After The Storm

After The Storm

“No ennui during Henri.” That’s today’s mantra.

Sitting here. Legs stretched across the couch. Ella, Louis, Billie, Duke, Etta, Nat and Frank are on the soundtrack. Apartment cleaned and smudged. Skin soft and glowing from being freshly exfoliated. Lemongrass wafting in the air from the diffuser. Outside, a gray, cloud-filled sky unloads seemingly endless drops of rain — bringing everything and everyone to a calming standstill.

This is serenity and gratitude being experienced in real time in a time of chaos. Something I’ve learned is not a small feat and should not be taken for granted.

I considered this yesterday, while confirming with one of my girlfriends that our Sunday brunch plans were, quite literally, going to be a wash, with the reports of “Henri” being upgraded to hurricane status. It conjured up a memory of the last time I left home during a hurricane — which happened to be notoriously destructive Sandy — during which I reported for work at a private club and hotel that was surprisingly still open and somewhat bustling with members and guests despite warnings and public transit shutdowns across the city. As it became clear Sandy was unrelenting, the members finally retreated to their respective personal spaces, but hotel guests remained. What resulted was an insane succession of hours, in which I’d work a double shift across two departments, partake in an impromptu sing-along of “Hey Jude,” while (appropriately) drinking “dark and stormy” cocktails with staff and guests in a club lit by candlelight as the chef used the fireplace to make cookies in the absence of power, made my way through a pitch-black stairwell using the last of my cell phone battery as light, shared a guest room and bonded with the ladies of housekeeping, had to explain to a guest why she could not plug her iPad into our only generator and later deal with her complaints of our lack of on-site chess boards to entertain her spoiled and rambunctious sons, and spent the next morning and afternoon placing the guests in hotels further north that had vacancies and no power and service disruptions before walking 3 miles to secure a cab back to my Harlem apartment — which had both electricity and no nearby buildings with its façade torn off to the point where it looked like a dollhouse with a heap of bricks in front of it.

Needless to say, when the words “hurricane warning in your area” flash across a screen, my older and wiser self now goes into cocoon mode, and the most adventurous I’m getting is when I’m deciding to use smoked paprika in dinner prep.

But with that experience, as with me documenting my current and very different situation, I was glaringly aware of the privilege it all entails.

Just days after the storm’s end, while volunteering at a housing complex a mere couple of blocks away from my posh workplace, I’d learn the real cost of it from the experiences of people who could not afford to relocate. As we went from door-to-door attempting to do welfare checks and provide much-needed supplies to seniors who had difficulty moving and/or accessing medicine and medical attention, and other tenants reluctant to open their doors for a myriad of (understandable and in some cases justified) reasons, we came away with an all-too-real understanding that not everyone has the option to have options.

I think of that now as I think of the state of the world.

How privileged are we to be comfortable inside our homes, doing whatever it is we feel like doing, while others who are less fortunate struggle to stay dry and survive because they have no home. How fortunate are we to have the choice of working from said homes to avoid contracting a deadly virus as people whose jobs and livelihoods afford us the luxury of having food, medical attention and other services available to us in our time of need. How lucky we are to have free vaccines that keep us from dying from this virus within our reach. How blessed are we that we don’t live in a part of the world where people brandishing weapons are dictating whether women and children can live and learn safely and freely, and impose their religious beliefs on everyone to make decisions that affect who lives and dies.

Oh, wait…

It takes a whole lot of cojones to blame one person for the self-serving and destructive decisions of many. And yet, in true entitled, unaccountable and hypocritical fashion, many Americans have placed their disdain for behaving responsibly during a pandemic and lack of education about a decades-long and un-winnable war that has cost trillions of dollars and countless human collateral squarely on the shoulders of a man who made it his mission and intention of taking on the fool’s errand of cleaning up colossal messes to restore our country to some sense of normalcy. Unsurprisingly, it’s not going well, because we suck, and don’t know how to behave when an adult enters the room after we’ve morphed into a full-on hybrid of “Lord of the Flies” and “Animal Farm.”

As with most storms, this too shall pass. I’m just hoping to see the sun rise someday soon and we all find our rainbow and peace in the process.

Until then…I’m staying mostly indoors, and plan to have protective gear at all times for the foreseeable future when interacting with this crazy world is absolutely necessary.

Good luck out there y’all. And choose wisely. Please.

That Special Feeling

That Special Feeling

Reality television is a never-ending hell of shameless people with narcissistic tendencies outdoing themselves and each other to prove how far (and low) they’ll go for the instant gratification of widespread recognition and adulation, and the assumed paydays that ostensibly come with said recognition.

…But it does have its merits.

In this instance, it brought me to an epiphany so painfully obvious, that I’m embarrassed it took me so long to put a lens to it.

Let me explain.

Last year, during the “honeymoon stage” of lockdown, I succumbed to the chatter on my social feeds and work Slack channel and watched a show on Netflix called “Love Is Blind,” in which single strangers partake in a social experiment where they “date” by going into rooms (or “pods”), where they can only speak to each other through a wall, and eventually emerge either still single, or engaged to be married in the span of a month. Full disclosure: weeks before, I’d accidentally encountered the couple who became the breakout stars of the show when I was in the throws of a work event, and needed to meet one of our speakers outside and didn’t factor in the temperature when I swung the door open without wearing any protective outerwear and let out an ear-piercing yelp just as they were walking by. They were startled, I was apologetic, and onlookers were amused by the exchange but continued to fawn praise on them for being their favorites. Confused, I asked a woman who they were and figured I’d watch to find out why this couple — and this show — struck a chord and a cultural moment. (Yes, this story is true. And yes, random shit like this happens to me a lot. To the point where my friends make fun of me. Don’t ask me why. I’m only just fessing up to this being a thing.)

An-y-way, I ended up getting sucked into this program, and also falling in love with the couple because they were so damn adorable and pure! Which brings me to present day…because I just watched the extra episodes they added for an anniversary special to celebrate the two year mark of the couples who successfully paired up.

And while those episodes were absolutely as craptastic and contrived as the show itself, there were some standout moments that were, in my opinion, gold.

Most notably, one of the couples that seemed to be on the verge of making it official toward the end of the show’s initial run was now in struggle mode because the man was now entertaining another prospect while the woman was openly declaring her love for him and commitment to working out their issues. And since this is “reality TV,” we get to watch the whole thing play out as this ginger-haired fuckboy with a new midlife Porsche legitimately attempted to gaslight the “girlfriend,” the prospect he kept calling “a friend,” and the audience that he’s justifying his borderline toxic behavior to. It was messy. It was uncomfortable. It was packed with essential relationship takeaways.

Then we were given the ancillary single characters, who maligned their situations, and pleaded their cases for deserving the seemingly “fairytale” outcomes of the married couples, but when given the opportunity to present their best selves on a show that has a bit of a global reach, they consistently blew it in favor of ego and high production drama. One woman in particular thought it would be a good idea to invite a man who was seemingly interested in her to the “anniversary party” as a first date, then proceeded to spend the majority of the evening getting into everyone else’s business and fighting a battle that wasn’t hers while her date was left chatting with his friend who introduced them and everyone else around him until he was over it all and decided to bounce, which then prompted a tearful hissy fit from the woman, who then needed to be comforted and reassured by her girls that she was deserving of love, yadda, yadda. It was messy. It was uncomfortable. And it was also packed with essential relationship takeaways.

