Disrupting Your Own Negative Inner Dialogue

Well, that’s what you get?

While gently leaning into a yoga pose and reflecting on my feelings, this is what I heard myself say. I was shocked at the lack of compassion in that voice. A voice that found its origin somewhere inside of myself.

It made me angry. Who even says that? Oh, right. Me.

In the hours leading up to the yoga class, my heart had been aching and I felt like I was going to cry. Two separate events had come careening towards me threatening two different kinds of catastrophe. Although I had managed to fix the problems, I was emotionally spent. Despite my fears of inconsolably crying on a yoga mat in a room full of people, I decided to take all of my feels to a yoga class.

#myfeelsI’m so glad I did. In the process of calling myself on my own bullshit, I learned a few things I thought you could benefit from too.

3 steps to disrupting your own negative inner dialogue.

Quiet your surroundings. Hear yourself speak. Had I not found some quiet time, I may not have ever heard the voice in my head telling me that I deserve to be in pain for choosing to do the work I do. I needed to be on my mat and in my breath to hear that super awful message loud and clear.

Some tips: Go on walks without your iPod. Turn off the radio in your car. Fold laundry without Netflix. Get on your mat and practice or meditate. Journal before bed.

Listen to yourself. What you say to yourself is important. That very simple phrase had the power to prevent me from asking for help or seeking compassion from those around me. If I’m constantly telling myself that I deserve to suffer, than I will suffer. The end.

Tips: When you’re approaching heartaches, obstacles, emotions, what are you saying to yourself? Are you calling yourself nasty names or telling yourself you’re unworthy? Are you saving your compassion for everyone else? Listen for patterns or reoccurring themes.

Challenge yourself. When I heard that phrase float through my mind, I nearly bolted out of my yoga pose. It was mean and unhelpful. Once I challenged it, I found it completely untrue and can now dismiss the thought if it ever comes around again.

Tips: When you hear yourself being negative, challenge the statements that you throw at yourself. Respond with the opposite sentiments. Where there is a lack of compassion, give yourself some loving kindness.

That phrase has now evolved into this one:

“With my heart work comes personal transformation but only when I am brave enough to inspect the wound.”

What will your negative inner dialogue transform into once you challenge it?10421337_10152916021378588_1898813583640583186_n

Sincerely,

Why I Don’t Dance on Graves.

I thought I would happily dance on his grave. I had the quote all ready for this year’s calendar.

“Every step I take for survivors feels like I’m dancing on his grave.”

Jena and I lined up the shot. I was going to walk like a bad ass between some headstones in an old cemetery. The lighting was perfect and I asked Heather to use her hair and makeup artistry to make me look like I wanted to get into a fight.

Whatever that means.

It was in this moment that I realized that I am not the kind of girl that goes dancing on graves. I don’t make a habit of adding insult to injury. I love restoration, healing and connection. I wish the bad guys well in their fight against their personal demons.

Every year, the Soulfire Project brings new revelations. This is why I have decided to honor the stories of survivors through the online collaborative story telling series of Why I told again this year.

RSVP on Facebook!

Last year, many of you shared what inspired you to disclose the sexual trauma you endured. You spread the word across every social media platform. You inspired and encouraged survivors and allies to break the silence.

Let’s do it again!

Where: Share your #WhyItold story on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

When: Midnight on October 20th until Midnight on October 21st.

How: Join me on Sunday, October 18th at 4 p.m. EST in a Google Hangout. Click here to sign up. I’ll be there with ideas, prompts and guidelines. You must be over 18 to participate.

For those of you who have never shared your story before, I’ll be there to encourage you. I’ll also likely have a glass of wine, some light snacks and a comfy place to sit. I suggest you do the same.

Can’t make it? Sign up anyway and I’ll send you some sweet info to get you started.

The Twist: I will be turning this year’s collection into an Anthology! If you’re interested in contributing something you’ve written, you can check a box during sign up and I’ll send you guidelines shortly.

I will be reflecting on why I don’t dance on graves. What will you share?

Sincerely,

PS – Need some inspiration? Check out these powerful images from Soulfire 2015. These 12 Survivors All Battled Sexual Trauma with the Same Secret Weapon

What can the world count on you for?

That’s what my #truthbomb asked me.

