What is going on?

Can’t sleep tonight.  My mind is all over the place trying to make sense of some tragic news and other situations that, while not as tragic as the murder and suicide attempt, are still tough to watch as a friend.

Has me thinking about the fragility of mental health.  On one hand, I am watching a friend I love experience what I can only describe as full-blown hypochondria.  I have never witnessed this in my life.  Sure, I’ve joked about it and haphazardly labeled a person or two “hypochondriacs” for suddenly acquiring life-threatening diseases immediately after watching an episode of Dr. Oz.  But this is real, daily-life disturbing stuff my friend is dealing with and it’s painful to watch.  No amount of test results and assurance from physician after physician is able to convince him that he’s perfectly healthy.  Every single thing that happens in his body sends him off to a specialist for more tests, more hunting to find the inevitable doomsday diagnosis.  And it seems completely out of the blue to me.   I am definitely finished poking fun at folks and using that word lightly.  This is serious and is ruining my friend’s quality of life.

And then, a recent murder/suicide attempt (the murder was completed) that  is in the news involves people I know and dear friends of people I love.  I don’t know what to do with it.  What happens that drives someone to just snap one day and decide to take out a loved one (or two , or five) and then take one’s own life?  What’s that process?  It has to be more than depression because there are plenty of depressed people – plenty!  What drives someone over the edge?  Where is the edge?

My boss recently accused me of having a “strong constitution” in the face of some challenges she has learned about my path the last few years and  some particular struggles this summer.  Do I?  Is that it?  Some folks have “a strong constitution” and some don’t?  You might wonder why this worries me so much – if I’m sane, then relax.  Why fret?  Well, I worry and wonder because, in my view of the universe and such, I don’t see myself as all that different from any other human being.  I am capable of the same things any other human is capable of, for better or for worse.  There, but for grace, go I.

I worry because I don’t want to snap one day.  I can definitely remember a point, during the worst of the worst in my marriage, that I asked Ex to get rid of the gun.  I’m sure he thought (and told people) that I was suicidal or something but the truth was that I was experiencing rage and hatred for him like I had never felt in my life and quite honestly, I was afraid of what I was capable of.  The gun was gone the next day, I’m sure.  I don’t know exactly because I never opened the drawer where it used to be again.

So many ways this post could go if I were writing to pontificate about whether I believe in grace or, if  I do,what that means for me.  Or, if I wanted to talk about gun control and  whether I think that has any bearing on the rash of murder/suicides recently.  But this isn’t a political or philosophical post.  It’s just a girl worried about a friend and worried about friends who I know are wondering if there’s anything they could have done to have prevented this tragedy.

I don’t know that I expected to come to any conclusions by the end of this — but it has, at least, helped me to clarify my questions.

Be well and folks, please, take care of yourselves.  I mean that with everything in me.  Strong constitution or not, I am committed to self-care.  I believe in the power of love to heal mind, body and spirit. I believe that all can be healed when we are courageous enough to look our realities square in the face, name what needs to be named, feel the pain fully and completely, express it however it comes out and regard  and embrace all that is felt as part of our humanity.  Some people heal in therapy, others in walks along the shore, others in reiki treatments, through writing, or drawing, or dancing, or ritual, or prayer.  We all must find our own way.  But find it.  Hurt people hurt people.  Heal yourself.

Peace,

Lex

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Rumination on Ending a Marriage

Well, here I sit in my living room, 15 hours away from officially ending a 15 year relationship. I dated my very-soon-to-be-officially Ex for 5 years before we married. We will have been married 9 years, 4 months and 24 days tomorrow…so I’ve rounded up –15 years! That’s a long time. Tonight I have purposed to sit at my computer and just let my thoughts flow. In my mind, my marriage was over when I moved out in April of 2005–but not really. It’s not really over for another 15 hours.

I am currently–this week, this month, this year–the happiest I have ever been in life. On one hand, yes, it’s because I’m getting divorced tomorrow and I will finally have closure with that. But more than that, I am happy because I feel like me again. My mom and a friend from kindergarten told me within a day of each other that they are glad to have the real Lexi back. Wow! I was stunned by that statement. Sometimes it’s hard to realize how much of ourselves we’ve lost, how far we’ve strayed from our true selves, until we’re back.

As a practicing Christian, my relationship with my family became extremely strained. I became very judgmental and arrogant. I can own that now. When I see it in other Christians it disgusts me, not because of who they are, but because of who I was. I drove the biggest wedge between me and my mom. Partly because my judgmental attitude really hurt her, and partly because she refused to put up with my bullshit. I am grateful that she wouldn’t allow me to be an ass to her, even when I thought I was justified. I’m so sorry, Mommy. I love you dearly and I’ll have a drink with you anytime, Love. I swear!