But the one key takeaway that I got from both messy AF situations and the show overall (which isn’t so much a takeaway as it’s validation of a running theme in my life these days) — is that any relationship you put effort into will blossom and thrive, while the ones you don’t will wither and cease to exist. The couples that made it did so because they, first as individuals, were wiling to be honest, open, selfless, vulnerable, take on uncomfortable conversations and conflicts, and make sacrifices that ultimately would lead to them collectively becoming stronger. The ones that didn’t unsurprisingly consisted of at least one person in the relationship who was guarded, self-preserved and/or repressed their feelings and desires til the very moment when they left their “mate” at the alter. It was brutal to watch.

In short: Love is a houseplant.

But seriously, people who mutually feel special, valued and appreciated in their relationships will grow into their best selves together. It’s kind of a no-brainer at this point. Yet, here we are.

In the midst of writing this post, I ended up on a (perfectly timed) call with my cousin (aka one of my main heartbeats), in which we were speaking about a family gathering we held exactly eleven years ago, and the life changes that have since happened. One of those things being that I would leave my boyfriend — who was there — weeks later for the final time. What everyone knew was that I’d called in another cousin, who had a truck, and my uncle, who had a licensed gun, to remove me from the situation. What they did not know was that over the course of the nearly six years we were together, I’d been the one financially holding up the relationship; paying half the rent, all of the utilities, all of the dinners out, the spa visits and entertainment on vacations, and putting money into his account when his went into childcare, clothes and shoes, DJ equipment and fixing his used luxury car (aka a money pit on wheels). We made the same salary. I was debt free. He was not. None of this stopped him from blaming me when things continued to go south, taking things out on me physically, telling me I could never do better than him and finally slandering me to our mutual friends when I’d finally had enough. Hurt people hurt people.

If you’re a regular reader, you already know things didn’t improve much on the dating front after that. There was name calling. There was no calling. There was now an understanding that when I heard phrases like “You think you’re so smart,” “Aren’t you popular?” or any iteration of “You talk too much,” I was about to find myself in a situation where I’m in a competition I never asked for that had already determined me the loser because someone needed a win at my expense.

My father was prison counselor, my biological mother was a nurse and my adopted mother was a schoolteacher. By sheer osmosis, I was designed to be someone who always wanted to make people feel special and cared for. It made sense that my professional life mostly found me in roles that catered to the needs of others. It was also, in my mind, the only way I could secure my own safety and presumed care. It backfired. Badly. I fell hard for grand gestures and other red flags indicative of control issues. I was attention-starved, resentful and running on empty. What a time to be alive.

It was messy. It was uncomfortable. It was a time packed with essential relationship takeaways.

The irony in having a father who made convicted (and alleged) criminals feel empowered and human is how he unintentionally failed spectacularly at instilling those same feelings into his daughter. I never got the talks and the words of encouragement that prompted defendants to effusively wave at him in a courtroom (immediately getting him excused from jury duty), procure the latest technological gadgets for members of my family for a literal steal as gifts, or get excited about seeing a photo of me on his desk at work because their niece is a school friend. (Again, true stories. Also: WTF?!) I’d only learned after his death that I was a source of immense pride and a constant topic of discussion for accomplishments never acknowledged out loud. And that discovery, which simultaneously healed and broke my heart, shifted EVERYTHING in my personal and professional relationships.

I no longer stay where I’m not wanted or valued. I no longer entertain transactional people and situations in any form. I’ve gotten really comfortable with having uncomfortable conversations that result in having peace of mind and clarity on where I stand in any situation and how to move accordingly. I’ve become so protective of my energy its almost uncanny, which has made way for more authentic interactions that bring me joy. Disappointments are now seen as the lessons and detours to greater opportunities that they are. I’m proud of me.

When I mentioned earlier about being embarrassed by how long it took me to address the topic, it wasn’t because I wasn’t aware of its impact. Again, I built my professional career around making sure others felt special, at times sacrificing my own personal life and comfort because I never considered for a moment that I was too. I used to joke that I’d either hung out with, dated or been in the presence of enough actors, models, artists, producers, musicians, photographers and entrepreneurs in my lifetime that there should be a handbag named after me. I’m only now realizing not a lot of people could make that joke…or that it’s kinda not a joke. It’s weird. It’s unbelievable. And it’s why I haven’t turned to a life of crime to secure the kind of lifestyle where my travel plans aren’t remotely reliant on how many points I’ve racked up through my Amazon purchases. (Real talk, how many vitamins does a chick need to buy to get to St. Martin?)

Everyone wants — and deserves — to feel special in whatever relationship they’re in and space they take up. I think we can all agree that most problems tend to arise when we either feel unworthy of that feeling, or entitled to be the only ones who do. People will (and have) gone to great lengths for the distinction. Academically-inclined students. People who spend extra money on luxury experiences. Athletes who spend their entire lives training for quickly-fleeting moments of glory on the world stage. Anyone who’s relentlessly pursued the arts in hopes of being world-renown, steadily in demand and lucratively rewarded and awarded in the process. People in marginalized communities fighting to be seen and acknowledged as deserving of all the things they’ve been denied by their more privileged counterparts. People who scaled government buildings for narcissistic psychopaths who gave the word new and ominous meaning. People who use the words “internet famous.” Even people who are so crippled by insecurities and past hurts that they actively push anyone who tries to get close to them out of their lives (after much therapy, soul-searching and healing, natch).

And, of course, people who go on reality television shows to find and vie for love after getting to a point where they felt invisible in the real world.

The reality is…life is messy. It’s uncomfortable. And it’s packed with essential relationship takeaways. But when you find that special someone —or, even better, become them — it gets so much easier to navigate.

Trust.

Xo

Identity Heft

Identity Heft

Etymologically speaking, “a walk in the park” is supposedly an easy thing to do.

Therefore, it came as a complete surprise to me yesterday, when I could barely make my first lap around the nearby park before needing to retreat to the nearest bench in an attempt to shake off a sudden pain that hit me on the right side of my back.

Initially, my first thoughts turned to aging, as it tends to do these days because perimenopause is menacingly real and unsexy. Then I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and understood that even though I walked out of my apartment with nothing but my keys and photo ID in case the cops need to identify my body…I was carrying something heavy.

The week started awful, with me learning as I sat in an airport on my way home from a bittersweet but much-needed getaway that one of my elder cousins lost both her daughter and grandson (who was a father of six) within days of each other at the same hospital in their hometown. Instantly, a wave of guilt rushed in because I’d lost touch with that portion of my family, and didn’t know how to respond…or if I should. Learning the circumstances of both deaths from another cousin only exacerbated the feeling.