Actually, it was phrased like this.
count on

I held the question written in pretty handwriting on it’s little white card in my hand. I leaned back into my chair and thought about what the world could count on me for.

I was at a point in my life where I was overwhelmed with the work to be done in the world. That point in my life seems to have encompassed much of my twenties and all of my thirties. Darfur, orphans, refugees, cancer and sexual trauma in addition to what is now sitting on the world’s agenda. Honestly, the locations of the horrors, the oppression and the devastation just changes. It doesn’t end.

I am not being a martyr here. I’m hoping many of you can relate. If you participate in social media, you probably feel like you know too much. The images and videos flashing on your screen are disturbing but you feel some deep responsibility to bear witness. In this current moment I was struggling with what my role could or should be within other social justice movements that I support but have no active or vocal role.

What can we count on you for?

This question. Have you ever seen a video of a mobile of the solar system when it reaches a point when all of the planets align? That’s what this question began to do for me. As I kept repeating the words to myself, I found that I had made promises to the world and in order to keep them, I would have to limit my focus.

For one, I promised that I would raise three good people when I gave birth to three healthy beings. I have made promises about the care of children I serve through my foundation. I have promised a certain kind of friendship to those I am lucky enough to call friends. I have promised to be a good sister, daughter, niece and granddaughter. I have promised to be a good neighbor.

And oh, the promises I’ve made about the kind of person I want to be!

I have made a lot of promises. The world counts on me for a lot and I happily oblige. This is not grunt work for me. This is heart work. It makes me sing – even in the trenches with shit up to my ankles. I’m singing whether the songs be of sorrow or, as I called it to a friend earlier today, my own version of panic at the disco.

Deciding what the world could count on me for made it much easier for me to discern what I cannot be involved with at this time. In this season of my life, the world cannot count on me to volunteer for other nonprofits (unless it’s behind the scenes). The world will have to do without my leadership in other causes because I have chosen my soapbox and my torch to bear. The world cannot count on me to bake for the bake sale or always be the parent volunteer. I don’t bake and I am a working mother. This makes me so grateful for the parents who bake and who are there when I cannot be.

The world can count on them for that.

When you decide what the world can count on you for, you can allow others the opportunity to step it up. If you are not there to do it, someone will either get it done or decide it’s just not important enough to be a priority. That is the magic of allowing others the opportunity to rise to the occasion.

I believe that my yes must carry the same weight as my no. If I over commit, my family, team and friendships suffer. They have to tow the line, go the extra mile, do without and find ways to make the ends of my time meet their needs. It’s not fair and that expectation is not a declaration of my love for the personal relationships in my life as much as it is a side effect of my ambition.

Ambition with a dose of disregard is like a logging company in the Amazon. It will only lead to destruction.

Saying yes. The kind of yes you almost yell. Saying the kind of yes that makes you sit up late at night dreaming, get up early for meetings and show up with a mind open to learning the ropes – even if it means taking two steps backwards – is well worth saying no as many times as you need to.

When you decide what the world can count on you for and you don’t stray, you will shine. Because truly, the world has been waiting for you to bring it the way only you can.

Meryl that's all
This is not me but I wish it was.

So, friend. What can we count on you for?

Shinin’,

Tashmica's signature

PS – The question of when and how to say no has come up in the #militantselfcare Facebook group. Join the conversation here.

Healing happens in a place of safety.

-You deserve to live in wide open fields

“Did you hear what you just said?”

I didn’t. I had been rambling about my boys. I leaned back into the chair in my therapist’s office to think. The tree branches behind me snatched at my curls.

Yes. My therapist has a tree in her office that is constantly getting stuck in my hair.

I love it.

“That your boys are physical….”

She paused like a teacher giving the pupil a moment to catch up.

“Yes?” I said with my brow furrowed.

And…you love it.” she said slowly.

My hands shot up to my face. I peered at her between two hands pressed against my cheeks. I repeated the answer.

“And I love it.”

I whispered those words in disbelief and then the tears came. I bowed deeply in my chair and beneath that listening tree with relief. Tears of joy spilled forward and then I wiped my face and said,

“I almost made it through an entire session without crying.” Laughing I continued, “You fucking ruined it.”

