Lessons from my Father

I needed a little break from writing. My energy has been so off lately. Not sure if it was the new moon or bad vibes, but I haven’t been in a good space.  I think I was a bit off because I’ve been doing this whole adult thing. Oh my word, no one tells you it’s going to be so hard.

Last week wasn’t a total bust though. I think it was Wednesday, but I’m not sure, I found myself calling my father. Funny how the universe works sometimes. He was happy to hear my voice and actually let me talk. I didn’t realize how much I had pushed down inside of me until I began to cry. I told my dad about the incident at the school with my daughter. I thought he would…well, I don’t know exactly what I thought he would do or say, but I didn’t expect the reaction I got. After I was done, he commented on how racism is a part of education and was a part of his education. He let me know that he intentionally sacrificed to send me to the school I went to because he didn’t want me to receive the same education. He then said something so eloquent that I think about it daily now. He said:

When I was in school, I had no images of myself. No history of myself. I was invisible, which is racist within itself. In a sense, it teaches you that you’re not a part of the story. You’re not human. You’re something else. One of my biggest regrets in life is that I hit my children. Spankings, hitting your children, is like stripping them of their humanity too. When you violate someones personal space or their person, you’re taking their humanity away. When you can look at someone as not human, then you can mistreat them. When a person believes they are not worthy of being treated like a human being, then they are lost, broken, without value. It’s quite easy to send that kid to prison or treat them sub-par because they aren’t human to you. People treat us that way and then because we’ve internalized that treatment, we turn around and treat our own children that way…then the cycle continues. The blessing is that you let Olivia know she is of value. You don’t strip her of her humanity. No matter what, she comes from a home of love. No one can break her because you all are there to build her up. Stay the course. You and your husband are doing an excellent job. She is in good hands.

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Apologies come in all shapes and sizes, but in my heart, this was an apology from my father. He admitted he was wrong for hitting me and that is worth more than I think he or anyone else will ever know. He also complimented my parenting style, which was pretty freaking awesome! We look back on our lives and wonder why certain things happen. We question why and then it all comes full circle.

So…for every person in my family who came before me, my ancestors who felt that they were less than human, those who were stripped of their humanity, beaten, bruised, and abused, it ends with me.

One of my favorite authors, Thich Nhat Hanh wrote, that just like genes carry from one generation to the next, so does hurt and spiritual pain. When one can heal from his or her past hurt they can also heal those that came before them. It made sense to me then and it makes even more sense to me now. What an awesome gift to give my children and grandchildren. I have my dad to thank for reminding me.

Love and light y’all.

 

 

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Heartbreak

My husband and I were naive. We thought we could move anywhere the Army sent us, find a home in a good school district, and go on about our business like most Americans. We thought our children would flourish regardless of race or racism. We thought that if anything, our children would not have to deal with bigotry because kids don’t think that way. It was the adults that we felt like we needed to worry about. We were so wrong.

When we first moved here there was an incident in my daughter’s Kindergarten class. She hadn’t even got settled quite yet. Her daddy was away in Afghanistan and she had just moved away from all of her friends. We told her to go into school with positive thoughts and to make friends, but someone told her she couldn’t play because she was black. Because she had an awesome teacher, the incident was handled in the best possible way. Towards the end of the school year, another incident regarding race, that I won’t even mention happened. We thought that the worst was over. Surely, this was just a fluke and as time went on and she found a good group of friends, these incidents would not happen again. Again, we were wrong.

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Yesterday, while getting ready for a day full of birthday parties, alone in our home because “the boys” were away, we discussed friendship. I told her that people have all sorts of reasons why they don’t want to be another persons friend and sometimes those reasons include things that a person can’t change. I was combing her hair in front of our bathroom mirror and I caught a glimpse of what I saw as sadness. She kind of looked into the mirror and said, “mommy, there is something I’ve been wanting to tell you”. Of course I gave her the floor and she told me of an incident that happened in the 1st grade and in the current grade of 2nd. The first incident involved a “friend” who told her, “kids did not want to play with you because you are black and there are a lot of mean black kids at the school, so they think you’re mean too”. The next incident happened this year (it’s only February) with a boy who told her, “I don’t like you because you’re black”. I asked her how that made her feel and she said, “it just makes me want to act nice and try to do my best, so people won’t think brown people are bad”. At that moment, I began to cry. I had no words of encouragement. I could not muster up the strength to be “strong”. I realized what a heavy burden she has been carrying and I was hurt because someone hurt my baby. She began to cry too and we moved out of the mirror onto the floor and cried together. I’m sorry if someone may see that as wrong, but our children need to be able to be children and human. They need to see their parents vulnerable and they need to know that when they hurt, we hurt too. I fought hard to get her here. How dare someone attempt to damage my baby?