My father had always been the family connector; the one who called and drove or flew to every state and family member, and this was his first cousin and her immediate family who had now suffered two devastating back-to-back losses I could never imagine. By contrast, I’ve lived and operated as an only child with limited family engagement for most of my life — gravitating only to specific family members I spent the most time with due to our proximity to each other in age and/or geographical location, and used Facebook to monitor the rest (hence how I learned of the tragedies). It’s moments like these that remind me just how isolated I’ve been to the point of being my own island, and it’s honestly something I’ve begun taking stock of as I grow older and less likely to have a family of my own.

So when I entered the park on that gorgeous sunny day, and saw multiple family gatherings taking place…it didn’t just remind me that I didn’t have a life filled with many of those moments and connections, it became clear to me just how defining those moments are in shaping the people we become.

I’ve always been in awe of and envied people who had solid family and community foundations that encouraged and motivated them to become highly functioning members of society. I get weepy when I watch movies like “In The Heights,” with its message of pride in family, community and cultural heritage. (Same with assorted Asian movies where the young protagonist grapples with coming of age and walking the fine line between self-actualization and preserving constrictive traditions for parental and elder approval.) I grew up in a Queens suburb where my predominantly Black and Caribbean neighbors were more interested in what you had for their own gain, than in collectively thriving as a community. As a child, I’d spend summers in Georgia being ridiculed for my New York accent, and often singled-out for my “big city” behavior. (Interestingly, I now slip into a twang when I touch down in the south, or am speaking to certain members of my family — something I’ve also done unconsciously when speaking to British and Hasidic clients in my past work life when, in retrospect, I wanted them to feel at ease.)

For the longest time, I’ve had trouble identifying and defining who I truly am and what I want in this life. Having no one around to help me figure it out only made me feel more aimless and alone. I often joke about being “raised by wolves,” because unlike my peers, I wasn’t taught how to cook traditional meals (or any – I wing it), how to drive, the importance of investing in things like stocks and real estate, or any particular set of life skills that might’ve made me more of a (human) force, and less of a person who happens to have a shit ton of life experiences that equate to zero tangible assets to show for any of them but a lot of interesting stories and billable hours in therapy. I’ve also never spent any of my formative years being schooled on my family heritage, being exposed to long-term healthy relationships or celebrating holidays like Kwanzaa and Juneteenth…and am only playing catchup on the significance of it all.

Which is why it surprised me that I’d become more protective of my Blackness — and the culture in general — in recent years, considering the bulk of my traumatic experiences came from my own people. That I’ve taken up advocating for people of color to take up spaces in the corporate world when I go mostly ignored by them in the real world unless I have something that benefits them is…something I’m working through. That, and being violently triggered when someone makes decisions on my behalf without my input and/or consent.

These thoughts are too heavy.

One of the many things I’ve learned in this life is that hurt people hurt people…until they do the work to become healed people. And there are gonna be days when it’s hard to not take shit personally, but I cannot and will not continue to let the actions of a few keep me from opening my heart to being and doing better for others and myself. Especially when the end result is authentic love, connection and peace. It’s a lesson I’ll be taking into consideration as I attempt to find the words to comfort grieving relatives and, eventually, find something more.

I’m still insecure when it comes to knowing my true purpose and direction in life (note: I know what it is, the imposter syndrome just hits different), but I’m confident that I’ve built enough of a foundation over the last few years with a circle who genuinely want the best for me and will quickly jump in to make sure I stay out of my own way. I’m blessed to have a support system that celebrates my wins, comfort me through my losses and give me strength on days when I falter and think I can’t make it. They remind me who I am when I tend to forget. Nothing fills me more than being able to do the same for them in return.

I guess, in a way, that does make me my father’s daughter. That’s a good place to start…

I’m rambling…but my back feels better now.

Braking Hearts

Braking Hearts

The last 36 hours have been…different. Slightly weird even. But in the best way possible.

In addition to it consisting of me embarking on plane travel for the first time in twenty (20) months (!), it’s also the first time in seven years that I’ve been in a room with a man who — at several points in time over the course of two decades — I would’ve (and have) given anything to breathe his air…and the first time I didn’t lose my senses during the experience.

That’s not to say the thought didn’t cross my mind…a few times. And not just because it’s been a while since a human other than myself was responsible for my orgasms. It’s because his smile, his laugh, his skin, his voice and his entire brilliant being lights me on fire. Every. Fucking. Time. Because we can talk endlessly about everything from stocks and politics to the MCU (Marvel Comic Universe for the uninitiated). Because I’ve never felt more seen, more smart or more safe with a man who wasn’t my father. Because he’s genuinely one of my favorite people, even though I honestly never thought I’d see him again.

I know, I know…none of this makes sense. How can I describe someone this way and not consummate?

Clearly, I love him. Truth be told, I loved him before I knew I loved him. And none of that will change.

But…I have changed.

In the past, I’ve done most, if not all, of the heavy lifting when it came to relationships. The list of things I’ve done to make shit work is long, exhaustive, mentally taxing and fucking humiliating. It’s easy to buy dinners and offer open invitations to stay in beautiful waterfront apartments. It’s something else to communicate your feelings and intentions and make efforts to check in with someone for no other reason than you’re thinking about them and want to make sure they’re okay mentally and emotionally because their wellbeing matters to you.

Now…I want — no, I require — someone who will do the work with me. Someone who makes me a priority. Someone who wants a life with me and not a life that includes me only at specific intervals. I want someone who wants to show me the world because in his eyes and heart…I’m his world.

That’s not to say he isn’t capable of that. Truthfully, I’ve never given him a chance because I legitimately wasn’t in the right headspace during whatever window of opportunity might’ve existed to be a true partner for anybody. I spent years and copious amounts of resources jumping through hoops of fire when I just needed to chill the fuck out, pump the brakes on being boo’d up (see what I did there?), and be by myself for a while to learn what made me happy and whole…and recognize that I bring a hell of a lot to a table just as I am.

All that to say…my brain has officially demoted my lady parts to a supporting role in this thing called life, and it’s no longer running affairs of the heart. And I couldn’t be more relieved.

That said, I’m still eternally grateful for my rechargeable vibrator, which has come through like a champ during a slate of unfortunate dating app encounters, a merciless pandemic and an epic journey of self-discovery that’s now entering its fourth year.

But that’s another story.

The Mother Load

The Mother Load

Full (moon) disclosure: There’s a good chance I may go all over the place with my thoughts in this post (more so than usual).

Last night, I went outside to gaze at the supermoon, came in and watched “Avengers: Endgame” for the umpteenth time, and realized I hadn’t done a post to mark the occasion of starting this quiet little blog a whole decade ago!

Spoiler alert: I’m still not (technically) gonna do one.

However long you’ve been rockin’ with this sporadic, occasionally depressing, hopefully insightful and always a tad batshit crazy home of my musings — please know that I am truly grateful to you for generously indulging me. It is my hope that you’ve left this page at times feeling enlightened, optimistic, more vulnerable and/or mildly amused. It is also my hope that you’ve spread the word so others might feel the same.