I have the best relationship with my brother but it hasn’t always been this way. My brother is so cool. He’s very laid back, a great musician. He’s a guy with great taste and tremendous class. As I’ve said before, he’s the standard any man has to meet for me to even consider a future with him. Well, I didn’t really know how great my brother was for many, many years. We started out fighting like cats and dogs as most siblings do. Before I knew it he was dating then gone and married. His first marriage was miserable as was mine, and I was so busy being holy that I never took time to hang out with him while he did the cool stuff he did. Apparently my brother has played lots of the jazz clubs in DC and I’ve never been to hear him once! I was clinging so dearly to a life of rigidity that I missed out on the wonderful guy he is. I am so glad I have a chance to be friends with him now, because he’s an amazing guy. I’m so thankful that his new wonderful amazing wife shares him with me. I love you, Rick and I’m so sorry for all the time we’ve missed.

I had a tiny group of friends I was close to in elementary school and throughout middle school. By the time I was beginning high school, I was a full blown Jesus-freak and instantly above my girls. Now, even they would have to admit that it was probably best for me to have skipped out on some of their antics, I still isolated myself from them for years. We have reconnected since my separation and what is true about the best of friends is true about these ladies — it seems like we haven’t missed a beat. I love you girls and I’m so glad we’re in each other’s lives again.

Now it would seem, I suppose, that I blame my sabotage of my relationships on my Christianity. I do not. But I am certain that my marriage to my husband kept me tethered to a belief system and a way of life much longer than I would have stayed in it on my own. The truth is that I fantasized about being out of the ministry, about being out of my marriage and the judgmental family I’d married into. I loathed the thought of bearing children with that last name who would be tainted with a world view that was so far from anything I’d ever read in the Bible. I longed to redeem the day I chose to give my life away for his.

I was in my junior year of college when I started dating Ex. I distinctly remember walking past McKeldin Library at the University of Maryland College Park. I was standing directly in front of the bronze statue of Testudo, our mascot, when I said to myself, “If I’m going to be a pastor’s wife, there is no place in my future for law school. If I’m not going to law school, there’s no point in taking this constitutional law class.” I then made a sharp left, went down to the Mitchell Building and dropped Con Law. I will forever remember this day as the day I lost me.

I did go on to marry Ex and to be a pastor’s wife. I eventually became his assistant pastor. I loathed our lives most days. I felt like I had very little choice about my life’s direction. I felt geographically tethered because of the church. I felt professionally tethered because of our church. I felt relationally tethered because of our church. I felt like I had no privacy. That my life was not my own. That I was living a lie and preaching something I half believed. Needless to say, I quickly began to resent the church and my husband. I asked for us to give it up. I begged to give it up. In fact, I was so caught up in the insanity that even when he wanted to give up, I talked him out of it and continued to resent both the church and him. My church was a very toxic church. I would venture to say that most churches are in one way or another. Ours was in a hundred ways.

I learned within the first 6 months of my marriage that my husband was a chronic liar. That rattled my wheels because, even if I didn’t buy Christianity as much as I pretended to, I really believed in his faith. Day by day I saw more and more of what anyone sees when they are with a liar–more deception, manipulation and the accompanying efforts to cover it up and keep the whole farce afloat. I lost respect for him by the end of the first year, for sure.

That was always his accusation against me–that I didn’t respect him. He was right. I did not, but not for the reasons he would say. I can only assume that he felt insecure because I have more formal education than he has. That never bothered me or cost him my respect. I love hard-working blue collar men, my degrees be damned. I didn’t respect him because he wasn’t respectable. If you will lie to your mother in the face of your wife, holy shit. What else are you lying about, Mister? Well, it took me many years to get to the bottom of it all — well to get close enough to the bottom that I decided I didn’t want to know anymore. Suffice it to say that he had a whole lot of shit going on. I decided to leave with my dignity and my health. I have never, ever regretted that decision and I don’t look back, not for one second.

Once I left I began to remember day by day that I had worth, that I mattered and that I was responsible to become my best self. I couldn’t do that in my marriage. It was toxic and we became toxic to one another. In the last 3 years I have enjoyed the thrill of discovering me, in some ways for the first time. I’ve found my voice. I am secure in my skin. I am living life on my terms and am so full of love and joy and peace. I used to be so pessimistic and, if you remember my early posts, cynical. Sometimes I fall back upon my cynicism because it amuses me, but I don’t depend on it anymore for protection. I have no question in my mind that I have become my own person and I own my destiny. I’m a rock star if only in my own mind. I love me and I love to call out the worth in other people. As I shine I long to see others let their light shine as well.

