It was the September of my 20th year when the combination of feel and scent in the air took me back, ala’ movie montage moment, to so many Septembers past. High school Septembers, Jr. High autumn evenings. Flooding, internally, from one to the next.
When I was thirteen, I declared I would one day have a daughter and name her September. It turns out that I neither had a daughter, nor named a child (or pet) that. I do not regret this, just so we’re clear.
All in all, if we were keeping score, September probably shouldn’t be a favorably definitive month for me. It was when school years began, and growing up I was not a lover of school. September marked my first full month as a group home kid, when I was 12.
It carried me into my two definitive adolescent romances, which led, in different ways, to deeply broken hearts…
It also, in fairness, introduced me to my husband, when I was seventeen. That September nearly killed me, as I dealt with a health crisis of extreme proportions, which may (or may not- we will never know) have led to my inability to carry a pregnancy to term. Pretty much nothing, at all, was going remotely ok that September, but in walked Chw and I knew that the two of us would be married, so for that I will declare September 1993 a victory.
A year later, September would bring us full circle, to a horrific miscarriage.
Why it stands out to me that Septembers marked more loss than gain, I’ll never know. Sometimes my biggest gifts (I met each of the kids I loved like a mother loves, in Septembers. First, 2000 and then 2003.) Beautiful gifts, further falling in love and inevitable heartbreak.
Two of my three beloved dog besties were laid to rest in Septembers.
My husband left me for another woman in September. Though we reconciled two years later, that first September had us glued to the tv as planes hit the towers and we gained perspective unlike we’d ever had before.
SO MANY milestones of trauma mark the ninth calendar month, of the year.
And still… still, I find myself to be a lover of September. The autumn air ushers in this crisp scented magic, and I am here for it.
This year’s janky calendar had hoards of people unable to wait for summer, because summer would fix the world.
Then it didn’t.
And now, now people are chasing after pumpkins, and spice and new sweaters earlier than ever, with a misplaced faith in this next season bringing the reset needed to right the world.
I don’t know… Maybe it will. September has proven to be a magical and tricky beast. These Sept’s of past have been known to bring about some incredibly unexpected gifts- I’ll just caution us all to be weary.
Whatever these days actually hold, (and let’s be honest- it’s 2020, September could bring us ANYTHING!) I’m pretty certain we will arrive at the first of October scathed in someway.
For all of us, I hope it is a beautiful healing way… A restorative way.
I’m cautious, but also here for it. Despite the track record, I’m a September girl through and through…
I entered into my relationship with 2020, filled with hope. While I have felt the steady decline personally, each year since 2015, I resolved that THIS YEAR would be the difference.
It has been different.
It has made a difference.
While the things I had vowed to see done this year were not exactly petty/shallow:
finish my book.
complete my book proposal.
begin the publishing path journey.
do more yoga.
spend more time adventuring.
save more money.
focus on intentional quality time with my people.
They weren’t on par with the sci-fi movie we’re all about to live, either.
These weren’t bad goals, but they weren’t really flexible ones either. (except the yoga one, but that’s a bad joke.)
Today is the very middle of this very, very, very hard year. While so many of us have lost big, this year, I find my soul hesitant to say that it has been a “bad year”.
Sure- CRAP has happened. Finances are almost non-existent for many of us, and businesses/ventures we’d worked so hard to build- are simply gone. So much loss and devastation has happened, but for the first time in my adult life I am watching a world question what our part can be to insure that these losses are not in vain. That we, as a collective, can grow from them.
We were all forced into this global Pause, and for one unexpected moment we could not help but see that the earth could instantly begin to heal…
What about us?
Within this Great Pause, we were pushed to take stock- stock of our resources, relationships and our reasons. For the briefest of seconds, we all stood terrified, on the same page reading the same words. We all tried to grasp the palms of one another as we simultaneously inhaled, and exhaled, and questioned if this was it.
The “big bad” is far from over, but once it became a symbol of old news and new normal, a majority of us went back to life as usual. We chose to forget the things we feared, which also meant we had to let go of the goodness of together.