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After crying for a bit, I told her that she had learned a lesson that most brown people learn later in life. The lesson is that people will lump you into a group like cattle and judge you by the actions of people who share the same skin color as you. However, when others do bad things, they are judged as individuals. I asked her if she remembered when those bad things happened in Kindergarten and how we told her to remember that was one bad thing and not to judge everyone or think that someone else would be the same. Unfortunately, my daughter isn’t afforded that same respect in this society. My goodness, she’s only 8. Why on Earth should she feel obligated to carry the entire black race on her back in her behavior, work ethic, or personality. I’m so angry. I’m so hurt. What is wrong with people? Every year, she has had to deal with this crap and everything has become clear.

We wonder sometimes why she is so timid. We wonder why she has to have everything perfect. We wonder why she is so much more comfortable in certain settings over others and we have wondered why she leaves school sometimes so emotionally drained. She is carrying too much for her little body. I watched her at the parties yesterday and I saw her, like really saw her. What we thought was personality is uncertainty. It’s not that she’s timid or shy, she just doesn’t want to make a mistake. I saw how comfortable she was at one party over another. Listen, the parents, teachers, and children are awesome, but it is that small minority that take their insecurities out on others. I don’t mean to brag, but my daughter is awesome. She is beautiful. She is intelligent, not like just book smart, but really intelligent. She is insightful. She’s an old soul destined to make a change in this world. This, her skin color, is the last thing someone feels they have over her and dammit, that makes my blood boil. We are not a home that teaches self-pride and hate. We are a home that teaches pride in oneself and also love and acceptance of others. I have to teach my children that because if I didn’t my daughter would be worse off than she is now. She knows that her skin color isn’t a negative, but what am I to do if at every turn someone is trying to tell her different. She knows who she is because she is the one who made this eloquent statement one evening, she said, “I have the beginning of time running thru my veins”. Yes, my dear you do and don’t you EVER forget it.

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This last incident has changed my husband and I. We were naive. We thought that because we were good people and at one point in time we would have given our lives for this country, we were afforded some type of respect. We know racism exists, but for an 8 year old to deal with this for all of her school years is just wrong. My husband has made the decision that when we move, we have to consider diversity, preferably an environment where our children are not the only ones. I don’t believe everyone goes through these types of things, so please don’t take this as a slight because I know there are many of us who are living in areas where we are the minority, but when asked what would give her the strength to speak up, she said, “mommy, I just wish I wasn’t the only one. I’m all by myself”. I don’t know how that feels. I don’t know how that will affect her later in life, so whatever we can do to help her heal from these “incidents” we have to do it.

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You know, I had a talk with a friend not too long ago about a comment that was not nice made by a woman in regards to black men and how she didn’t like them. This was a black woman no less, and I told her that it was wrong and I couldn’t just be quiet because my son is black. When she talks about black men in that regard, she’s talking about my son. I was told, “but he isn’t here”. I implore upon everyone who reads this blog to stop people in their tracks when they say things that are downright wrong. Stop the uncomfortable giggles. People have been shamed for being politically correct, but what is wrong with being correct. I, myself, have been silent in the presence of black women when they make disparaging comments about white women and that isn’t right. We have to stand up for one another. We have to shame people or at least stop them in their tracks because even if it isn’t about you, it’s still offensive and wrong and maybe one day, my grandchildren won’t have to go thru these same things. We will overcome this as we have overcome so many other things. Love will win.

Love and light y’all.

 

 

Motherhood Mondays (A conversation with Jameelah)

I believe the American Muslim woman is very misunderstood. Society has attempted to identify these women as oppressed, weak, fanatical, and mysterious. I know a number of Muslim women, in fact, I grew up Muslim and I think people would be surprised at how wrong their misconceptions are. Muslim women vary in a number of ways and it is only through dialogue that ones prejudice ends. 

Meet Jameelah. She is freaking awesome!!!! She is a married, stay at-home mother to three wonderful children. She represents a face America typically does not see…she is Muslim, African American, and in an interracial marriage. Here are her words…

What do you feel is the best part about being a mother?

The best part about being a mother is the level of fulfillment it gives me. Nothing else I have done in my life compares to being a mother. Motherhood fills a desire in my life that I never knew I had. If I wasn’t a mother, I think I would know something in my life was forever missing.

What was your mother like?

My mom is great. Growing up, my mom worked and was a stay at-home mom for a portion of time. No matter what she was doing, she was always a mom. Now, I’m 35 years old and she still drops everything she is doing to be there for me. She doesn’t pry. She is just there whenever I need her, which is amazing considering she has nine of us. She has always been a mom. That has been the best thing about my life. If I can be half the mom she is, then I could look back and consider myself successful.

I hear you using the word “mom”. Can you define what “mom” means to you?