So, I’m at a turning point. I about to be single again. I am about to begin to entertain the idea of a lasting romantic relationship. I’ll marry the man I can’t imagine life without, should I find him. But I don’t feel like I need to marry ever again if I choose not to. My life is simple and peaceful without having to synchronize schedules, tastes or what have you. Sometimes I do want a simple good morning kiss. The kiss goodbye on my forehead while I was still half-asleep is one of my fondest memories from my marriage. But I will never marry again for the sake of being married. It’s not fair to either party.

If the judge were to ask me if I had anything I’d like to say before he pronounced his judgment it would be this:

Ex, I am really sorry that we could not agree on the truth about our reality. If there were a perfect way to end this marriage, for me it would be for us to both admit all we’ve done to ruin it, forgive one another and continue to be friends who just aren’t good as husband and wife. You know as well as I do that we are oil and water. We tried to force it way longer than we should have. You are who you are and I am who I am. Expressing those realities in a chaotic context, which actually hindered both us from being free to be ourselves, resulted in us both hurting each other deeply. I am sorry for the pain I caused you over the years. I forgive you for the pain you’ve caused me. I wish you well.

I sincerely hope that you find peace within yourself and that you find peaceful and loving relationships in which you can express the genuine love that I know is in your heart. In many ways I always found you to be a really good guy. I still remember those things about you, although it may seem I have forgotten.

I am happy today. I bet that looks like I’m happy to be rid of you but, honestly, my happiness isn’t about you at all. It’s about me. I’ve found me and I’m learning to live the life I was created for. I wish you the same, sincerely. Be well. Be blessed.

So, as much as I was bouncing off of the walls today with excitement, tears roll down my face as I write this. They are cleansing tears. I am so close to closure I can taste it. The time I lost is gone forever but the here and now is mine for the taking. I will approach my new life with passion and zeal always remember the lessons these 15 years have taught me. I am thankful to God for the opportunity to have experienced everyday of the last 15 years. Even my worst days have helped me to cherish the peace and joy I know is mine for the taking.

I am so blessed. I am so blessed. I am so blessed.

Namaste, My Friend. I bid you peace.

P.S. – How could I forget this?

A million-bazillion thanks to all of you who have loved me, supported me, encouraged me, fed me, counseled me, hugged be, housed me, laughed with me, at me, fussed at me, walked with me, cried with me, prayed with me, for me through all of this. Thank you and I can never express how much I love you for it. I would never, ever have gotten to this place of freedom without my absolutely, fabulously amazing friends and family.

To my family, I love the HELL out of each and every one of you. I love you so hard I can’t stand it. You have put up with me in ways no one else will ever know. Thank you for loving me when I was an ass and you couldn’t understand why. Thank you for hearing the whole story, all of the gory details and still loving me. Thank you for rolling up your sleeves with me and getting dirty as we started to deal with a bunch of family stuff I know I stirred up. Thank you for not holding all of my holier-than -thou~ness against me.

A special thank you to Ericka, Greg, Tania, Kwesi, Johnetta and Donnie. You guys gave me a place to lay my head while I figured it all out. I would not have made it without peaceful places to breathe. Thank you so much for everything. I love you all very much.

Thank you to all of you who’ve read my blog since 2005 and encouraged me through all of this. I have gained such strength from so many of you. If I begin to name you all I’ll forget someone, but at that risk–thank you Susan, Chani, Jali, Debbie, HDW, Elle, Tanique, Tanilan, India, Crankster, Macarena, Eslocura, RG, Island Spice, Gela, Andy (my next husband) and CP. You have all touched my life through your writing and sharing. I share this victory with you.

And finally, to the Academy…

…well, my time is up. Thank you.

From My Journal…

I decided to go back and start reading my old journals. I picked up the first one I got to and this is the first entry. I thought I’d share it. It’s nice to see that I have evolved. Sure many of the things I address here are still works in progress, but I am not the same person entirely who wrote these words. Here’s a peek in to my most intimate world, my journal…

13 April 2006

Today and all this week I have been struggling against an anxiety I’m not sure I can explain. I’m not exactly certain what it is connected to — but I know I have avoided this process– my process–journaling–for working these things out.

On the pages of my journals I am forced to see myself — to hear myself in a way that has proven far superior to the muffled meandering thoughts clamoring about inside of me. Getting them out of me helps — and has helped — yet, I’ve avoided it. I’ve been afraid to see.

Part of it is self-censorship. I am afraid of my journals being subpoenaed by ******’s attorney potentially should we ever seem to make it to court. This fear has held me captive. I’ve been blogging a few thoughts — but on my blog I write for an audience. My journal is for an audience of one –and often I have an invited guest with whom I share my thoughts upon these pages. I’m feeling like I’m doing something detrimental to myself by censoring what has proven so therapeutic and what has gotten me to this point in my healing and personal growth.