Maybe you’ve gained perspective in areas you never considered. Maybe some of my stories resonated and made you feel seen or heard. Maybe you, too, have embraced therapy. Or meditation. Or skydiving. Or tragicomical sexcapades with lanky/sketchy Cuban poets or semi-famous narcissistic actors. Or obsessively playing the “Hamilton” soundtrack ad nauseam. Or indulgent self-care rituals. (I’d like to delude myself in thinking there’s something here for everyone.)

When I began this blog, I was reeling from a season of change I wasn’t mentally prepared for and desperately needed an outlet to escape. I was struggling to find full-time work after being laid off from a lucrative job a year earlier, was fresh out of a nearly six-yearlong relationship that had grown abusive (subsequently becoming homeless as a result), and my father had been diagnosed with dementia and early-onset alzheimer’s — setting off a domino effect of health, legal, financial and family drama aplenty for years to come. To say that writing about things as innocuous as baseball game proposals and bridge comparisons provided an unlikely balm at the time was an understatement.

Ten years later, this little blog is where the façade gets stripped. And I love it.

Which brings me to a subject I haven’t really been keen to delve into because up until now I didn’t realize it was such a pain point but whew lawd is it ever!

As April comes to a close, it brings with it more than a slew of Taurus folks reminding me that I need to get my life in order and that my birthstone is trash. It also brings the ominous (for me, at least) reckoning that is Mother’s Day; the one day out of the year where I pretend to be engaged by doling out airy tributes to the moms in my life, acutely aware of my personal views on motherhood, and having come to grips with the fact that my relationship with my own biological mother is nonexistent at my behest.

For years, I’ve grappled with a host of feelings when it came to my biological mother: The classic default of hurt/angry with her for behavior that could clinically be construed as negligent/abandonment. Guilty for the last words I ever said to her nearly five years ago at my father’s funeral, after she repeatedly hit me with a program bearing my father’s face for “not getting her joke.” Sad for her because her inability to see beyond her own experiences and narrative has impaired and/or destroyed any real chance of healing or connection with me and anyone else that just got tired of trying and repeatedly failing to be heard.

And yes, I’m cognizant of the disconnect that comes with using the term “biological,” although it’s not as loaded as it’s just simply my truth. Another woman raised me. To me, she’s my mother. Simple math.

But even armed with those basic facts, I never dug into the emotional ramifications of that equation. Never paid attention to how I internalized that anger. Never noticed how during the rare visits in my youth, she’d find opportunities to insult my father, who never spoke ill of her, made countless efforts to ensure she and her family were kept abreast of my whereabouts and supported various members when they were in need decades after they had divorced. (Admittedly a bad husband, but an undeniably good — albeit flawed — man.) Also never picked up on her habit of assuming the victim role and shirking accountability when she made terrible — and often detrimental — life choices.

If I had…I would have noticed sooner that I’d become the very person I’d vowed to never become…at one point basing my decision to not have children on the fear that I’d one day replicate her actions.

Strangely, realizing I was an asshole was quite a refreshing revelation.

After unpacking how my approach to life and relationships was shaped (distorted?) by the fears, resentments, traumas and biases of both my biological and adopted mothers, I began looking at my past romantic relationships and realized there was a common thread: All of my long-term relationships had been with men who held deep resentments toward their mothers as well. One was angry that his mother brought him to America, forcing him to leave his life and friends across the pond behind…glossing over the fact that she was fleeing a violent marriage. One was none-too-pleased that his younger, fairer-skinned brother got more attention than he did growing up. One literally blacked out talking about how his mother would take his deceased father’s social security money and give it to his younger brother for clothes and sneaker shopping, while he was supporting himself through college (even though they did not share the same father). All of them at one point had assumed the role of “man of the house” and financially supported them in their adult life to the point of straining themselves fiscally to maintain the appearance of being the “good son” and keep the desired approval/love of their mothers.

Unsurprisingly, all of them thought money, status and material belongings were the remedy for the huge emotional voids they couldn’t fill. And all had massive control issues.

And as simultaneously heartbreaking and terrifying as that revelation is, it’s not an anomaly. There are SO MANY mothers who are unwittingly hobbling their child’s ability to have healthy relationships and even function as emotionally stable adults. Hell, without even realizing it, I had preternaturally doomed my children to the point where I didn’t even bother having any, so I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like being a woman who puts the weight of her world onto the shoulders of her child because her heart is broken to the point where she makes her happiness and dream fulfillment the priority and responsibility of that child.

Actually, I can and just did. It’s shitty.

I think about that when I hear stories of single mothers pushing their sons to be pro athletes in dangerous but lucrative sports without encouraging them to also have an education and a post-retirement business plan. I think of that when I see stage moms who aggressively force their children into entertainment without their consent. I think of that when I hear stories of women who knew their partners were abusing their kids but didn’t want to lose whatever stability that partner provided, and instead took their frustrations out on the child and abused them more.

I think of women who resent when the child gets more attention than them and ignore or put down their dreams and achievements. I think of women who can’t recover when the child is a physical reminder of the man who brought them pain and, by default, punishes them for it. I think of women who mistakenly believe that withholding words of encouragement and praise will make their kids “stronger.” I think of women who use threats and violence to intimidate their child into meeting their expectations instead of talking to them. I think of women who don’t communicate their needs, fears and desires, who risk sending their kids a message that their needs, fears and desires aren’t valid or worthy of attention, fulfillment and care. I think of all these very-real scenarios…and of the future adults walking around feeling unworthy, unloved, unable to express or process emotions and conflict…afraid to communicate what they require and be vulnerable, authentic, joyful and free as a result.

And it’s soul crushing…in addition to generating way too many red flags to keep track of before swearing off dating/mating for life.

I’d be remiss if I left out the women who inadvertently raise dangerously entitled humans because they fear being labeled a bad mother. They may not be scarring the kids for life, but they sure as hell are making them difficult to deal with in society, which may scar the rest of us.

That said, I know some amazing women who have raised some incredible human beings. I understand it’s no small feat, and it often takes a village. And without the support of a partner and/or friends and family who are equally invested in making sure everyone is functioning on their highest level, things absolutely, inevitably, fall through the cracks.

To them, I say with all sincerity: You deserve your flowers. And the spa days. And the occasional vice-infused getaway. You deserve all the things.

I’ll just close this epic tome by saying that in the thirteen hours since writing the bulk of these words (I was too sleepy to edit and post earlier), I’ve since discovered that Oprah released a new book today pretty much touching on this fun subject, so I’m just gonna take that as a sign I’m on the right path and learned something good over this past decade, and perhaps this is where my generational curse ends.

Also, I’m literally on the same page as Oprah, and I haven’t decided yet if that’s a flex or if I’m about to get cussed out again by the people who keep telling me to write a book already.

Motherfucker.

Wish You Were Here

Wish You Were Here

This week has been a lot.

Yesterday, I woke up, sat up in bed, took a breath and a swig of water and…just…cried.

Then I got up, made the bed, opened the curtains and — minutes later — found myself standing in the kitchen as a strange wave of relief came over me that I didn’t have children.