Well, I’m mommy in my house, but mom or mommy includes a connection of love and respect. There is a need and desire by both child and adult. The word mommy to me is like a type of completion. Being a mommy involves laughter and humility. This role breathes life into me. I am comfortable being mommy. There are days I don’t want to do anything, but when my kids call, I’m not resentful. Life simply starts when they call. I feel special that I was picked to be someone’s mom. Little ole me was picked. In all of my faults, I’m someone’s mommy. They wake up and love me. There is no judgment. I don’t have to put on heirs for them. I look at my children and think to myself, I did that; those human beings came from me. Mom or mommy involves this unique power that children have that can fill your heart and break it, all in the same moment.

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You’re Muslim, African American, and in an interracial marriage. It would appear that a lot is going on.

It is a lot going on if you think about. People look and want to ask how my husband and I happened. It’s not a lot. It is just life.

What has been one of your biggest struggles?

The biggest struggle is that I grew up in a Muslim household and my husband did not. Race is not a struggle for us. We have totally different viewpoints on things. There were conversations in the beginning that needed to be had. There was no religion in my husband’s household. They believed in God, but not in an organized religion. I grew up in a very religious household. We prayed 5 times a day, attended Muslim school, and fasted during the month of Ramadan. Our upbringings are very different. He goes off of what he knows and I go off of what I know. Simple things like when to start the kids doing Ramadan have the potential to become problems; however, when you get married you have to consider that person. It takes compromise.

What keeps you continuing to be Muslim?

There is a part of me that knows Al-Islam is my saving grace. My faith is the thing that has kept me from going too far off track. Al-Islam keeps me centered. It keeps me mindful of God. It makes me tolerant. It makes me patient. It makes me more accepting of those who are not like me. It is a part of who I am.

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What struggles do you face as a Muslim mother?

If I’m in a moms group, I have to decide if I want to participate in that Christmas or Halloween playdate. Those particular holidays are not in line with my faith. When I decide not to participate, some people continue to ask why or totally disregard the conflict. As a Muslim, I don’t feel heard. People continue to test limits that you have clearly set. There are incidents where people want to see how far they can push the Muslim thing. It is as if they want to see when you will go against your faith to be included.

What would like non-Muslim mothers to know?

I would like non-Muslim mothers to know that all I would like is to be heard. Don’t try to question my loyalty to my faith. When I decline to participate, don’t ask me why and continue to press the issue when I have already articulated my feelings. Respect my faith as I respect yours. You do not have to accommodate me, just accept my decision not to participate in things that go against what I believe.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about being a African American Muslim mom?

People think I’m militant because I’m black and I’m Muslim. They think I’m part of the Nation of Islam. Those aren’t my only options. People look at me and ask me what am I? When I tell them that I am black. I was born in the south and grew up in Compton, they say, “but you don’t hate white people”. Some people also expect this caricature of what Muslim woman are supposed to be. Either you have to be crazy hardcore or this woman who is hiding she is Muslim. They critique your actions, as you have to live up to this image in their heads that has nothing to do with your reality.

 

How do you prepare your children for the misconception people may have?

I tell my children to be good with being themselves. What others expect of you doesn’t matter. On top of being Muslim, they are biracial. Just be you, the rest of it is window dressing. It took me a while to get to a point of being comfortable with just being me. My mom promoted that growing up and I am promoting that in my children as well. I always tell them to not worry about others opinions. There is always going to be someone with a hang-up.

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What advice would you give to a mother similar to you?

Are you comfortable in your relationship? Are your happy? Don’t worry about the rest of the world. If you and your spouse are reading from the same book, don’t worry about everyone else. My family has faced some hardships because of our religion and my race. It has been both hurtful and eye opening. I always want to know how does my life affect someone else to the point of hate. Honestly, there are hateful people. You have to learn how to tune the hate out. You will go crazy listening to the worries of other people.

What would you like people to know?

I would like people to know that I’m a person. Take time to get to know people before judging them. I’m not an angry black woman. I’m not angry at all actually. I may be black, I can’t change that, but all of what you see about black women doesn’t define of us all. We are not all the same. I am a Muslim, but I’m still just a girl who fell in love with a guy and we are raising a family.

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Sunday Intentions

Okay, so I’m really not doing too well with this 30 days of blogging every single day.  I missed Friday and Saturday, but technically it wasn’t my fault.  I wanted to post a poem on Friday, but I wanted to do a slide show.  I still haven’t figured out how to put my voice with the slide show and I’m such a weird person that I didn’t feel right blogging Saturday because I didn’t do Friday.  I’m a bit weird; however, I’m going to get that together. Anyway, on to my Sunday Intentions for the week.