Then one night, an angry man kneeled on the neck of another man, murdering him.
This tragedy happened before humanity had put enough distance between them and the season of Pause. Our human hearts were still a little exposed, a little raw and ready for something real to happen.
And the people rose up.
A dying man cried out for his mama, and told the world he could not breathe, and human beings of all colors came face to face with the reality that we have been choosing to barely breathe for the majority of our lives…
Fresh air is there, for the taking.
We saw this, in the Pause.
The Oxygen of together restores life. It does.
The bitter people call this idea divisive. They realize, but don’t admit, that change is scary and they are “happy enough” barely breathing. In the Pause they breathed so hard that their lungs ached, and while that felt cathartic in the moment, the moment was fleeting and the pain seemed overwhelming and scary.
Barely breathing sounds like silence.
It looks like shallow obsessions, for distraction’s sake.
It looks like consumerism- starvation for that next thing, because we’re internally convinced that will be the very thing that will make the ache to inhale subside.
The people who killed the Man who could not breathe, had titles to serve and protect. Can we not all see that this tragedy effects every single one of us? Because of them, (and other fear and anger driven officers) many have turned on all of the men and women also sworn to serve and protect.
This is not a Blue issue, this is a BREATH issue.
Those killers, they didn’t want to breathe either.
Killers do not always wear a uniform. When they do, they hurt their brethren too, because it distracts and divides the people. This world is filled with good people, and bad people. The bad people wear all types of clothing.
Sometimes good people are white, but generations of evil white action has made our light skin hard to trust.
Sometimes the angry, hate-filled “bad guy” is the one beating his wife and children, and the police save them and take him away.
Sometimes, as we’ve seen, the bad guy wears the uniform.
This isn’t a blue issue, this is an abuse of power issue.
It is a refusal to truly see, issue.
The people who stay silent and protect them, the ones who stay silent for fear of rocking the boat- the ones who stay quiet because they are “happy enough” in their ignorance- those people have been holding their breath beneath the water for so long that they can no longer even imagine using muscles to kick to the surface and gasp for air…
But what happens to them then?
Have you tried reasoning with a hateful racist? You can’t.
You can not change the mind of a dead man.
In the Pause I learned that I need to breathe.
I NEED to fill my lungs with people and kindness, with unity, art and collaboration. I need to hold hands with everyone who is different than me.
I NEED to breathe in the wisdom and stories of others, and damn it, I NEED to see how my refusal to do so, for so long, contributed to the problem.
Last year one of the most important people in the world, to me, decided I was only worth her silence. She stopped talking to me, stopped regarding me, and in the journey of that decision, the oppression of her silence killed our relationship. I will always love her, but her silence killed a part of my heart that had spent nearly two decades connected to hers.
I am not angry at her. I hold only prayers for a beautiful life and a healing gratitude at the time we had together.
Silence is disregard.
Disregard is apathy.
Life cannot be sustained apathetically.
Silence is death. Often a slow, drowning death, and we may be so hell-bent on our refusal to inhale that we fail to see the Grim Reaper coming straight for us.
I can be silent no more.
I am breathing, filling these lungs.
There is no sort of. You either inhale, or you don’t.
You love, or you don’t.
You listen and learn, or you lose. You may not feel it today, or tomorrow, but it’s coming.
The Pause paved the way for changes like we’ve never seen. People rose up and protested for brunches and haircuts, and this bold action led to the opening of an unready nation…
Just you watch what happens when even more people finally begin to take real breaths, and rise up for LIFE. Black Lives Matter. We aren’t saying Only Black Lives Matter, but instead crying out that we take notice- injustice is killing and we all need to stand up and help.
Today, July 1st, I am inhaling the grace, wisdom and strength of the brave Black women I am befriending, the ones I am listening to, the conversations I am having and the ugly truths I am facing, regarding my own privilege and fragility.