Just the day before, I momentarily cursed this fact, as I reckoned with the tax penalties I now faced as a single woman entering a full year of being self-employed(ish). The rare other times I’d second-guess this choice, I’d been disabled after breaking my ankle, and perhaps at some point last year when I was cautious about leaving home to get food and other necessities.

But less than 24 hours later, I was once again firmly in my childfree stance, except with a new and morbid perspective.

What was first a personal choice that was part remnants of parental resentments and traumas and part outcome of not being in a healthy, committed marriage/partnership in the years I was open to motherhood, has suddenly morphed into a selfish desire to not experience the devastation of potentially losing that child violently because of someone else’s ignorance.

As unapologetic as I’ve become with my life choices as of late, I admit I momentarily grappled with these thoughts, until learning soon after that I wasn’t alone in having them. That the person who shared this view is something of a motherlike figure to folks, as I’ve been in the past, has eased my mind on this position.

I’m no stranger to loss. In the four-and-half decades I’ve been on this earth, I’ve lost a great deal: Jobs, homes, life savings, family, friends, lovers, dignity, sense of security, self-control and — occasionally — the will to continue and do it all over again another day. And yet, here I am.

In theory, I’m a fucking phoenix. Or Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day,” depending on your perspective.

But the one consistent thing about all that loss is it was mine, alone, and at most points I absolutely had control over my narrative, even when I had no control over the overall outcomes (and even when I didn’t think so at the time). Either I made bad choices personally, or made bad judgements to trust others on my behalf who ultimately didn’t have my best interests at heart. Lessons were learned, and in time I moved on and quietly started over.

Now, imagine the precise opposite of that happening as the result of losing a child as the world watches on their screens. Having to process the horror of losing a human you brought into the world. Losing them violently because of the color of their skin and by the hands of the very people whose job ostensibly is to protect and serve everyone. Not being able to fully grieve because your life and your child’s lost life has now become a public symbol of something even more horrific. Then, the media joins their murderers and millions of strangers in creating and pushing a narrative to justify taking their life. You’re now propelled into a spotlight you never asked to be in as your head still swirls with questions that need answers. Protests and marches and movements you might have empathized with before from afar but are now intrinsically attached to are happening in places you’ve never been. Strangers are risking their safety in the name of your child. Hashtags, social posts, shrines, news show segments, song lyrics, murals, propaganda, forums and thought pieces…all in the name of your child.

Your. Child.

No matter what the circumstances…THAT IS TOO FUCKING MUCH TO BEAR AND ENDURE.

As much as I understand the idea, spiritually, that tragedy can serve as a catalyst for moments that reach far beyond the scope of our individual stories, history has shown us those moments come at tremendous costs. And at this moment, I’m emotionally spent.

I also understand many, MANY other people, have lost other types of loved ones, and they have also been unwittingly thrust into the same experiences. My heart aches for them as well.

But I’ll NEVER understand why this keeps happening. Why legacies are erased in the blink of an eye and the nervous twitch of a hand. Why hate and fear are on surplus, but love, kindness and acceptance are scarce. Why common sense isn’t so common in places and spaces where ignorance is lucrative and rewarded. Why power and control remains so dangerously addictive to and within the grasp of people who should never have it.

To the countless parents, partners, families and others who’ve lost loved ones to senseless violence…I wish you’d get answers, justice and most importantly, peace.

To the warriors fighting for social justice…I wish for the day to come when the fight is no longer needed.

To the bad-acting cops and people, politicians and pundits who continue to protect them and justify extinguishing promising futures based on your biases…I wish you could see our humanity the same way you see it in the monsters who commit mass murders.

To the folks who stay silent because they fear “rocking the boat” in their circles…I wish you had the courage to speak up.

To the courts…I wish you played fair.

To my fellow empaths…I wish we had better coping mechanisms in place this week.

To America…I wish we could truly have liberty and justice for all.

And to the innumerable names — said and unsaid — taken from us too soon…I wish you were here.

This week has been a lot.

From the Heart

From the Heart

Today is Valentine’s Day, which also means it’s…February 14th.

I’ve pointedly begun this entry not from the perspective of “hatin’ on the day,” but in the only way that it applies to me realistically: It’s simply just another day on the calendar for those of us who aren’t in romantic relationships.

And that statement will do either one of two things: It will make you wonder if I’m suppressing sad/bitter/lonely/jealous feelings and lying about it to appear to have my life under control (which, I assure you, I’m comfortable enough to declare I do not), or it will do what I hope for most…give you the freedom to detach yourself from the expectations the day has come to be traditionally known for in case you yourself are feeling any of those aforementioned feelings. (Although, full disclosure, the first guess would’ve been absolutely accurate up until a few years ago.)

You can thank (or malign) a four-hour-long “Galentine’s Day” phone conversation with one of my sister-friends for this post. Also, get you a friend where you can be on the phone for four hours yammering about life and love and things to add to your — ahem — “shopping list,” that’ll get you through the period of your life during which you’re cultivating a true love affair with yourself to the point where sex has transitioned from being a void-filler, to the second-most intimate thing you do in a healthy romantic partnership. (With honest and open communication being the first, natch.)

Innocently enough, the call started with me talking about the impeachment acquittal (ugh!), then segued into how after watching that dereliction of democracy, I proceeded to go out into the world to run some errands and got so badly turned around by the MTA service changes and my distracted state of mind that I almost didn’t make it to where I needed to be in time to get something very important. (Yes, this is vague. No, I ain’t telling you what this means. Deal.) Anyway, by the time I got home, I’d accepted that although I was detoured, delayed and distracted throughout my journey, I still managed to get what I needed just in time, and had bonus blessings along the way. And that, I decided, was the life metaphor I was going to take away from a seemingly innocuous errand run.

Then, we spent the next three hours and fifty minutes talking about messy shit.

She caught me up on her current dilemma with the opposite sex, I shared some life experiences with some exes that I felt might be relevant and helpful in informing how she dealt with her situation, we discussed how our painful childhoods contributed to the ways we’ve dealt with our relationship failings, had some amazing revelations about the early days of our 30-year-strong friendship during a lightning round of “Perception vs. Reality: High School Edition,” and laughed and fake-cried about how our middle-aged (but still fine) bodies are rebelling against us for taking our youth and former durability for granted.

Ya know…real friend shit.

But the most important thing we talked about was love, and what our definition of it was, in keeping with the theme of the impeding day that we nearly talked our way into. My beautiful friend has always put her whole self into making sure those she holds dear have everything they need — which can comprise of her time, energy, resources, et al at the risk of self-depletion — to reassure them of her love and fierce commitment to them. As someone who’s done the same, I knew all too well that it doesn’t always net out equally.

So I shared with her what I’m about to share with you; which is what I’ve learned in the nearly five years of therapy, and especially the past year of being in isolation and forcing myself to dig deep and really look at my own behavior and mindset — which almost certainly attracted the personalities and outcomes that drove me to seek therapy to correct.