She laughed but her eyes were harboring quickly escaping tears too.

You may not remember but there was a time where touch felt like the enemy. Connection and intimacy felt like a cheese grater on my soul. My healing required an end to passive consent. My soul needed some time to seek out it’s true loves. My body needed to learn what is safe, safe, safe…I am safe here.

I am safe here.

The little girl I was, the little girl in need of a constant barrier between her heart and connection is leaning into connection and intimacy. She is letting go of her shield. She is slowly backing away from the tools used to fortify walls. She is coming out to play, love, gaze, connect.

I love this girl. I love how she gazes into the eyes of her children. I love how she understands that criticism doesn’t mean that she is bad, dirty or broken. I love that she listens and can lie under a pile of freshly bathed and pajama dressed boys with wild abandon.

I love that she doesn’t seem to feel trapped anymore or not as much.

I have learned that healing happens in a place of safety.

-You deserve to live in wide open fields

I feared that my trauma was stealing joy from me and my children. Honestly, it did steal joy for a time until something shifted.

The story I told my therapist:

I held one of my sons in my arms. I gazed into his eyes and I simply paused. I didn’t move. I let him bathe in my love for him. It was like a freeze ray. He couldn’t remove himself from my adoration. I felt like I might be staring at him like a creep.

“Children don’t stare. They gaze.”

My therapist interjected that tidbit. Science has proven that when you are making eye contact with an infant and you stop, there is an immediate change in their brain chemistry. That chemical reaction identifies our basic need for attachment.

I held him and gazed at him until he was ready to go. All filled up with love.

My oldest son feels no shame about kissing his mother goodbye. My middle son starts his days by leaning into me with his face tilted upwards for a kiss.

“Good morning, momma.”

My boys are physically affectionate and I love it. It has taken 3 years but I am the mother I always wanted to be.

Fearlessly affectionate, hilariously embarrassing and stingy with the ice cream.12015233_10153641036623588_5375878501296692331_o

But mostly that first one.

Healing up,

Tashmica's signature

PS – Let’s talk about this more. Join me here.

My mom is a Fireworker

The other day, I allowed my two youngest to take our dog Lucy around the block for a little walk. Armed with the required walkie-talkies, I watched them meander down the street together. They turned the corner and I turned up my walkie-talkie.

I sat on the porch with my laptop and opened my email. *sigh* Peace and quiet.

“MOM, CAN OUR FRIEND COME OVER TO PLAY?”

Isaac always yells into the walkie-talkie. It’s like he’s not sure he can trust the thing to carry his voice.

“Sure, honey.” I said.

In about 2 minutes they came galloping my way with a little boy I’d never seen before. According to my boys (and confirmed later by my guy), they’d met him before during other walks. They arrived happy and ready to play with their new buddy. Levi reached for the door and I stopped him.

“Baby, we’re gonna play on the porch. I don’t know your friend’s parents yet. It’s for safety.”

He complained a little but I offered up Legos on the porch. Challenge accepted!

image

The boys began to talk and build. They negotiated for pieces and created storylines. They came over to show me their new creations and to tattle. Eventually, things got personal and Levi told his new friend,

” My mom’s name is Tasha and she’s a Fireworker.”

I giggled a little inside wondering what that translated into in the mind of my little one and his friend. I thought about Firemen and Fire eaters. I thought about jugglers with torches burning bright and welders. And then I thought about my work with The Firecracker Foundation.

A fireworker?

Our first vacation of the summer was spent near Charlevoix at Fisherman’s Island State Park. Some families have Disney, some go to concerts. We go to Fisherman’s Island. While I was there making memories with my boys, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar sat down with Megyn Kelly for an interview.

I read about it and gathered three main points:

  • Consent is not required if your victim doesn’t really remember what happened.
  • The Duggars’ were okay with giving Josh time to get right with God while sacrificing the safety of their daughters and a family friend. Favoritism much?
  • And it’s all fine because forgiveness, you guys. Be cool.

I took a few deep breaths and then set about writing a response to 7 main points in this article. By the time I was finished unleashing the fury, I had nearly 3,000 words. Many edits later and I was ready to offer up 1,000 words to xoJane.

It was published on June 15, 2015 at 5 p.m.