I am admitting that this is not a journey I am fit to lead, and so I will listen and learn until forever. Letting go, further, of what does not serve this path towards an equal world, where differences will be celebrated and color radiates, in all shades, like the sun.
As my filled lungs exhale, they will practice the whys… with a voice that grows less shaky every single day, I will say-
With this I will inhale again, breathing deep the awareness of an ill-designed system, and do what I can before exhaling…
Say their names.
And I will never breathe them all because there are just so many, but in remembering I can be moved forward. We all can. These horrors of a structured design meant to keep us afraid and on top, must not go on.
Months ago we sat frozen in fear as the entire planet seemed short of the very machines the hospitals needed to breathe for the sick people who could not breathe on their own.
With a knee to the neck, George Floyd had his breath stolen, and the world rose up, giving breath to movement.
It is time for us to come together and breathe again. Black. Blue. Brown. White.
In the quiet silence of aloneness I am left on my own, to reflect. There were years of flowers and clumsy breakfasts, all blooms in what would feel (for a very long time) like a crowning achievement.
After so many years of heartbreak and pregnancy loss, my life suddenly held this bubbly little girl who called me Momma. It truly did feel like everything, for a time.
From fifteen years old, and on, though I had other dreams and other goals, being a mother was the heart & soul of all of it. It was everything I wanted, and the motivation for moving forward. I had only ever really seen this plan work for others, so I had no clue it could simply NOT work for me.
When you are lying in a pool of blood, on cold tile, sobbing to heaven about why your babies all seem to die before they’ve had a chance to breathe, there are thoughts that rise up during broken prayers.
Voices that tell you why…
They tell you it’s because the babies saw what a disgusting person you are, and would rather die.
They whisper about how you can’t do anything right and you would be the worst sort of mother.
When you trust someone you love enough to confide those fears to them, they will kiss your matted forehead and tell you that these are lies, and the amount you ache to have a baby will make you a beautiful mom too.
As time passes, it’s hard to tell which things are truth and which things are lies, because we rationalize a world of either/or. We don’t conceive that it is possible the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
That sweet little girl made me feel like a mom, for the happiest years of my life. After fighting with every ounce of me, for unborn babies, and then fighting with everything I had left, for already born kids, that big-blue-eyed girl let me live there, for awhile.
I’ll always be grateful.
Family didn’t understand the idea of loving kids not from your blood. In hindsight, I think they wanted to. I think in unique ways, they tried. Then again, they couldn’t actually understand the journey of loss we’d known, so I can see the difficulty. So many times, over the years, these people who really did love us, would use the phrase “playing house” when it came to our family. Whether legally adopted, or so heart loved, it made no difference in the legitimacy they perceived.
The frustration and disappointment of this, mostly for the kids, triggered those dark post-miscarriage whispers to rise up. Was I playing house? Was I not a real mom? Was this all just pretend? The truth, somewhere in the middle, is that life is complicated.
I have loved with every inch of my mother-aching heart. I have advocated. I have sacrificed for. I have had my cup so full, down to so empty. I have known the tears, and the worry. I have held crying daughters and put my life on hold to do so, without regret. It wasn’t perfect, because I wasn’t perfect. Early childhood trauma leaves a lasting effect. Sometimes it was hard.
It wasn’t perfect because nothing is perfect. I never expected it to be, or them to be. I did expect me to be… And it seems they did too. While they were younger, I covered the multitude of ways I was proven to never be enough, with so much grace. So many excuses for how they’d endured so much hurt early on, how they were still so young. Well meaning people promised it would be so much better when they were older… when she specifically was older.
It has been years since I’ve spent any real time with that sweet little girl of days past. One of the last gifts I gave her, before she left the nest, was a little key with the word love etched into it. I told her that my biggest wish for her would be that she could learn to love herself and accept the love of others, the love of me. That had been our biggest struggle, really, her inability to accept my love. I would never be the mom she wanted me to be. So close to that truth, I was shattered and haphazardly put back together again and again.