Today is Father’s Day!  I always call it the holiday that ends at about 3 p.m. or even sooner if the Dad is on the grill.  It always seems labor intensive for fathers, but I guess they enjoy it.  Here, we are without our fearless leader and father’s day was not celebrated in the typical fashion.  We heard from my husband early in the day.  The children got to talk to him twice because he kept calling back and I actually had the opportunity to have a long (about 10 minutes) conversation with him.  He unloaded on me and it was magnificent.   He was not telling me very nice things about his job, but HE OPENED UP TO ME!!!!!  I won’t discuss in this blog what he is going through, but I want to start a support operation for him with family and friends.  He needs to know that there are people back home that have his back and support him.

That brings me to the 2 things that I intend to focus on this week.  First, I need to start taking in the advice of my therapist.  Although I write this blog and can open up to my close friends, I am a guarded person.  I am even more guarded when I think you can hurt me.  My husband leaving felt like an abandonment.  Consciously, I know he did not just up and leave to get away from us.  It is the nature of his job, but one is still left with certain feelings.  When he left, I went into my shell and I just kind of wanted him to be gone without having any emotional attachment while he was away.  The funny thing is that, what I put out into the universe, I got back.  I was going out of my mind losing that connection of knowing what is going on with him and didn’t realize that I too had taken away my connection.  Last week and 2 weeks prior, I took my therapist’s advice and started opening up and I thought it wasn’t being heard or appreciated, but today showed me something different.  I need to be more vulnerable with this man I married.  I need to make an effort to share more and I need to make a point of letting him know that I have his back even if I don’t get the response I want.

The next intention I have this week is to love myself.  This may be an ongoing intention.  I have a friend here in California that says things to me that make me really think about what I say about my body, how I treat it, and what my insecurities are teaching my children.  Of course she can say all of these things because she’s gorgeous, but the message is still valid.  How we see ourselves sometimes transfers into how our children see themselves.  I know this to be true because I saw my daughter step on the scale too many times and I realized that she was only copying me.  I’m happy to say I haven’t been on the scale in a very long time because it is not necessary.  That number on that scale does not dictate anything that has to do with my life being fulfilled.  I refuse to pass this obsession with weight and looking a certain way to my daughter and son.  Truthfully, I have a bit of body dysmorphia. I am working on it.  It’s not an easy thing for people to understand when you are thin.  People don’t get it, but I get it and slowly I’m learning to let go of the negative image I have in my head and replace it with who I really am. I also consciously know that if I tear myself down and I am never happy with the way I am now, both body and soul, then indirectly I am teaching my children that they are never good enough.  It’s kind of the same approach that I took with no longer relaxing my hair. (NO JUDGEMENT ON THE HAIR THING) I knew I was not going to straighten my daughter’s hair very early on.  I didn’t have my first relaxer until I was 21 years old, so I wasn’t raised with the idea that straight hair was beautiful.  I wanted to give this gift to my daughter because I had met women who were literally afraid to go without their hair straightened.  I thought the best way to give her the gift of accepting her hair naturally was to give her an example of her mother being natural.  It was the same gift my mother had given to me and my grandmother had given to my mother.  Strangely, no one stopped to think that hair was such a small part of who we are and that an example of self love would take one so much more further in life.  I think back on how many bad dates I wouldn’t have gone on or how I might be able to look in the mirror at my body and see how awesome it is.  Self love teaches one that societies concept of beauty has absolutely nothing to do with how beautiful one is.  How one feels about themselves has everything to do with how he or she views themselves internally.  The external is just a small portion really.  People hide behind the external because if I woke every morning and realized that I gave birth to 2 children like a boss, that I am intelligent, that I am worthy of everything good in my life, then my perspective of who I am externally would change.  Instead of being disgusted by my stretch marks, loose skin around my belly and my surgery scars, I would feel honored.  Every single one of my so-called imperfections tells a story of how awesome I am.  I earned it all and I am a better person for it all.  I should be smiling when I stand before myself in the mirror, realizing that this body that I am in is just a vessel used in this life.  I should look at it in admiration because I am more than beautiful.  I am divine.

Love and Light

 

My reality

I initially wanted to use Thursday’s to blog about the terrible reality shows I watch, but I’m not.  I may do it in the future, but today I want to write about my reality.

In previous posts, I have discussed my relationship with my father.  A quick recap is that he was a very active in my life, but he was also abusive to me and my mother.  I left his house the day after my junior high school graduation because he threatened to beat me with the buckle of his belt because I refused to wear a hijab (Muslim head covering). After I left, the relationship was strained, but we still communicated and saw each other quite often.  I kind of compare myself to someone with Stockholm syndrome in that I never realized how bad it was until I ended up in Iraq.  I recognized as a child how bad he was to my mother, but I always thought what he did to me was something I deserved.  I knew my mother didn’t deserve to have a bloody nose or mouth and surely I didn’t deserve to live in a house where I had to fall asleep to her cries, but at that point in my life it was all that I knew.

