I’ve learned to uncover my blessings. I’ve taught myself to look deeper to extract the good and the God from seemingly insurmountable circumstances. Not doing so became a matter of life or death. A little over a decade ago I wanted to die. I didn’t see the point of it anymore…this moving around pretending that my existence mattered. I didn’t feel or see my value. I felt used up, burnt out, and beaten down. I’d drive my car and think “Today could be it...?” I’d imagine it. One evening while I was driving through West Philly I said quietly to myself, “I don’t think I can do this another day.” Then I’d envision the loss my mother and grandmother would feel and I’d shake it all off, quite vigorously. Winners don’t have these thoughts, right? Push Through. Keep It Movin’. Stop Bitchin’ Up! If you’ve ever been in those dark places, then you know the feeling. If not, consider yourself lucky. The weight of your pain, grief, shame, and insignificance is almost unbearable. But putting on the mask seems far more easier than giving light to your pain. Tuck in your emptiness and insecurities and PRESENT yourself.
In those days, the night couldn’t come fast enough. Everything slowed down when the sun set. The world around me started to settle a bit. I didn’t have to smile, or speak, or move as much. I could cry the tears that I built up, held back, and stored away throughout the day. Sleep was a short respite. A welcomed purgatory. Anything to get away from the emotional darkness that was pursuing me. The mornings, however, were the worst. What the hell could I offer the day?! I was defeated within five minutes of opening my eyes. The sunlight would tease me as I tried to think of a quote, a story, some sports expression that would motivate me to get out of bed to take on the day.
I recall one morning, when I lived at my grandmother’s house. I sat on the edge of my bed fighting the impulse to crawl back under the covers and run away from the “new day dawning.” My grandmother must have sensed something. She knocked on the door while simultaneously opening it. She wasn’t much for patience in her own house. I don’t even think I said anything. She looked at me intently, and asked me what was wrong. I shrugged…repeatedly…whispering “I don’t know.” Then I burst, “I feel like a failure…I’m letting everybody down!” She looked at me in total disagreement, trying to assure me that what I felt wasn’t true, and held me while I cried in her arms. I felt lighter…not weightless…but the daylight was less harsh that day.
And remember that night, driving through West Philadelphia, when I decided that I “couldn’t do this another day?” That evening, while preparing my very sad dinner of Trader Joe’s frozen waffles with Sunflower Butter, I get a text from my friend, Syreeta. Our texts would usually start off like “yooooo, memba’ dat time…” We’d been friends since the fourth grade so we had a lot of stories in the vault to keep us laughing. But this night was different. She asked me what I was doing. I said blandly, “bout to eat some dinner.” I didn’t readily mention that following this very sad meal I’d also be thinking deeply about the insignificance of my life. I kept it light. Syreeta was the funny friend. She was the good time friend. She’s the reason I got my only “green slip” in grade school. So when I texted “whatchu doin?” I wasn’t prepared for her answer. She replied, “Sittin’ here…thinkin’ about God.” WT entire F! I was shocked. We never mentioned God…not in the capacity that followed. In fact she couldn’t stand talking about anything too deep with me because it annoyed her. She wanted to eat, dance, and crack jokes, and I was always happy to oblige. But this night…this night she saved me from myself. That conversation about God went on for at least two hours. And we’ve had subsequent conversations since. She actually did a Bible reading at my wedding. She cried the whole time because we both knew the work it took for me to experience that moment, and because of her sheer joy of being able to witness it.
My reason for writing this is to impart the importance of uncovering our pain and revealing our scars. If there is an opening for you to reveal more of yourself take it! Whether it’s initiated by a childhood friend, a hovering grandmother, or our own intuition, moments make a difference. And we can’t keep missing them in order to preserve our image or narrative. This story was hard to write and recall, but It’s even harder to hold it in and not use it as a testimony. We’re all in community with one another, and that perfect shit is played out. I believe that you feel stronger the moment you say, out loud, “this hurts” or “I’m not ok,” because you then release the strongholds that your past, society, or even your community has had on you.
We always want to bring people along for the ride when we’re “winning.” When we perceive ourselves as losing we tend to hide. And I did a lot of hiding. But when you retreat you become accustomed to the darkness. It’s seductive, forceful, and deceitful. Exposing more of our truth to the light gives way to deep healing and finding beauty in the transformation to follow.
Below is an excerpt from a book called “Little Bee,” that I read years ago. The first time I read this paragraph I had to reread it five more times. I think it’s a challenging and lovely way to look at the scars that life gives us.
“On the girls brown legs there were many small white scars. I was thinking, Do those scars cover the whole of you, like the stars and the moons on your dress? I thought that would be pretty too, and I ask you right here please to agree with me that a scar is never ugly. That is what the scar makers want us to think. But you and I, we must make an agreement to defy them. We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived”