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.

images

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.

 

 

New Year’s Intentions Revisited

The saying always goes, “be careful what you ask for”. I wrote down my intentions for the New Year with every intention on accomplishing those tasks, but I really wanted to spread them out over the year. I did not want to realize all of them by February. I actually haven’t realized all of them, but the biggest item on that list was reconnecting with my father. Well, I thought I could get around to doing that in July, but of course that is not what is happening.

I got a call not too long ago from a strange number. Typically, I wouldn’t answer, but something told me to see who it was. I think I knew who was on the other line because I wasn’t totally shocked to hear my father’s voice. He seemed shocked that he heard my voice. I can only assume that it must have been quite odd to hear someone pick up the line after being blocked for almost 2 years. Yes, I blocked my father’s calls. No, I don’t feel bad for it, not even a little. My father and I have the strangest relationship where I love him deeply, but neither understand nor agree with his actions in the past or present. If you go back a few blog posts, you will see an article I wrote on domestic violence. He was not the nicest of men when I was growing up and I had to make a decision of either distancing myself from him or living in the hurt. I chose distance and I am better for it. So…he was shocked to hear my voice and I was a bit amused. I don’t know why I was amused, but I was. He changed his number or rather, my little brother bought him a new phone and this was a way for him to get in contact with me at least one time before I blocked the new number. We spoke for maybe 5 minutes and it was pleasant. I don’t intend on blocking his number from this point forward, but I do intend on stopping his rants before they get out of hand.

My father raised me. I did not have an absent father. I do not remember a time when he was not involved in my life. For a period of time, he was my only parent. My mother had to leave to get better. My father tormented her and if she would have stayed, I doubt I would have had either one of them. He eventually would have been arrested and she would have eventually lost her battle with life or her sanity. It is hard to come to terms with that as a child and surprisingly as an adult. It is even harder after having children. I do not even want to argue in front of my children much less raise them in a chaotic environment. There were times I did not know what house I woke up in because of the constant back and forth. I was overjoyed when their relationship was over, a fact that still baffles the both of them. They swear it was because I wanted more gifts for my birthday, but the truth is that I was happier when they were apart. I was filled with anxiety when they were together. It made me physically ill when they hugged or kissed. Words cannot begin to describe how at war you are with yourself when you love the abused and the abuser.

It becomes worse when you realize that the abuser is someone who loves you and isn’t all monster. My mother wasn’t the only one my father hit. I had a number of step-mothers who came and went and suffered at the hands of my dad. I just became numb to it all, but when I got married, I could no longer push it down. I had to face what I had been through or I wasn’t going to make it. Up until my marriage, my father and I had a cordial relationship. My husband met me when my father was completely out of my life. Because my father did not agree with the Iraq war, he never wrote me and did not accept my calls. I was without him for 14 months. My husband says that Iraq recovered me from my Stockholm Syndrome. I think he may be right about that.

When I came home from Iraq, I no longer felt obligated to be at my father’s beck and call. Our communication became less frequent and my father became more intent on having his time uninterrupted. If I did not answer one phone call, he would continuously call. I showed my therapist my call log once and he was shocked. In a 24 hour period, my father would call maybe 30 times along with leaving 3 to 4 minute messages. It was obsessive and the more we communicated, the more my marriage suffered. I was always irritated after talking to my father. I always wanted to pick a fight. My normal was not being good or happy. I reached a point where all of it was exhausting and with the help of my therapist at the time, I made the decision to let him go.

When I made the decision to stop communicating with my father, it was never with the intent for it to be permanent. I just needed to heal and not be affected or infected by him. I had to do the work to get past my past and learn to accept who he was and not what I would like him to be. I needed to stop viewing my husband as my father. I needed to learn what love really was and what it wasn’t. I needed to breathe. I did it and I thought this would be the year. I wrote it down. I put it in my heart and then my father called. Isn’t it funny how the universe words?

It’s been about a 2 weeks and he’s only called one other time. He has left some interesting messages, but he is an interesting human being. We did have a heated conversation in which he apologized. I am thankful for that, but I know it won’t stay this way. I know he’s going to go crazy when he doesn’t get his way. He requested to see my children and I remained silent. I did not have these children alone and the one time my father was around my children, he said some horrible things about my husband. He basically called my husband a murderer for being in the Army. It took a very long time to explain what he was said to my daughter. In order for him to see my children, he will have to agree to some rules and he will have to speak to my husband. That may be too much to ask for, but it’s what I’m comfortable with.

All of this has led me to evaluate some things. First, even with all the bad that happened, it warmed my heart to hear my father’s voice. I know that he loved me the only way he knew how. I know he could have left and been absent and I am grateful that he tried his best. Next, relationships are what you make them. A relationship can be toxic if you let it be. If it is toxic, let it go, even if it is a parent. Toxic relationships will only screw up other relationships. You, me, he or she don’t owe anyone our happiness. Lastly, my parenting has nothing to do with the outcome of my children. That’s weird, right? I know others feel different, but reevaluating the relationship I have with my parents made me see something that I think I did not see before. Who they were as parents has everything to do with them, not me. Yes, their actions affected me greatly, but their mistakes affect them even more. The way I parent is my choice. It is what I want out of it, not what I expect to raise out it. When it is all said and done, will I feel good about how I treated them, loved them, listened to them, or nurtured them? I make those choices as I make all of the other choices in my life.

I am very curious to see how this all turns out between my father and I. Hopefully, things will go well.

Love and light y’all.

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

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.

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.