When I moved to Florida to be with my husband, he mentioned to me that he thought the relationship with my father was unhealthy.  I agreed, but had been raised that it was a sin to cut off ties with family.  One year, my father came to visit our family.  My husband didn’t want it to happen, but we both agreed that he was family and it would be nice for my daughter to meet him.  The visit was not the best and after leaving our home, he told people that we were struggling.  We were rationing water and air.  He told people that I wouldn’t be married long because I didn’t cook and that it was obvious that our home had no love.  It hurt to hear those things, especially since it wasn’t true, but I was not surprised.  The last straw for my husband came when he gave my cousin my husband’s personal information in which she used as a personal reference in a criminal case.  As I have stated before, my husband is in the military and we live off of his income alone, so to threaten his character or even his security clearance angered the both of us to the point of no return.

I continued to talk to my father, although it was more like listening.  I didn’t stop talking to him until I went to see a therapist and showed him my call log along with some of the messages that my father left me and he made a very strong suggestion that I no longer speak to my father.  The most amazing thing that happened when I took that route was that I felt really happy.  I felt like a weight had been lifted.  I was no longer irritated and in the long run, my communication and perception of my husband changed.  I often used my father as a point of reference in my marriage when my husband had never shown any sign of being like my father.  It’s amazing what can happen when you get rid of toxic people in your life.  Unfortunately, the toxicity came from a man that played a part in me being here.

So…why am I typing all of this tonight.  Well, I blocked my father off of my cell phone, but I can still listen to the voicemail messages that he leaves.  I decided to just delete them without listening, but tonight I listened to them and it confirmed to me that what I am doing is right.  There were about 10 message in a 6 day period.  One in particular stood out to me. He left a message saying that he saw me in traffic and that I seemed to look bigger.  The was the first lie because the last time he saw me I was about 40 pounds heavier and I live 90 miles away from.  It gets better.  Not only did he see me in traffic, but he also saw me in a car with another man and my children were not in the car.  He then proceeded to say that it was obvious that I was in a loveless marriage and I was cheating on my husband.  Wow!  Now, I’m a cheater and I’m in a loveless marriage.  He left a message right after that one saying that he understood why I cheated because I couldn’t be with a weak person and my husband was weak.  The last message was him saying that he thru up blood and needed help getting to the hospital.

It’s funny, because sometimes I feel guilty for not speaking to him.  It is unnatural to no longer have contact with a living parent.  During my last therapy session, I told the therapist that I felt cheated.  I had an awesome relationship with my grandfather and my children will never have that.  I use to romanticize the very small normal moments I had with my father.  I wanted a daddy daughter relationship and I still have this hope that he will change, but I kind of know he won’t.

It sucks.  It really sucks, but the moral of the story is to let the negativity go, even if it is a parent.  I think that toxic relationships need to be destroyed especially if it is a parent because the hurt is so much more deep. I can’t help loving him because he is my father, but his presence only destroys my spirit. Loving him from a distance is the only way that I don’t allow him to control my life and how I act or react to things.  I had a habit of relaying my past to present situations and making decisions based on my past.  Leaving my father alone has allowed me to live in the present. Because my father is such a negative fixture of my past and has not changed, speaking to him and having a relationship with him kept me living in the past. I know that he will now go to family members and members of his community and tell them that I am now cheating on my husband.  I don’t doubt it.  I know that if I continued a relationship with him my health, my sanity, and my marriage would suffer.  I also know that I need to change my number.  That is my reality. I have learned through all of this that I have control to create a positive life and positive surroundings. Unfortunately, a life without the drama does not include my father, but I owe it to myself and my children to live the best life ever.  I also owe it to this man who loved me through it all.

Good night, Love and Light

Tell it Tuesday

I realize that it is not Tuesday. I had every intention of writing last night, but I was exhausted.  We had a full day yesterday and my thyroid medication has been readjusted, so I feel like my body is taking some time to get use to the new dosage, but I have so much to write about Tell it Tuesday that I woke up before the children this morning to get it all out.

Every three weeks  I see my therapist on Tuesday.  There is a playroom at the office where my children can go play and I generally feel comfortable with them coming with me most of the time.  Of course, yesterday was the day that the playroom was closed and I honestly saw it as a blessing in disguise because I really didn’t want to see this therapist again.  I even asked the receptionist if there was another counselor there that fit more into my schedule.  The receptionist was not having it and told me to wait to talk to this lady who I really didn’t take a liking to after our first session.  I was a bit irritated and welcomed my son’s calls to go home. I was thinking of my exit plan and just when I was about to get up to walk out of the office, the therapist appeared.