Before I start, a bit of backstory: While I’ve dabbled in the realm of introspection over the nearly TEN YEARS since starting this blog (whew!), it came as a shock to realize there was still so much more to be done, because I assumed I’d been operating under the premise that I’d been, as the name infers, “blunt” in how I approached my life and my views about life around me and in general. I was wrong. I assumed talking about my abuse, my troubled parental history and perceived injustices throughout my life would be healing for me and helpful to others going through similar situations. To some degree it has, but there was still more left untapped.

What I discovered is that it left questions about what these experiences did to me as a person behaviorally, and how I operated in ways that has consistently sabotaged my life and relationships for decades because I didn’t understand or care to acknowledge how affected my psyche was. I was self aware to an extent where I knew something was “off.” I knew that in order for me to come to a place where I wasn’t beating myself up about it, I had to accept that the things I perceived was “wrong” was just “what it was.” I understood I had to grasp that the things that people I trusted did that hurt me deeply were never about me as much as it was about what they were going through at the time of their interactions with me. But I hadn’t done any of the work that would get me to this place of true peace.

Instead, I’d defaulted to the classic trauma responses: I withdrew, projected my fears on others, gave up on myself and my abilities and morphed into whoever I thought I needed to be in order to be accepted socially, desired sexually and tolerated in circles where I was a square. In the end, I failed spectacularly at trying to convince myself that I could make the best out of situations I never wanted to be a part of, while simultaneously hurting others who were ultimately let down when I grew tired of the ruse. I showed up inauthentically to relationships both personally and professionally out of fear of being judged and avoiding conflict and resentments, and as a result, I attracted that same chaotic energy everywhere I ran.

Then I hit my forties, and realized that way of life was slowly killing me inside, despite surviving so many other insurmountable conditions which I hadn’t even taken the time to consider how extraordinary that made every day I woke up.

The day you decide to have gratitude as the anchoring presence in your life, is the day you commit to doing everything in your power to authentically make the best of it and protect it at all costs. For me, that meant severing unhealthy relationships and finding the grace to forgive myself and the parties involved for making them so. It meant stripping back the façade to replace the broken parts, and strengthen the foundation of the person I didn’t have the courage to be and the life I didn’t believe I deserved.

And that…to me…is love. Being brave enough to say and do the unpleasant things if the outcome is mutually beneficial for everyone involved (even if it’s only me, myself and I) even when it hurts to acknowledge the truth. It’s accountability. It’s vulnerability. It’s humiliating and humbling. And it’s a lot of work!!

And so, on this day dedicated to love, I pledge to continue doing the work and loving the person I am becoming as a result: Someone who can simultaneously exist as a person who celebrates your love stories, while also being mildly annoyed by the expectation that I have to participate in the pageantry, or risk being deemed sad, bitter, lonely and/or jealous, when I really just want to spend a weekend parked on my couch watching “Judas and the Black Messiah” and Disney+, while eating vegan ice cream and fan-girling over Jamie Raskin and Stacey Plaskett’s work in the impeachment trial despite its unfortunate-yet-unsurprising outcome.

And if you’re wondering how I segued into politics while talking about love, I invite you to re-read the part about “being brave enough to say and do unpleasant things if the outcome is mutually beneficial.” Raskin, who lost his son to suicide, buried him, showed up to work the next day to certify the election with members of his family — all of whom were then put in mortal danger — in tow, and then continued to show up to make sure the person responsible for inflicting a pain that spread across party lines and country face repercussions…did so for the love of his country and the people who live in it. That kind of love is unfathomable, and brings to mind the words of Jimi Hendrix, “When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.”

And with that, signing off wishing eternal love and peace for us all…from the bottom of my heart.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

All Things Considered

All Things Considered

Oh, hey there…thanks for stopping by!

I realize it’s been seven months since my last post. But honestly, I’ve just been trying to keep my shit together; navigating life during a pandemic while the country was reaching extinction under the rule of a wanna-be autocrat and his equally vile sycophants in Congress.

Which means occasionally battling bouts of cabin fever and crippling depression, while finding pockets of joy-inducing moments like zoom meditations, and phone calls with my family and friends and celebrating milestones like being in my apartment for two years and being happily single and celibate for three. And when I wasn’t taking the capabilities of my eyesight and body for granted by spending hours looking at spreadsheets, PowerPoint decks and Word docs on decreasing hours of sleep — powered by granola bars, trail mix and green tea — to keep the aforementioned apartment, I was rage-posting relatable missives on social media and reminding everyone I know about voting in every election happening in 2020. And then Clubhouse happened.

So, for what it’s worth…I’m fucking tired.

Somewhere around December — either just after my birthday or just before Christmas — I crashed like a laptop during mercury retrograde. I’d wrapped all my work projects for the year, and all I wanted, and desperately needed, was a vacation. I wanted to spend Christmas in Philly with my family, and fly someplace warm and ring in the New Year by an ocean or in New Orleans or ANYWHERE.

But the way my bank account and this pandemic is set up, the most exotic place I was going was Trader Joe’s.

So I spent Christmas day doing laundry and wiping down the blinds in my bedroom until a video of my cousin in Philly getting engaged arrived in my phone and prompted me to burst into tears. (Yes, of course I finished the blinds. I just needed a moment!) Days later, I woke up at the butt-crack of dawn to stand in line — in the freezing rain — at CityMD for an hour to get my nose swabbed so I could adhere to the stringent-yet-practical guidelines my friend had for a small group of us to finally put 2020 to rest, nail the casket shut and shoot it with fire arrows, before welcoming the year 2021 with cautious optimism.

You could imagine the shock and awe that it failed to come in as peacefully as we’d hoped…

On the 6th day of this new year, I watched with bloodshot eyes (the side-effect of constantly refreshing the results of the Georgia runoffs until the wee hours) as a bunch of unhinged, mostly white, mostly bigoted, all grossly misinformed and badly-intentioned people stormed the United States Capitol. Just typing that sentence is surreal to me. And what I saw in those terrifying hours was more punctuated by what I didn’t see.

I didn’t see aggressive cops ramming through crowds with theirs shields or their vehicles. I didn’t see heavy usage of tear gas, rubber bullets, or excessive force with batons. I didn’t see military-grade weapons on the side protecting the elected officials. I saw them on the “rioters,” who also had zip-ties, maps of the building and carried flags bearing allegiance to the confederacy and the man who ostensibly should’ve been removed from the presidency many crimes ago who egged them on.

Then I saw most of them go home…safely. Then I watched over the course of the days and weeks that followed as politicians and pundits who perpetuated the lies that fueled the insurrection played duck-and-cover all over the news cycle and social media and then double-down on their deadly and divisive stances. Then I watched them blame Black Lives Matter and incredulously attempt to equate people protesting the death, brutality and biased treatment of people of color, to people who want to continue that behavior without consequences and profit in the process.

Now, I’m a New Yorker in my mid-forties, so I’ve seen and lived through a lot of shit. But this was next level insane. And I wish that that’s where the crazy ended.