My truth is that part of my motherhood dream involved daughters becoming mothers too. It involved loving their babies and porches filled with things like lemonade, laughter and pie. It involved vacations and photos and smiles for as far as the eye can see.
It involved, plainly put, things that a lot of moms get. It is not a guarantee, it is not a right of passage and it is not a plan set in motion for me.
Once, when asked, I proudly told the world I had two daughters. Anymore I am honest that I never really had any. I was never their mom, but for a few really good, hard, raw and fulfilling years I played the part with everything in me, and then one day the role was simply done.
I am not a victim, and neither are they. They are both beautiful survivors of things no children should have to go through, and the results of that have never been easy for them. I talk a little bit about this in my book, but in the same way that we crave absolutes, we expect them too. Couples are allowed to break up. Unrequited loves happen all of the time. It is unfair to expect adopted/foster children to reciprocate a love for a parent. The hurt, sacrifice and effort a parent makes does NOT mean the child has to return it. This is a truth no one talks about. This a truth that fearful women in the hurt-filled pursuit of motherhood do not want to know.
For five months, last year, I felt like I was losing everything. My worst fears were coming true, all around me, and I could not find my breath. And then, it happened… And my everything became not mine to hold anymore.
I was sad, and I grieved the most brutal of loss.
One daughter indicated, with absolute silence, that she did not want me anymore, while the other proceeded to tell me the cruelest and most hate-filled things she had in her arsenal. Then, I was wounded to my core, because I was so close that I couldn’t see the truth.
They each know what is best for them, and as adults that is their responsibility. I did not ever want them texting, calling, gifting or visiting on birthdays and holidays because they felt like they were obligated to. If they did not want me as their mom, they were allowed.
This did not mean my love for them was wasted. It did not mean my love for them died, at all. It just meant that I would have to grow my courage to be brave in different ways, for them. When one daughter had a major car accident, I would stay away. I would send flowers, because it was so soon and I didn’t know how to not… but she didn’t want me in her life, and I could respect her. That was something I could do for her. When birthdays passed, I would ache to see their beautiful faces and shower them with love and gifts, but instead I would make a silent donation to an organization that rescues women and children, in their honor.
It isn’t the same, but what one meant for me was a prison sentence of obligation for them and I love them enough to believe they deserve the freedom they asked for.
I am not a victim, I am not perfect.
I am a woman.
I am a writer, a mentor and a wife.
My heart will forever love two daughters.
I was never really their mom.
That’s ok. I am ok. Five hundred times a day, when my gaze falls on a photograph or a memory comes to mind, I pray that they are ok too.
Yesterday was one of those days when you log on, for one reason or another, and are bombarded by the news…
*The shattering grief and updates from Kobe & Gigi’s memorial, for one. I have so many thoughts and feelings on the pieces of that, which flooded my twitter feed, but they aren’t important in this space. The grief is felt by a giant community of fans and human beings, let us not forget though that the actual grief belongs to the people who really knew them. Their grief is not meme worthy, front page headline/clickbait fodder, or appropriate for anything beyond us kindly giving them space to have it…
*The news of Katherine Johnson passing was remarkably sad and humbling. As someone who works, every single day, with women, I hope that I never cease to find myself in awe of the brave and powerful women who have accomplished many amazing feats, simply by engaging in their authentic journey. She lived 101 deep years, may we honor her and her family for that many more years to come…
*Harvey Weinstein was found guilty of rape. He is facing trial for four additional counts. (I realize I don’t normally delve into topics like this, but bear with me a minute, please.) If convicted on these additional charges, Weinstein faces a max sentence of 25 years.
The definition of rape is: To take something by forceful robbery or spoiling.
Most people would agree that rape is a violent crime, even when a weapon is not directly involved. A black man, in America, who is convicted of one violent robbery could face up to 25 years in prison. Tell me, how is this justice then, regarding what Weinstein has done? (And mind you, there are many other women. Twenty years ago, women were warning Hollywood newcomers to steer clear of him.)