She, the therapist, suggested we go to a nearby park and let the kids play while we talked.  I thought that was nice, but I felt trapped.  I just did not like her and wanted to go home, but we all went to the park anyway and believe it or not, I had an awesome session.  We talked about the homework she gave me, which was to open up to my husband about my activities and my life in general.  I told her that I did, but the response was not what I was expecting from him.  He seems so busy that he does not care about my life right now and he checks in with us more out of obligation and less to genuinely see how we are doing. I told her about a slideshow of pictures I made for him with that John Legend song “All of Me” playing in the background and his not even mentioning that he got it.  I told her that I tried my best to open up, but our relationship during deployments is complicated and I don’t like having my feelings hurt.  I should not open myself up during this time and I should keep things that I enjoy separate from him. I need to have my own activities just for me.  The therapist smiled and asked, “did you share those things with your husband for a reaction or did you share them for you?” I was a bit perplexed.  I was under the impression that this was all for him because I told her I did not want to do it in the first place, but apparently I was wrong.  She said, “I asked you to share the things you do or feel with him, so you don’t continuously cut him off emotionally”.  The activity was not for him, but for me and the health of our marriage.  The idea is that if I completely cut my husband out of my life while he is away, then we will have that much more to rebuild when he returns, at least from my end.  I get it, but it is hard to put myself out there because he has a whole life separate from me.  I don’t know what’s going on with him.  I get bits and pieces and I don’t like that, but marriage is not a tit for tat game and I have learned that if I open up, he usually follows right behind me.  In fact, after trying to talk to him about my activities and sending him that slideshow and not getting the response I wanted, I told him that it hurt me. I expected an argument, but what I got was a dialogue of what he’s going through and a word of understanding.  I did not get a promise of trying better, which sucks; however, the communication between us has gone from just checking in to really listening to one another.  I guess the therapist may know something after all.  My homework for the next 3 weeks is to call one person in my family once a week and let them know that I care.  That is a very hard task.  I am not that open, especially with people in my life before Iraq.  I guess it is the PTSD and I do want to build those relationships again, but the numbness that I feel during those types of conversations make me sad. I guess I’m afraid of the work, but I am smart enough to know that I’ll never rebuild if I don’t work at it.

Another thing we do here on Tuesdays is go to Yogurtland.  As I keep writing on Tell it Tuesday, I plan to post pics of what we eat.  Yogurtland Tuesday is something I started after my husband left.  Every Tuesday, I put my phone down and listen to what the kids have to say.  I have learned a great deal on these special Tuesdays.  I learned last week that my daughter keeps the bad things that happen to her at school from me because she is afraid I will beat the other kid up or their parents.  I don’t know where she got that from.  I have never shown her a violent side to me.  I asked the therapist about it and she told me that my daughter has probably observed how angry I get when someone hurts her and came up with that conclusion.  I would never hit a kid…I’ll leave it at that. My son always mentions that he wishes his daddy was home on these Tuesdays and gives me a list of what games they will play when his daddy returns home.  The most interesting thing we talked about yesterday was how caramel makes everything taste better.  Sometimes it isn’t that deep, but the children need Yogurtland Tuesday to feel listened too and I’m happy to do it.

I feel so accomplished.  I finished this blog post before anyone woke up!

 

Barriers of the Mind

I have an 85 year-old grandmother who is laugh out loud funny.  She has always been funny, but now I’m old enough to laugh at her jokes without getting the side eye.  She is a gun packing, smack talking lover of pearls and all things elegant.  She is all kinds of awesome, but sometimes she says some things that make me think…is this the same lady who had a hand in how I see the world?

I was talking to my cousin on the phone the other day and she told me she was showing a few of our pictures to our grandmother.  My grandmother of course commented on my weight and hair and then proceeded to ask what beach were we at.  My cousin told her and she made a comment I would not expect from my grandmother.  She said, “those white people sure do keep their beaches nice.  I guess they keep all the Black (she didn’t say Black) people out and don’t let us come over there”.  The beach was nice.  It wasn’t the nicest I’ve been to, but I never once saw a sign saying, NO BLACKS ALLOWED.  She then proceeded to ask my cousin if we stayed the whole day and what were we doing.  This whole dialogue between my 85 year old grandmother and my cousin got me to thinking about the barriers we all create in our minds.

My grandmother grew up in a time when segregation was quite real.  She grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana and has outright told me that the racism or prejudice she had to deal with came from her own people and never from a different race.  Yes, she had to ride on the back of the bus, but in her time and where she grew up, ‘if you didn’t bother them, then they didn’t bother you’ and that’s just the way it was.  The whole concept of not bothering “them” was a conscious decision to stay alive in those times.  Although times have changed, do some of us hold on to those same concepts today?

As an adult, I have been blessed to have traveled a bit and at an early enough age that I rarely feel uncomfortable around any group of people regardless of race or class.  I am a shy person, but I hardly ever let it show.  I am confident, but I would be lying if I said I never thought about being the only one in a particular setting or the instant familiarity I feel when someone who looks like me is around.  Fortunately, I push through it and let the thought pass, but I know that many people have not had my experiences and can’t simply push through it.  The idea that a group of people are keeping you out of something may sometimes mean that you are in fact keeping yourself out of it.

