife meant forsaking self. I never considered that while I was secretly angry and blaming him for me not having any hobbies or likes anymore, maybe he was secretly disappointed that I wasn’t the woman he married. Maybe I wasn’t the only one unhappy…

I was tired, burned out, broken and washed out because I CHOSE to be. I willingly put myself in that situation time and time again. Ms. Martyr of Nothing.

And as I talked with myself, I realized that in life, we all have choices. And we have to choose wisely. In my case, I chose to give up those things that made me me…and I have no one to blame but myself. I had to come to grips with the fact that my husband loves me whether the floors are vacuumed or not. He loves me enough to be cool if I want to go out skating or go for a run…because that gives him time to pursue his own interests.

I have learned that I have the power to control what I pursue in life. And if I succeed or fail, I have no one to blame but myself. I had to get out of my own way, stop making excuses and push forward. Sometimes, we can be our own worst enemies. Its time to take life by the horns and live with purpose and passion…find that old self who used to dream and set goals. Dust off those dreams and goals and start pursuing. NO EXCUSES!!! And definitely no more depressed, dream killing, excuse making “strangers” allowed!!! Let’s be our new and improved selves!!!


To My Mothers in the Struggle…I Understand!

There are some days when I log into Facebook and I immediately want to gag. If I see one more post from an overachieving mom that talks about how she just shaved the sheep to knit wool sweaters for her children, or she milks her cows daily so that her children can have fresh, organic milk or that she just baked 99 damned cupcakes from scratch as if she is Betty Freakin Crocker…I am gonna SCREAM!!!! But if I am honest with myself, I read these posts and then I turn the mirror on myself and self-doubt creeps in. Am I doing enough for MY children? Am I a good mom? Am I nurturing my boys enough? Should I be home schooling? Should I have never ending play dates? Are they in enough activities? And on and on and on. And then I sigh because on top of trying to juggle all that my family has going on, NOW I have to find a place that sells chickens so that my sons can have fresh eggs, see if Costco or Sams sells cows wholesale so that my boys can have fresh milk, take up knitting classes (knit 1, pearl 2), start a farm in my back yard… Its tiring to think about!!! But then I had a revelation. My son needed to drop weight for his football team and guess who he came to? ME!!! Why? Because he knew that his mom could help him meet his goals. My youngest son was practicing his back flip and needed a spotter. Guess who he came to? ME!!!! Why? Because he knew that no matter how many times he kicked me in the head while trying to perfect that flip, I was gonna be right there spotting and cheering him on (lumps, black eyes and all). I recognized that I will NEVER be the mom who makes Martha Stewart style Halloween costumes from recycled milk cartons and cardboard boxes, my home will NEVER be featured in America’s Cleanest Home or in HGTV’s Dream Homes, I will NEVER be a farmer or a gardener…and that’s okay. Because to my children, I am the perfect mom for them. Moms…lets be real…we have a tendency to measure ourselves against one another and we have a tendency to be overly hard on ourselves in an effort to be the “perfect” mom. When in reality, the measurement is not us against other moms…the measurement is how content/how happy are our children? How happy are our homes? We may not be society’s definition of perfect moms, but to our children, we are unique, one of a kind and perfect in their eyes!!!! Moms, I challenge you today to pat yourselves on the back for being one helluva mom to your children…YOU DESERVE IT!!!! Much Love and Happy Journeys

The Bastard

“She’s gone”

The words barely made their way out into the atmosphere…hesitant, choked by staggered breaths drawn amidst a river of tears. I hid out of sight as I watched my father, bent over and racked with emotions as he accepted the death of his mother…my grandmother. My heart went out to him. I had NEVER seen my father like this. A strong, confident man with island blood flowing through his veins, he was a man’s man…a “never let them see you cry” man. He was the spine in the body of his family…the voice of reason…the glue that held us all together. And yet, here he was, broken—sobbing over the loss of his mother. I wanted to run to him, tell him that everything would be okay. That he would be able to move on. But how could I, the bastard child of this emotionally wrought man, encourage and uplift my father when I was battling the smile that had formed on the inside at the news of my grandmother’s death? I was happy that she was gone…

“She may be your child but I will never accept her”

My parents always told me that I should stay in a child’s place. As a little girl, I had a knack for having a LOT of mouth and being very opinionated. And I had a tendency to voice those opinions. Most times, folks would hear me before they saw me, but this day, for some reason, I was in quiet mode.