It is worth noting: I have been clear that while I believe Weinstein is a monster. I also believe that he was shaped to become such, by an industry of powerful men who abused women in every possible manor, simply to keep them dependent and controllable. Why should a woman’s life have little value? The effects of psychological trauma and sexual assault, at the hands of Weinstein AND men like him, shape her life in unimaginable ways and will stay with her until she dies…
*I’m not even going to talk about the health or political nightmares continually on rotation, in the news… My point is, that the news is a VERY small portion of what real life looks like. As I type this, my dear friend is sitting vigil, waiting for a family member to pass. My own mother in law lost her sister, this weekend. A sweet friend experienced a terrifying moment with her son yesterday. A dear friend is grieving the loss of her baby girl… Miscarriages are happening; terminal diagnosis are being given; marriages are ending, and the loved ones belonging to every day people, are taking their last breaths…
The news is overwhelming, because LIFE is overwhelming.
When we allow ourselves to be consumed by all of the negative- getting swept up in all of the FEAR directed our way- we will drown. Maybe our heart will go on beating, but surviving is not living.
I’m encouraging us to change the way we see things, starting TODAY.
Acknowledge the hard things with grace and love.
Extend kindness whenever possible.
Listen to our instincts when they encourage us to fill a gap. (tell her she looks pretty in that sweater, offer to bring a family a meal, buy that person’s coffee, etc…)
Keep stock (an actual list, if possible) of the beautiful things happening around you. Big things, small things, even if all you can find is that first sip of your morning coffee, when the flavor and temperature are just right. We HAVE TO CLING to the good bits with FAR MORE tenacity than we reflect on the bad.
Yesterday was a hard news day.
Yesterday was a hard day, for a lot of people I love.
It is quite possible that yesterday was overwhelming for you too.
Yesterday is over. Sure, there are ways its contents can reach into today, and beyond, but we can’t worry about yesterday anymore.
Focus on TODAY. Find your things, and hold on tight…
Today is February 10th, which happens to (oddly enough) be National Umbrella Day. If you’ve been around me long, you know that this girl LOVES all things umbrella. Today was made for me!
The other thing I love, (honestly, more than umbrellas) is the joy that I have in engaging and being a part of this beautiful community of women that has blossomed out of the Collective Podcast. I consider myself so blessed, every single day! Just last night, I fell asleep thanking God for this gift of knowing these AMAZING women. My life is honestly better, because of them.
I am really passionate about supporting others. If you are on my email list then you certainly got an earful, on this topic, in February’s note. (eyeful? earful? Whatever…) The bottom line, in case you missed it, (and why? You really should sign up, you’re missing out!) is that we should be supporting our artists and creatives. The internet is filled with content, like blog posts, photos, inspiration, podcast episodes, videos, etc, of these people who pour pieces of themselves into this content FOR FREE, simply because it is in their blood.
In our blood.
In MY blood.
It takes actual hard work to put these things together, and since they are passion projects, there is no paycheck sitting there, come friday.
Moral of the story, support your creatives! We all NEED beautiful things around us, and we will definitely see a lot more value in our investment if we offer it to them, over the big box, corporate greed. Just a few reminders, and some suggestions…
These are both ways to support me, without it costing you much.
Listening the podcast will not cost you anything but time, well spent, and it helps TREMENDOUSLY! Subscribing, rating and sharing it is so helpful! We all know women who can benefit from the stories, experiences and community of others…
I also have an Amazon storefront, and JUST added three fun shops for spring and Lit lovers…
Beyond me though, there is the Personal ShopHER Directory of women who own small artisan businesses. Have some shopping to do? Continue looking there first!
These are all AWESOME ways to help support me as I write and continue to move forward, connecting with and empowering women within the Collective community- sure. But, we all know creatives- from indie authors, to painters, photographers to musicians. Dream along with them, and help them create big! Each and every person, in this world, needs a team of strong believers supporting them and helping them out! As we watch the news and feel overwhelmed with the sadness around us- this is one practical and easy way we can make a huge impact for change.