I am from the hood.  It isn’t something that I wear on my sleeve, but if you talk to me long enough you will realize that I’m from California, but I have only had the pleasure of seeing this beautiful State from a positive standpoint as an adult.  When I was a young adult I never traveled outside of my “hood”.  I had been all the way to Korea, but never to Malibu or Long Beach for that matter.  It is a hood mentality mixed with my elders fear from their past…”don’t bother them, and they won’t bother you”.

I don’t believe this is just a Black thing.  I believe we all have barriers in our brains that we don’t realize.  The signs excluding one race to this and another to that are no longer posted on poles, but are very real in the minds of people.  It is not just going somewhere, but it is also dreams and aspirations. If one cannot go to an opposite side of town because they don’t think it is for him or her, then how on Earth is that same person going to develop the concept that they can become a Doctor, Astronaut, Physicist, or Novelist. These barriers of the mind are self inflicted destroyers of life and sometimes we indirectly set the foundation of these barriers for our children and grandchildren.

I doubt my children think that any place is off limits to them, but as a mother I am frightened by that.  I keep that fear held inside because I will absolutely not play a part in building a foundation in their minds based on fear.  My husband, who was not born in this country, does not share my fears, which is why I know this barrier is learned.  I refuse to pass it on, so yes grandma, we were at the beach all day long and those White folk didn’t bother us one bit, they even let us get in the water and take pictures on the rocks.  They never told us we couldn’t come in the first place.  It was us who told us we couldn’t go.

For fun, or if anyone really reads this blog…What barriers do you have?  What do you subconsciously or consciously think is not for you?  Is it exercise? Dance classes? Writing a book?  Falling in love?  Leave me a comment….pleeeeeeeeease.

This Blog is not turning out how I expected

When I set out to write this blog, I meant to use it in 2 very distinct ways. My primary goal was to dispel stereotypes.  I don’t think women who look like me have much of a voice anywhere.  My secondary goal was to use the blog as therapy while my husband is away. It appears that my secondary goal has become my primary and I think I’m fine with that.

There is something about sitting in front of your computer screen after the day is done and simply letting your thoughts out.  It helps me get through my days and it also continues my journey of healing.  One of the major things that I wanted to keep out of this blog was negativity about myself and my family.  I felt that opening up that side of myself would be further perpetuating what society views as the “Black” story. The problem with “keeping things out” is that you become inauthentic.  You can’t write freely because you’re thinking too much about the perception and not the message, so instead of coming to the computer and writing freely, one begins to edit and pick and choose topics, when in reality I really should be writing or typing for myself.

I recently submitted an article to ForHarriet.com on domestic violence.  It is my story.  It is a story that is all too common in the African American community.  It took a great deal of courage for me to write my story and then share it, but I specifically wrote it for a friend in hopes that she would leave a situation that is causing great pain to her spirit. I went back and forth on if I should share it here because my whole purpose on this blog was to prove that we are all not what is portrayed on social media, television, or even music. I wanted to show that I am a mother, wife, friend, and all around good person. I am not a baby’s mama and I don’t subscribe to that mentality.

Somewhere along the way, I forgot that the makings of me are directly tied into why I act and make the decisions I have made in my life.  More than anything, my life and the struggles I have overcome show that being raised in South Central Los Angeles, being Black and female do not dictate what life you will lead.  More than that, being raised in an abusive household does not dictate that you will live a life that is not whole.  It takes work and some days it literally feels like a fight for happiness, but the alternative is repeating what generations before me could not stop.  I love my children and husband too much not to give them the best of me, so all the negativity ends with me.

I guess that is what the term “Not Your Baby’s Mama” is about to me.  I am supposed to be a statistic.  I wasn’t supposed to find love.  I wasn’t supposed to come from a place of love in how I deal with my children.  My beginnings set the stage for me to be someone’s baby’s mama, struggling and frustrated.  I was supposed to be unfulfilled and bitter.  I was supposed to wake up everyday frowning instead of smiling. I was supposed to blame my children for my crappy life instead of seeing them as adding to my joy and being the ultimate gift the universe has given me.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not speaking about single mothers as being some tormented life.  It is not single mothers because I wholeheartedly admire all the women who do it on their own.  It is the “baby mama” stigma that I am writing about. It was supposed to be me and I am so thankful that it is not.

So from now on, I will write from my heart…along with the crazy crap I go through.