And yet…here we are…three weeks later…and not only did that psychopath get to serve out the remainder of his term, he still has the unwavering support of millions of people — including many members of congress who have no intentions of holding him or themselves accountable for nearly killing their colleagues. EVEN AFTER A YEAR OF LETTING A DEADLY VIRUS RUN AMOK TO THE DETRIMENT OF LOSING NEARLY HALF A MILLION AMERICAN LIVES AND COUNTLESS JOBS, LIVELIHOODS AND A SOLID ECONOMIC STANDING.

More sentences I can’t believe I’m writing.

And while last week’s inauguration and the actions that have followed from the new administration has given me a hope that has sorely been removed these past four years, I’m armed with the trauma of knowing history, and having had personal experience with entitled and abusive narcissists. As long as they have enablers and continue to go without punishment or accountability…history is doomed to repeat itself.

And that gives me a feeling directly in conflict with hope. It gives me the kind of rage that would put me on a watch list just for having these thoughts while Black.

And it makes me think of my ancestors before me, who were forced to accept the terms of terrorists or meet violent fates. And then I think of the people who live in countries ruled by actual dictators in real time, and try to tell myself that we got off easy, for now, and should breathe a sigh of relief that it could’ve been worse.

But none of that thinking sits right.

I think, no, I know, from experience that this all just feels like one day you’ll show up to a family gathering and be urged to “be nice” to the cousin who raped you when you were four. Or your friend’s party, where the ex who nearly strangled the life out of you wants to chat about your dead father and the whereabouts of the military jacket he was hoping to get from him. Or the other ex who also raped you, ignored your needs and called you names insisting on being friends. (Obviously, “you” is me, and all of these things actually happened in real life, so I’m absolutely projecting because there is literally no fucking difference between these scenarios and what’s being asked of us right now by the folks calling for “unity.”)

And I get it: It’s not easy unlearning beliefs you’ve been ingrained with since birth. It must feel like something is being stripped away from your identity, your legacy and your personal capital when people you don’t identify with insist they are entitled to the same benefits you’ve enjoyed for centuries. It must be confusing when those same people ask to be treated with respect, but other actors from their group berate your culture, assume you’re lacking in various skill-sets and emotional intelligence based on the color of your skin and/or because of how and where you were raised, instead of getting to know you and take an opportunity to learn that you have shared values. It must be even more frustrating when those same cultures are so brazenly proud of their own history and achievements to the point where you feel threatened their traditions and accomplishments will outshine yours and push them to the brink of obscurity. It’s scary stuff.

See what I did there?

As much as I’d love for Joe and Kamala and their beautiful rainbow administration to save us, I’m all too painfully aware that it ain’t gonna happen until we’re ready to save ourselves. That we’re all firmly ensconced in both physical and metaphorical bubbles makes the task just a skosh more difficult to take on. We can’t even agree to collectively wear masks and keep each other out of harm’s way for the sake of our loved ones. Asking us to give up our way of life and step — no, leap — out of our comfort zones to establish collective understanding, compassion and healthy, mutually beneficial outcomes is a bridge too far.

…Or is it?

All I know right now is I miss hugs, my family, live music, losing my breath and myself in beautiful art and moments, dancing with friends and strangers and getting plastered after drinking fruity cocktails all day at all-inclusive resorts in the caribbean and chatting up folks from all over the globe. Perhaps it’s selfish of me to think like this in the grand scheme of things, but I really have lost all the fucks and a number of family members along the way to this cruel and unnecessary plague.

So forgive me if I don’t harp on the gratitude I have for the time I’ve had to dabble in recipes, introspection, self-employment and horticulture.

I’ve been doing that for 10 months.

Let me have this.

Please.

The Year of Magical Negro Thinking

The Year of Magical Negro Thinking

My first cognizant brush with racism happened when I was fifteen years old.

And it was traumatic AF.

I was visiting my father in Pennsylvania that summer, where he’d been living the past few years after taking a job at the federal prison in Wayne County.

We’d driven to a local supermarket to pick up groceries and supplies. Dad had already entered the store, and began darting through the aisles on his mission by the time I’d left the car and walked inside. It was at that moment that a hush suddenly fell over the checkout area, all activity at all of the counters had ceased, and everyone on the lines along with the cashiers were now staring in my direction. Because this was a new sensation, it took some seconds to register what was happening. Once it did, I ran to find my father, begged him to give me the keys to the car so I could sit in it while he shopped, and urged him to hurry out of the store.

Having grown up in the segregated south, dad’s first instinct was to brush off my nervous pleas and continue on his business as if nothing was amiss. But I knew differently. I’d felt it in those tense few seconds of cold stares that things wouldn’t be okay.

In the weeks and months that followed, my father, a man who was thought to be hispanic by his white colleagues and neighbors because of his fair skin and dark, curly, slicked-back hair, began to have his house vandalized. He’d casually reveal this during our phone calls, and without missing a beat would assure me everything was alright to ease my panic.

Eventually, graffiti on his house and debris on his land escalated to shots fired through his windows, and he finally relented and transferred to the prison at Fort Dix in New Jersey, once it became clear that he couldn’t ignore the very real fact that he was in danger.

In short: My father lived for years hiding his true ethnicity so he could live and work in peace to advance his career as a federal employee. Until one day, his brown-skinned child walked into a store and nearly got him killed for existing.

I thought about that yesterday, as I listened in on a conversation with black executives who spoke about the pressure of having to “be on” at a time when black people as a collective are hurting. And it struck a nerve.

For the past two weeks, I have been contacted by a number of non-black friends and former colleagues, who’ve either expressed concern for my state of mind, regret for their lack of awareness pertaining to racism in America, or sought my counsel on ways they could help while unpacking their own guilt for not doing more sooner. While I appreciated their sentiments and gestures, it wasn’t until that talk that I finally was able to feel truly heard, ironically, by people who weren’t even aware I was in the (digital) room.

Throughout my life, I’ve been seated at tables that didn’t get served water as I watched every other one get service. I’ve been at receptions in country clubs where I was the only person of color NOT serving the guests. A man once told me my afro reminded him of his poodle. I’ve gone on dates with men who fetishized me. I’ve been called an “angry black woman” (admittedly, it hurt more when it came from a black man).

And in my professional life, I’ve been the person who got paid four dollars an hour less than my white counterpart while I had significantly more experience and responsibility. I’ve had my hair touched by total strangers in my place of business without consent multiple times. When my mom passed away, my team contacted me during my bereavement time to inquire about calling my clients for an event, and weeks later took up a collection to send food and a card signed by the department to another member of the team when her mother died. Another time, it was suggested that for the company Grimm’s Fairytale-themed Halloween party, I should dress up as “Baa Baa Black Sheep.”

Fun times. Certainly not the kind anyone who isn’t black has experienced on the regular.

In all of those times, I did as I was expected to do and likely what my father did before me: I sucked it up and continued to be professional. I made my sales goals. I helped fellow members of my team get what they needed in whatever form that took. I sacrificed nights, weekends and holidays with my family to be of service to my company and clients. I was the silent contributor whose work was claimed by others in the spirit of collective wins. I was the go-to cheerleader, promoting the successes and putting positive spins on the losses. I went to the happy hours and feigned amusement at the inappropriate jokes.

