Self Care Pt. 2

I sat on the soft leather couch, rubbing clammy palms on my thighs. She seemed pleasant enough but I just wanted to get past the formalities to address why I was on this couch, hugging my coat tighter around me.

I had practiced for this moment. I know that sounds weird but sitting on a stranger’s couch to talk about yourself is a bit nerve-wracking. Even if you are f*cked up, you want to show yourself in the best light. Just me? Ok.

I talked myself out of this on many occasions. I was raised in a religious family and when you had problems, you went to church or knelt on your knees to pray. Otherwise, keep your mouth shut because family business is family business. We may have issues but to the outside world, we are f*king perfect.

For the past few months I haven‘t been feeling like myself, I felt  farther from myself than I’ve felt in years. Everything was becoming a chore, everything was too much, too heavy, and I worried about how much longer this would go on.

At first I couldn’t find a therapist, not the one I wanted anyway. Someone that looked like me, who shared a familiar background, who wouldn’t look at me like I had two heads.

Enough was enough. I finally picked one; I was running out of excuses not to go except for the large insurance deductible. She looked nothing like me but she looked at me when I spoke. She listened to the halting words pouring out of my mouth and after months of feeling locked in a cage, I felt a tiny bit freer.

I’m not sure if I will go back because while part of me longs to drop my burdens on that leather couch, another part of me feels guilty for having “problems” that I need to share with a professional.

The nagging voice in my head tells me that this is nothing a few days off from work in the sun won’t cure. A few more visits to church with Bible study thrown in the mix will clear my mind.

What if none of those work? What if I am still laying here in the same place?

I have been wearing a million hats (wife, daughter, sister, friend, employee) and have neglected the most important one.

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Self Care Pt. 1

I have always been an advocate of dispelling this myth that all women (especially Black women) have to be Super Women. This culture that we have to hold down entire families while maintaining full time jobs and looking fabulous.

Look. It’s just the two of us and I have a hard time juggling a full time job, cooking meals most nights, pretending to maintain a blog/any other writing, and completing household responsibilities. And unlike these other Super Women out there, I have not been doing it all while looking  fabulous.

I have been flailing lately. Flailing hard.

Maybe it’s this endless stretch of winter. Maybe I really am just overwhelmed with all of the things I voluntarily placed on my tiny plate.

But I am done and have been done for a while now. I saw the flashing red signs and chose to ignore them.  I said yes to things when I probably should have said no.

The last time I felt this way, I locked myself in my dorm room for a week. It was one of the loneliest periods of my life and due to various roles and responsibilities I am unable to do that again.

I finally asked for help. I reached out to someone and for the first time in months allowed myself to be vulnerable, peeked out from behind my impenetrable curtain of pseudo strength.

I have been ignoring myself, I have been neglecting my self-care and my frayed edges have been threatening to tear loose.

 

 

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Novocane

I am terrified of not being able to swallow. I am terrified of drowning.

I am also terrified of spiders.

Every time I sit in that chair at the dentist, the need to swallow overwhelms all my senses. The thought of all that fluid building up in my throat, threatening to choke me, just makes me hyperventilate.

These are the thoughts running through my mind while I’m undergoing a cavity filling at the dentist.

I am also praying that I am not the worst. The worst breath, the worst plaque, the worst cavities. I am a healthcare professional; we all have those patients who stand out. If I can’t be the best, I just want to be the middle when it comes to my teeth.

For a brief moment that extended into an eternity, I thought I was dying. The sounds of the drill boring into my head, the vast area of nothingness where my mouth used to be, and slowly losing feeling in my legs caused a mild panic.  I had to feel for my pulse.

Instinctively, I felt with my thumb and then realized, duh, you know better. Then I used my first and second finger and my pulse was very fast.

So I was alive. I think.

I felt like a coloring book, only with all the outlines erased. Except not really because when the dentist pushed against the lines, they pushed back.

Weird huh?

I want someone to look back at some of my  blog posts  one day and say she had talent. Or at least say, she tried.

Other than wanting to swallow, I kept thinking, I should write about this. It’s a recurrent thought in my head these days. I have an urge to write about everything. The notes section of my Ipad is filled with half finished drafts.

Is that a confirmation that I should be writing or am I just obsessed with writing?

Maybe it’s the novocane…

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The Mash-Up: Random Thoughts Edition

 

I  wish I knew how to say no. Period. No lengthy explanations, no flowery apologies, just no. I am working on this.

Saying no and not feeling guilty for it. Saying no and not apologizing.

See what I did there? I’m rationalizing why I should say no.

No. No. No.

****

I have been writing again, this time just for me. I found an old journal I kept during a mission trip to the Dominican Republic when I was in college. That trip was extremely difficult for me and the theme running rampant page after page was how useless I felt. I barely spoke two words of Spanish and I never pinpointed exactly how I was supposed to be helping. Even years later, reading the pain behind the scrawled words made me squirm in my seat. And I was so angry back then as well. For various reasons. Writing was more than therapeutic, it was necessary. And I’ve forgotten that in my quest to be this blogger who rarely blogs.

So I am writing again, just for me. I have been writing things that may never be posted on the internet and it transports me back to the days before social media when it was just me and my notebook. I miss those simple times.

****

Lately I’ve had this overwhelming desire to write short stories. They aren’t really my thing, I like drawn out plots and character development. Short stories are super hard. You have limited time to introduce the character to your reader and somehow with very little information, create a story that is interesting and makes sense. Some people are great at this, I am not. Its also a lot of fun, even if everything is pretty much crap at this time.