Racism aside…everything is going well

The incident that happened last week at the school has made a lasting impression on my daughter and I believe my household. I don’t know why, but I just did not expect it to happen so early and not here in California.  I’m originally from California and NEVER experienced any type of colorism or racism.  I spent about 10 years in the South and I believe I had experienced prejudice, but it was kind of blatant, like people ignoring you and not acknowledging your presence. Also, I had more positive experiences with White people than I have ever had in the South, so I have been sitting here thinking about what is the issue here.

First, let me say that the school my daughter goes to handled the situation quite well.  The day after my daughter was told she couldn’t play because she was Black by another little girl on the playground, a conference was held with the little racist child’s parents, she was made to write a letter saying she was sorry, and they also made her come up to me and apologize for hurting my daughter.  I thought that it was a great way to show my daughter that the little racist child was wrong; however, I thought it was overkill.  I jokingly call this little girl, “little racist child”, but she was only doing what she has either heard or seen.  I didn’t think she should apologize to me.  I thought her coward parents should have come to me and apologized, but that won’t happen because they are coward racist parents.  The funny thing is that my daughter and her are becoming fast friends and playing together, so I guess racism aside, everything appears to be going well. Go figure.

So…what is the issue here in this little California town?  Why do I feel so uncomfortable here as opposed to where I just moved from?  I believe the answer is that although California may seem progressive, it is not as diverse as people would believe it to be.  I just moved from the South, but my neighbors were White, Black, and Jewish. They were not the type of neighbors you just wave at from time to time.  My neighbors were people I actually spoke to from time to time and genuinely cared about.  I have noticed that this city is overwhelmingly segregated.  I finally found the Black people here and they live in apartments very close to the mall.  The Hispanics live there too.  In my neighborhood, which is all single family homes, there are very few Hispanics and Blacks, a conservative amount of Asians and Indians, and overwhelmingly White (about 67%). The issues here could be more about class and less about race, but segregation could be the root to the problem.

I must point out that I didn’t grow up a fan of Martin Luther King Jr.  I was raised by a Sunni Muslim father who had just left the Nation of Islam and he kept a great deal of his “Black supremacist” ways of thinking even though he was an Orthodox Muslim.  Yes, I grew up singing songs about the White man being the devil.  I also grew up spending weekends holding a sign that read “DON’T KILL YOUR BABIES” in front of an abortion clinic. Anyway, I knew very little about Martin Luther Kings Jr. because he was not celebrated in the private school I went to and at home we focused most on “revolutionaries”.  Looking back, my childhood was quite comical.  I had a Christian mother who was quite passive, but quick to throw a jab at how lowdown some Black people could be and a father who firmly believed that the social ills that plagued Black people were the dirty work of the White man.  I was confused to say the least, but it gave me  an incredible amount of insight on race and religion.  I’m going off topic, but  what I want to point out is that I am now a fan of Martin Luther King Jr. I always saw integration as something that tore down the Black community growing up, but as an adult I can understand the logic in segregation being wrong.

Obviously, no one is outright telling people that they can’t live in one area over the next, but because everyone is sectioned off in their own parts of this city, individuals are not seeing one another as human beings. When your neighbors look just like you, thinks like you, and prays like you, anything other than what you perceive as “normal” is wrong, especially when the images coming from the television portray another race as criminal, hyper-sexual,  an unintelligent.

I’ll give a personal example, when I was deploying to go to Iraq there was a girl in our unit that I became quite close with.  She was a nice person.  I hurt my leg while I was at the mobilization site and ended up on crutches.  This girl helped me to no end. One day, we are walking to the dining facility and she says, “I have something I need to tell you because I’m tired of lying to you”. Of course, I told her that she could share anything with me because we were “battle buddies”.  Well, she tells me that she is gay.  I had never met a gay person before in my life.  At that point in my life, I was very much against homosexuality and anyone who supported it.  It was ungodly to me because that is what I was taught.  When she told me that, it took my breath away and I felt incredibly conflicted because how could I view someone as a friend that I firmly believed was going to burn in hell.  Quite quickly I had to rethink all that I had believed because now I had a face, deeds, heart and soul attached to homosexuality.  My views no longer applied to “them”.  My views now had a name and a face of someone I knew would give their life for me if it came down to it when we crossed over to Iraq.  I finally found the humanity. We are still friends to this very day.

I know some people won’t agree with that, but the same thing happens with race.  It is quite easy to hate what you don’t know.  It is quite easy to stereotype what you believe to be true on television. Remember, I don’t exist in real life.  My family and its dynamic are not shown on television, so what can I expect from my ignorant neighbors?  I believe this is the point where I have to (even though I don’t want to) have amazing strength and put myself out there, like my friend did, and show the humanity of me and my family.  All Black mothers are not like those women on the Real Housewives of Atlanta or Basketball Wives.

I’m having a play date tomorrow with one of the mom’s and her daughter from my daughter’s class. We will see how it goes. Hopefully, it goes well and I’ll make an acquaintance or even a friend, but at the very least I am making an effort.