Yesterday I had unquestionably one of the best days I’ve had in a long time. The sun was shining. I was in a great mood. I had even decided to lay aside some of my cynicism concerning marriage — realizing that it has never protected me before and it won’t protect me now (from going back) or in the future (from making the same miserable mistake of marrying a jerk). I was at least open again to the possibility (no matter how remote) that perhaps, one day I might marry again. I felt good. It was a good day.

Today started out well, I went to a WOCN meeting and in a room of 6 black women I felt somewhat insignificant and fat. They were both horrible feelings. I felt like I didn’t measure up somehow, like the world didn’t love me and yet, I sat in it. I noticed that I didn’t become chatty and try to prove myself or overpower the conversation. I contributed at times and asked more questions than anything. It was different for me.

I felt like I usually do around black women — like my hair was wrong, my clothes were wrong, my stance on certain issues was wrong. I felt like I was on the fringes, like I didn’t fit. It was a familiar feeling.

And yet, on the way home I was – or back to work, rather — I was listening to Michael Baisden’s show about Stolen Innocence: Rape and Molestation. I listened to 2 stores of child sexual abuse from black women and connected deeply. I knew their story and their pain. I fit. I fit too much. It ached and I didn’t want to listen anymore.

I’m tired of being able to connect with women because of my pain. I hate that being a victim of child sexual abuse is what I most often feel I have in common with other black women. This hurts — I didn’t know this is what I’d be writing about.

I feel like my interests are not always appreciated or understood and like I just don’t fit. What DOES it mean to be a black woman in 2006 and is that even how I want or need to be identified?

What is this I’m going through with my hair? Do I really want to be natural or do I just think I should want to be? I never realized how confused I was about my identity as a black woman —

–and then, I shouldn’t be surprised when I’m in the process of trying to unearth identity from beneath the rubble of victimization.

I feel the limbo. I feel the tension, the longing, waiting to see who shall emerge from these ashes.

I long for eyes to see — even if only in small glimpse — who I am, what makes me unique. I’d love to know what others see — not to puff me up. I don’t want to be lied to anymore. I want to know what/who people see when they see me. I long to know my NAME!!!

I went to an interpreting class today and I didn’t get a chance to interpret. I was disappointed. I wanted to be seen. I wanted the affirmation. That’s probably not good. Or is it? I don’t know.

I got an email from ***** today that said just that he was in a meeting and thinking about me. I felt like a million bucks. Is there a day and a time when we are completely convinced of our worth? Does our level of persuasion increase with time?

I believe some good things about myself and that some of the things others have said are true –but I wonder about me sometimes. Things like — why do I read my blog posts over and over again? I am enamored, it seems, of my own voice. Is that narcissistic or am I relishing in the novelty of hearing my own voice? I like to hear my voice in my writing. It somehow makes me seem more real to myself. I become somehow when I hear my own words, my own voice.

I guess in many ways I have been voiceless for a long time. I was without a voice with regard to what I wanted out of life — where my life was going. In my marriage I was doing what ****** wanted — i.e., the church. I would have packed that shit up a long time ago. I was there. I spoke. I believe echoes of my voice came through as I spoke, but I felt stifled — confined. I couldn’t really say what was screaming in my soul. Now I can and I’ve been quite reckless at times, I think. I’ve been really angry — but I’m glad about that. No one really let me be angry about my marriage. God! I kept so much inside. It’s a wonder I’m not ill.

I had not my own voice — but an expected voice in the family. I had a role I was supposed to play and a script to go with it. I was supposed to be obnoxious and cynical to make people laugh. I was supposed to pretend to say what everyone else was thinking — only what we were pretending to think. What a farce. To even feign the unspoken. Wow, truth doubly suppressed.

It’s my new instrument, my voice. I’m enjoying playing with it, tuning it, seeing all it can do. I’m enjoying the feedback. It’s been good for me. Healing. Refreshing.

I like having people respond to me — to Lexi, as she is, where she is at the moment. I want courage to be even freer and not to hold back and self edit as much as I do. I want to say what I really want to say much more often than I have.

I feel the tension leaving my body with every stroke of my pen. I am relaxing. I’m less anxious. I’m writing. It’s healing –it’s me. I’ve never thought of myself as a writer. I guess I never thought I was any good. But which matters most? To be good or to be heard?

Why does it matter that I’m not the best writer ever? I just want my voice to be heard. I don’t need to be the best writer, I am the best instrument to sound my song. No one can play my tune but me. I have a song, it’s mine. It’s mine to sing.

This may prove to be quite a worthwhile exercise after all.