 

****

I finally dusted off my manuscript and read through a few pages. I hated every bit of it and I panicked at the thought of starting from scratch. Ugh.

Then I reached out to one of my favorite e-friends who I met at the Blogging While Brown conference and she reassured me, this was normal. You hate it, work on it some more until maybe, just maybe you like it enough to submit it for public humiliation scrutiny.

****

I’ve been going to my parent’s home a lot more. I thought when I moved back the NY area, it would bring us closer.

Nevertheless I make myself available for family functions because despite their flaws (and mine) I love them. There was a time when they were all I had, it was us against the world.

I remember having a fight with one of my childhood friends in front of our first floor window.

My father was sitting on the couch next to the window watching us play.

He yelled out,  “Sa gin la?” (What’s going on?)

“She’s bothering me!” I pointed at my friend, like a petulant child.

“Then come inside.”

I joined him and glared at my friend alongside my father. For a brief moment, it was us against the world.

 

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This is 31

A few weeks ago, I celebrated my birthday at home with my man, liquor, and food. It was a far cry from the birthday blowout I had last year to commemorate turning thirty, but it was just what I needed.

I am a homebody and I fully accept this about myself. I grew up restless in my childhood home, always looking for the moment I could break free and finally breathe. I have a place that truly embodies home for me and it was fitting that I celebrated a new year in that space.

Thirty was a year of self-discovery followed immediately by the familiar pangs of self-doubt. I put myself in situations where I was not comfortable and surprised myself when I came out stronger. I heard too many people say that turning thirty was a magical experience where everything seemed to fall into place.  I don’t want to downplay the rush of self-awakening I experienced when I turned thirty but I also found myself making the same mistakes, falling victim to the same ghosts.

This year is about making peace with who I am and continuing to discover who this woman truly is. I spent an inordinate amount of time last year trying to prove my worth to those who should already know; I am done with that. We lost one of our matriarchs last year and as we continue to mourn a great loss, it showed me how fragile and fleeting time is.  I cannot waste it looking over my shoulder at past mistakes.

I have always read those THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW/DO BY THE TIME YOU ARE THIRTY lists with a mixture of curiosity and shame.

I haven’t done many things:

-I do not have a go-to drink when I am at happy hour.

-I have never had a spa day.

-I have never taken a cruise with my best friends.

-Had a Brazilian wax (but do I really need to do this? Sounds painful)

-Learning how to say “No” without the crushing burden of guilt on my shoulders.

Then there are the things I know for sure.

Age has nothing to do with what you know if you choose not to learn from your mistakes. I have had the pleasure of meeting women in their twenties who already know much more than I ever did at their age.

The older I get and the more I stumble and learn from my mistakes I have less time for bullshit.

Listen to what people say, they always give themselves away.

I thought being in my thirties meant I would know everything and I am realizing I am only starting to scratch the surface of the things I think I know.

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don’t tell me, show me

When I was interviewing for my very first job out of graduate school, my soon to be Boss asked me about my goals in 3-5 years.

I told her I wanted to write a book and she gave me one of those patronizing, “Sure you will” looks.

I’ve gotten that look many times and its why I’ve kept it to myself. I’ve learned the hard way what happens when you count your eggs before they hatch.

My husband’s favorite line is, “Don’t tell me, show me.”

He loves to say this to me when I gush about a new recipe I found online and weeks pass without it materializing on the stove.

Over Thanksgiving, my sister-in-law asked me about my book and I was caught off guard. I didn’t think anyone else cared.

I hemmed and hawed my way into, “I’m still pretty much at the same place I was last time.”

She offered her assistance and suddenly all of my excuses were invalid.

I was the one standing in my own way.

 

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Wife Lesson #12: That Sexy Thang Called Support

**Editor’s Note: Its been a while since my last Wife Lesson post.  Its difficult to share the lessons without really delving into the details that should remain private but I remain hopeful that one day I will get it right.**

I was more than just a little nervous on presenting my first lecture to a breast cancer support group. My facial expression was nonchalant but I felt that familiar dampness underneath my armpits and my heart was twerking inside my chest.
I hate public speaking. Let me say it again, I absolutely hate public speaking but there I was about to present by myself.
I rummaged in my purse, anything to hide the trembling in my fingers. When I looked up from my aimless and fruitless search, he was there, my comfort, in the midst of chaos.. Continue reading

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Book Review: Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

 

image courtesy of barnesandnoble.com

 

Yay for first book review in 2015!

You guys already know how much I love Roxane Gay; she was my favorite new author in 2014. I picked up Bad Feminist as soon as I could and literally devoured it…more than a few times. I read a few of my favorite essays repeatedly during my commute to work. Continue reading

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Top Moments in 2014

2014 has been a year filled with difficulties, significant loss, personal triumphs, and self-discovery. It hasn’t been easy but  I have come out on the other side stronger. Check out a few recaps of my year.

Favorite blog posts to write: Bronze Shoes, The Extremes List

Hardest blog posts to write: You will be Missed, Writing my way to freedom

First guest blogger:  Its fitting that Patricia was my first guest blogger with I have a Voice. I met her at a meetup event and I left feeling inspired to create. Continue reading

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This is my story

My best friend in my head, Edwidge Danticat, wrote something in her novel, Create Dangerously: the Immigrant artist at work, that resonated strongly with me.

She shared how after writing Breath, Eyes, Memory, she was verbally attacked by many in the Haitian community. They complained she was spreading lies. She was merely telling one story that was thought to represent an entire culture.

I have struggled for years to tell my story because of the way others were represented, forgetting that I am the main character. Continue reading

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