It was my father’s weekend to have me for visitation and he took me to his mother’s house for a visit. As usual, when we walked in, I spoke to my grandmother, hoping that for once, she would not look upon me with disdain in her eyes. Hoping that for once, she would ask me how I was doing. Hoping that just one time, she would ask me how is school…or how is dance class. But, this time was no different than any other time that I had seen her: I spoke, she gave a snotty “Hello” and then proceeded to ignore me. She began stilted conversation with my father and I sat on her plastic covered uncomfortable French Provencial furniture…sweating…the backs of my legs melting into the plastic. I announced that I had to use the bathroom and made my exit. Of course, I didn’t have to use the bathroom…I just needed to get out of that oppressive living room filled with adult conversation and awkward silences. I played in the water a bit. Wet up my grandmother’s decorative soap…yes…the very soap that was for decoration ONLY. I spritzed on her White Shoulders cologne. Opened up every container that I could find in the medicine cabinet. Pretty much went into every cabinet and drawer that I could find in the bathroom until I got bored.

I opened the bathroom door and began to make my way back to the living room but stopped when I heard the whispered rush of heated conversation. I froze in my tracks. I could feel the tension in the air. What were they talking about? And why were they speaking so low? And why was my father’s voice in distress? I crept down the hallway, closer to the living room so that I could hear. Snippets of the conversation floated down the hallway to my ears. Oh My God!!! They are talking about me!!! ME!!!

“No matter how she got her, she is still my daughter!”

“Just because YOU claim her doesn’t mean that I have to!”

“She is my child and I love her.”

“She is not a true (insert family name).”

“Please don’t treat her that way. She doesn’t deserve this. She is just a child. She is my child.”

“Just because she is your child doesn’t mean that I have to accept her.”

Tears welled up in my eyes as I heard these words. My heart was crushed. What had I ever done to this woman to deserve this treatment? Yes, I was a tomboy in the worst way. Yes, I tended to be a bit on the loud side. Yes, I was born to my parents as the result of an extra marital affair…but how is that MY fault?

From the time that I could talk, my grandmother insisted that I call her Mrs. (family name) while all of my cousins, nieces and nephews got to call her Mommy (her first name). My dad would load all of his grandchildren and me (we were the same ages) up in the car and visit my grandmother over the Christmas holidays and she would have pretty little Christmas gifts and candy for them…but nothing for me. So my dad would purchase gifts to give to me at her house so that I would not feel left out. But I knew that the gifts were from him. Afterall, she didn’t know me well enough or want to know me to know that I preferred Stretch Armstrong to Malibu Barbie.

Report Cards would come out and my father would proudly show her the straight A’s that I faithfully earned each school year and she would glance at the cards and roll her eyes as if bored. He invited her to my dance recitals but she was always busy. As a matter of fact, I do not remember ever receiving a hug from her…no smiles sent my way. Yet each time I visited, I dutifully greeted her with a kiss on her smug, slack cheek and hoped that this would be the day that she finally accepted me.

Alas, it was for naught. In my thirteen years of life, she never once fully accepted me or showed me the love that I saw my nieces, nephews and cousins receive. And it hurt me, but hardened me. It also confirmed to me that in her eyes, no matter what I achieved, I would always be The Bastard. So when my father received news of her death from a stroke, my heart broke for him. He lost the first love of his life: his mother. When I received news of my grandmother’s death, I felt a weight lift from my shoulders. No more mandatory visits. No more groveling for acceptance. No more feeling less than. No more seeing other children receive while I got nothing. No more questioning my worth. No more longing for love from a selfish woman who would blame a child for her father’s actions. I was elated. And there were no tears. But, there was the stain of being labeled a bastard.