Now…something has snapped.

In all my efforts to practice self care in so-called “stressful” times, I missed the mark completely when it came to times like this; when I instinctively want to heal the world and tell everyone it’s going to be okay, when truthfully I’m only hanging on by a thread. I’m trying to put a smile on my face and “breathe through it,” while simultaneously suppressing the urge to cry, scream and break shit. And it’s only slightly comforting to know that I’m not alone in feeling this way.

The world has suddenly come to the disappointing realization that black people don’t want to be magical negroes; the soothing, sensible voices of reason who keep things in order and come to the rescue when things go awry. (That’s not to say we won’t be because we don’t want the world going to shit on our watch because we live here too.) We just want to be human beings allowed to exist, thrive and feel and process our feelings without judgement, denigration or expectations. Hell, right now we need to be rescued, and we’re just hoping the current wave of compassion isn’t just a trend that seems fitting because everything else has been cancelled by the quarantine!

I’m tired of brands using “Black Lives Matter” to score cool points. I’m tired of predominantly white media narratives putting our stories in fishbowls to attract more eyeballs. I’m tired of black bodies and talent being used to make others look good while being relegated to perfunctory roles and dismissed as afterthoughts. I’m tired of being considered a threat instead of an asset when I shine. I’m tired of our pain being ignored, mocked and glorified by monsters. And I’m tired of being the source of “strength” when I barely have any left to lift my head off my occasionally tear-soaked pillow.

There are things that I am oddly grateful for at this moment: The first being that my father wasn’t murdered by racists in Pennsylvania or his home state of Georgia, and lived long enough to forget the horrors he’d seen in his seventy-four years. The second is that the world stopped just long enough to make everyone take notice of a sickness that has killed far more innocent black people than the coronavirus. And lastly, that fourteen of some of the most powerful black people in business collectively gathered on a zoom call to pray, choke back tears, and tell the world they have no intention of going back to the way things were.

This may not have been our 2020 vision, but things sure as hell look pretty clear from this point on. Hopefully, this clarity allows us to see the path leading to the end of this current nightmare.

Unmasked

Unmasked

It would be the understatement of the year to say the past two and a half months have been…let’s just say…different.

Seemingly overnight, the world was forced to adjust to a life in quarantine; staying indoors for the sake of saving themselves and the lives of others from a virus that attacks the body swiftly, quietly and violently.

Not only would it achieve the unthinkable in silencing the city that never sleeps, which has also lived through multiple terrorist bombings, a couple of blackouts and the residency of a certain tyrannical president who shall not be named (unless and until his inmate number is created). It has also made wearing face masks and gloves a mandated look beyond Michael Jackson tributes, and called BS on all those people who swore after watching countless shows and movies featuring zombies or dystopian themes that they were prepared for “the apocalypse.”

Turns out, they start pleading for haircuts and refuge from their children and/or in-laws the moment the leaves start forming on the trees.

But that’s neither here nor there.

The reason I’m writing about it, after pointedly avoiding the subject as a blog post for approximately ten weeks is for no other reason than to say this: “I’m glad it happened.”

Before perception goes way left, I’ll explain.

While I’m horrified by everything about this pandemic — the incalculable losses of life, work and income, the families torn apart by all of it, the egregious disparities that have arisen in the wake of the resulting economic and industry-busting disaster, and especially the lack of sympathy or compassion from the officials elected to protect the interests of all of the country’s citizens — this pausing of the world has been the most unusual blessing in disguise.

The world has forced us to stop and take stock of what’s important. Nature reset itself. Families, friends and lovers are reconnecting. People whose professions often go ignored and taken for granted — the healthcare workers, transportation workers, grocery store employees and others now deemed “essential,” and even educators who have had to find creative ways to do their jobs — are now being recognized as the heroes they are. There’s a wave of kindness and compassion from neighbors who want to make sure others are safe and have everything they need to get through this together.

For me, the coronavirus and the subsequent quarantine has been a bunch of things. In the beginning, it was the thing that took away my physical health and senses briefly, an event that I’d been excited about working on which would’ve been a proud moment in my career, my first real vacation in three years, my full-time job and the insurance that came with it and my sleep schedule.

What it’s become is the best thing that ever happened to me, because, for the first time in my life, I was riding completely solo (unlike when I fractured my ankle and my squad came all the way through since broken bones weren’t contagious and/or potentially fatal for others).

After the initial sadness of having to go through illness and carrying bags of groceries long distances “all by my lonesome,” I have to confess that right now…It. Feels. Glorious.

Not just for the obvious shallow reasons of not having anyone around blowing through the aforementioned groceries at a breakneck pace. I love my peeps, but I admit it’s kinda nice not having anyone pitching a fit because they need food, attention and direct sunlight. (Shoutout to the folks who used to shame me for being single and/or childless and are currently being driven slowly insane because they can’t escape their spouse or child. Sending thoughts and prayers.)

It’s because, like the earth, I’ve also taken time to recalibrate. Historically, I’d be embroiled in messy distractions that saved me from taking a hard look at — and accountability for — the string of disasters that formed my existence back in the day.

This time…I had time. Also: I’m in my mid forties and increasingly intolerant of nonsense. And since the universe can sometimes be as subtle as a sledgehammer, I was constantly being hit with reminders of the timeframe I needed to tackle because it’s currently dominating pop culture (and someone from it slid into my Facebook DMs).

So I ripped the bandaid off, and poked at the crippling fear of being my authentic self out of fear of rejection and abandonment, til it burst and oozed all over my resignation that not everyone who’s been a part of my story will make the next chapter (even, and especially, my biological mother). It then scabbed over the painful realization that I never set a goal in life because I honestly didn’t think I’d live long enough to require one. I used shots of tequila as an antiseptic.

When I opened the new(ish) wound of the anniversary of my father’s death occurring during this time, I risked my phone and inbox being hit with a barrage of concerned messages akin to the moment I revealed I’d lost my sense of smell and taste.

Which brings me to the other healing (and less trauma-inducing) blessings. I’m healthy. I’ve watched some really great TV and movies. Read some outstanding books. Danced nights away thanks to DJ D-Nice, Club Quarantine and Verzuz. Had hours long (mostly vulnerable) conversations on the phone, and attended several birthdays, group chats and graduation parties through Zoom and Houseparty with my family and friends. Upped my culinary game to the point where I can’t bring myself to eat things like “Hot Pockets” again. Got my first article published, saw the special issue I worked on released with emotional results, and doing work I genuinely get joy out of with my (kinda) former employer. And even though the world seems unstable right now, I’ve never been steadier.

So when things seems hopeless — as we get inundated with news drenched in racism, hatred and division — I think of those things, and the fact that it wasn’t too long ago that I was jobless, homeless after leaving a man I feared for years, and suddenly thrust into the role of taking care of a parent who lost his memory…and then everything else. (That year was also a doozy!)

And I relish in the fact that the only mask I need to wear these days is covered in flowers.

Hopefully, these times have unmasked greatness for you as well.