Always be Thankful

Every Sunday, I like to sit down and set an intention for the week. I usually set this intention in the morning, but as usual things (my children) prevented me from getting in front of my computer. As I type this, I’m on the phone with my 89 year old grandmother. We have probably been on the phone for about 2 hours. My children and husband are asleep and I am sitting here in the dark listening to my grandma tell me stories about her life. We have discussed family, racism, Donald Trump, eating other people’s gumbo, weight gain, and death. I desperately need to get to bed, but the way I was raised, it is disrespectful for me to end the conversation. I enjoy these talks anyway, so I welcome the loss of sleep.

The theme for tonight has returned constantly to being thankful. I have heard it so much that it dawned on me that this is probably what I need to be mindful of this week. I have a tendency to overlook my blessings or get frightened of them. I need to stop being frightened of being happy. Happiness is something I worked really hard for and instead of finding fault in the smallest things, I need to acknowledge the goodness in all things.

As I sit hear listening to my grandmother talk about her life, I have this extreme sense of gratitude for her. She has probably told me she loves me three times in my entire 37 years of living on this Earth. We do not hug. I don’t remember ever getting or giving kisses on the cheek, but I do remember and still see her eyes light up when she sees me. I know she sees herself in me. I know without a doubt that she loves me and I know with certainty that without her I wouldn’t be alive.

When I went to go live with her, I was a shell. I had been a shell for so long that I do not even think I realized I wasn’t really living. I did not know joy. I didn’t even know what it felt like to be safe, but she provided the space for me to find my way. I could be bitter about certain things that happened in my childhood. I could find fault in my parents. I could even use a number of things as a crutch, but because of my grandmother, I can be thankful.

My grandmother said to me, “Life is what you make it. One day you wake up and realize that you don’t have to take this crap, so you change it. You stop letting other people make your life and start making your own“.

My intention this week is to carry my grandmother with me and acknowledge that I am making my own life. I am going to be mindful of my complaints. I am going to be mindful of my fears. I am going to acknowledge how far I have come and I am going to tell that young girl who showed up on my grandmother’s doorstep 23 years ago that she is safe, loved, and no longer just existing, but alive.

Love and light y’all.

 

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An article I submitted for Domestic Violence Awareness

I recently submitted an article to ForHarriet.com on Domestic Violence.  It is my story.  Please read it.  Please share it because you never know who it may help. Here is my story:

For as long as I can remember, I have always had the same reoccurring dream.  It begins with me running down a hallway and into a room.  I am maybe 3 years old and when I get to the opening of the room I freeze. For years, I couldn’t see make out the images I was seeing, but I knew it was something bad because my 3 year old self would be overcome with confusion, sadness, and helplessness. As I got older, the images became clearer, until one day I woke up in tears realizing that this dream I had been having, off and on for years was that of my father beating my mother. I am the daughter of domestic violence.

It is hard to put into words how heartbreaking it is to see your father abuse your mother.  It always tears at you from somewhere deep inside. You hate the abuser, but the love your father. You hate the abused, but love your mother. You hate that your parents are together, but so desperately want the family to stay intact.  It plays on you mentally.  I cannot stand the smell of scrambled eggs cooked in butter because my father would throw them at my mother if they were not cooked right.  I become physically ill at the sight of blood coming from someone’s mouth because of the many times I would clean up my mother’s wounds. I remember the last time we were a family.  My parents had a fight and as usual, I went into the bathroom to check on my mother.  She was sitting on the toilet bruised and battered, her lip hanging and her eyes empty.  She just looked like a shell of a human being. She looked at me and asked if the toilet was talking. I was so confused and scared. I crouched down in front of her and told her no and she told me, “I have to get out of here because I am about to go crazy”. I whispered to my mother, “just leave mom, I will be fine”. She left that evening and for 2 years, I only saw her at a distance because my father would not allow her to have me unless he could have her.

I grew up thinking that all of those years living in that house did not affect me.  I had normal relationships.  I had a radar that could spot the abusive ones.  If he was too charming at first, I would let him go.  If he seemed the least bit controlling, I would let him go. If his temper seemed completely out of character from the cool head presented, then I let him go. If his actions were different than his words, I would let him go. I made a promise to myself on that bathroom floor with my mother to never let her situation be mine.  I kept that promise, but when I really found love, everything came back.  I became the abuser.  I was determined not to be abused. Actually, it had nothing to do with determination. I had never known a normal relationship that did not include abuse. You see, not only am I the daughter of domestic violence, but also the granddaughter and great-granddaughter of domestic violence. My normal included loving men that hit you.  The silver lining was that these men loved you back, took care of you, and in time would stop fighting you. It was quite normal to hear a conversation about your sweet grandfather once having a bad temper and taking it out on your grandmother. I didn’t want that life and my only solution was to fight first because I never thought I was worthy of love without being abused.

My then boyfriend eventually reached his breaking point.  He said two very life-altering statements that changed my life forever: 1.  You need help and 2.  Do you want to be your father? I went and got the help that I needed and I have never raised my hand to anyone again. I learned a great deal about myself while getting the help. I learned that abuse is never about the person being abused, but more about how broken the abuser is. I was broken.  I had never dealt with the reality of my chaotic home. I had never acknowledged that by the age of about 9 years old, that I stopped really feeling. My mother had moved away with little to no contact when I was so young and I never shed a tear over it. I lost my childhood because of domestic violence.  There are years that I have simply lost.  I have no recollection of the time.  I only have bits and pieces because it was just that bad and I had to go into survival mode.

I am married now.  I have been married for about 8 years and I have slowly come to learn that I deserve this type of love.  I sometimes look at my children and marvel at how happy they are and wonder how different I would have been if I had just been able to breathe.

I just want to point out that domestic violence does not stop with the 2 people involved.  It has an affect on everyone who witnesses it.  I remember feeling like my body was being split in half. I can no longer have a relationship with my father because of all that he did in that house to my mother.  At times, I resent my mother for staying so long, especially after having children of my own.  I am 34 years old and I am still dealing with all the images that come into my head at times.  If you’re a woman dealing with ANY type of domestic abuse, please leave.  You owe it to your children and every generation that comes after you.  The greatest gift a parent can give is the feeling of being secure and loved. It took me years to learn that I deserved to be loved and even longer to feel secure enough to love someone wholeheartedly.