For years after her death, I struggled with rejection…struggled with feeling like I don’t fit in…struggled with finding my place in my father’s family. I always felt like I didn’t quite belong. I had half brothers and sisters on my father’s side…a half brother on my mother’s side…and there I was in the middle. My father and his family had one name…my mother, her husband and my little half brother had one name…and there I was with a name of my own…and the stain of being a bastard child.

So I studied extra hard and extra long. I did every talent show, entered every art contest, ran every race, did spelling bees, fashion shows…anything to prove my talent and to prove that I was worthy to completely belong to a family. Yet my years were spent rotating weekly visitations, shared holidays and split summers. I was jealous of every child that I met who had a mommy and daddy that were married and living in the same house. I was jealous of my nieces and nephews who shared my father’s last name when I couldn’t even have his name and I was his daughter. I was tired of getting side eyes and stares from church folk who whispered that I was the illegitimate child of my father. I was tired of my friends asking me why my last name didn’t match my mom’s or my dad’s. I was just plain damned tired. Nevertheless, I didn’t stop my one girl show for acceptance. And I never let anyone see me cry.

So many nights I ached. So many times I asked God why I was not enough…why I was not worthy…why I kept reaching out for love from a grandmother who was not prepared or equipped to love a love child. Why even in death, she tormented me. Why, years after her death, her words still bothered me. But most importantly, I asked MYSELF how long will I allow the words of a bitter old woman define who I am and dictate my destiny?

When I asked myself that last question, I allowed myself to move beyond the emotion of being hurt. I allowed myself to look beyond the word “Bastard” that I had engraved on my heart. When I asked myself that question, I allowed myself to consider the fact that while my getting here on earth may not have been done in a correct manner, God saw fit to allow me life…and God doesn’t make mistakes…and He doesn’t make bastards either. As I considered my existence, I was forced to acknowledge that I am fearfully and wonderfully made in His image and that while I may not be accepted by many, HE WILL ALWAYS ACCEPT ME. He tells me to come as I am.

When I began to consider these things, I realized that while the world may call me a bastard child…while my grandmother chose not to accept me, not only does God accept me, but my father’s family and my mother’s family had accepted me 100%. Sure, my name may not match theirs. Sure, I may be a reminder of a forbidden relationship…but at the end of the day, when I took off my bastard colored glasses, I saw total love and acceptance from those who mattered most.

These days, I look back on my grandmother—not in fondness or adoration—but in sadnesss. Because in her lack of acceptance of her granddaughter, she missed out on an awesome little girl with a helluva personality. She missed out on bragging rights about her granddaughter’s straight A’s. She missed photo opportunities after all of the dance recitals. She missed out on conversations about race cars, daddy long legs and Rock’Em Sock ‘Em robots. When I think about it, I wasn’t the one who lost—SHE WAS!!! And I feel bad for her because she could have had some great memories.

Oftentimes, life deals us a crazy hand that is beyond our control. Life isn’t always fair and sometimes, we are placed in less than stellar situations. But I have learned that it’s not the hand that we were dealt that makes us, its how we play the cards. We can accept a losing hand and accept the labels that life gives us. OR we can play the hell out of the hand that we were given and come out stronger, wiser, new and improved. We are not who people say we are. We have the power to label ourselves and to define who we want to be. We cannot give our power of strong self away to people who are less than deserving of even our weakest selves. We must always remember that God doesn’t make junk. Know our self worth. Speak and breathe positivity into our own selves even when the deck is stacked against us. Its how we play our cards that will make or break us.

I refuse to live a bastard life.