I was really excited to be published on such a wonderful site. But I was over the moon to be able to offer some insights on the appropriate ways to respond to child sexual abuse – especially to communities of faith.

My perpetrator and father was a Christian and even served as a youth pastor for a short time. My faith has been complicated, lost, challenged, found and restored through the process of healing. As I delved deeper into the world of advocacy for child survivors, I witnessed the victim-blaming, slut-shaming and outright protection of perpetrators carried out my so-called houses of faith.

It makes my blood boil.

I don’t expect to agree with ever tenet of the many diverse religions that make up our beautiful world. I do expect that we can agree that no one ever deserves to be assaulted, it is never the victim’s fault and perpetrators should have legal and social consequences for their actions.

I will not lower my expectations. I expect the Godly to raise theirs.

My favorite Bible verse has remained with me throughout my life. It’s actually kind of a violent passage all about the Lord’s vengeance against the wicked. Psalms 10:17-18 declares that the God of the Hebrews ‘defends the fatherless and the oppressed.

As a fatherless child and one experienced in oppression, it feels good to know that the Judeo-Christian God, the God of the Duggars, is a self-described, violent defender of the abandoned and marginalized.

Don’t mistake me as someone who believes that violence is the answer. I don’t but like most, I enjoy the idea of a God willing to kick a few asses for the children. Similar to how I love Iron Man for being both a hero and a narcissist.

I feel like this section is going to give us both problems so I’m going to move on.

When I told my family about this new milestone for my writing, they decided it would be appropriate to set some things on fire in my honor. Fireworks. They wanted to set off some fireworks.

Lucky for them, I purchased a red lantern while we were on vacation but we never used it. My husband and I walked down to the park holding hands. Lucy came with while the boys biked ahead. It was windier than we expected so we settled the bottom of the lantern into the hollowed out section of a stump and lit it up.

We struggled to hold it down until the heat could fill the inside but the wind kept blowing the sides in. We were afraid it would catch fire before it could get over the trees around us. I realized the problem was our grip. We had to let it go. We had to stop struggling against its need to soar.

My story has resided in the gentle hands of a loving family and then a supportive hometown community. I have always been a little worried awaiting the trolls. Maybe that’s why I’ve never submitted anything before. If I never cross the bridge, the trolls won’t be compelled to attack me.

I’ve been protecting the brave little girl in me from the strangers.

My story, who I am and what I do is important. It’s important and it’s growing faster than I can handle or control. It leaves me breathless and overwhelmingly grateful. It leaves me shaken and filled with sorrow. It leaves me exhilarated and exhausted.

It leaves me like a little red lantern, blazing and ready to soar.

I suppose Levi has given me the most appropriate title of all.

Yours,

The Fireworker

Would you like a sandwich? Talking consent with my son.

I’m not one for hiking.

I love nature and all, but I don’t go out of my way to roll in it. I typically go for meandering walks with my three boys and little dog in tow. Last Friday, we decided to go to the Ledges at Fitzgerald Park after school. Again, not because it’s something we typically do but because school is almost out for summer.

I’ve been asking the boys to contribute to a list of things we’d like to learn, places we’d like to visit and things we’d like to try while enjoying their summer break from school.

In preparation for their return home, I’m shoving things into the tiny spaces of my calendar. I’m building even bigger fences for my beautiful lines in the sand and readying my home for the storm that is three growing boys. I know they haven’t exactly been away at boarding school but for 6 blessed hours a day, they’ve been at school.

It kind of feels like I’m battening down the hatches.

I’ve got lots to say about preparing my nonprofit entrepreneur life for the challenges of summer break but today, I’m going to talk about the Duggars.

More specifically, the topic of consent.

Even more specifically, that time I had an awkward conversation with my 11 year old son while hiking the ledges about consent, sexual assault, sex and sandwiches. Not exactly in that order but all of those things were discussed. Stick with me here.

As with most problems, it all began with NPR. I’ve been really into podcasts lately. I listen to them while doing dishes, walking to the office, folding laundry, pulling weeds. You name it. If there’s a quiet span of monotonous work, I’m listening to either The Moth, Being Boss, Invisible Office Hours, On Being…you get it.

At around the time that the past crimes of Josh Duggar were being splashed across the web, I had just listened to an episode of This American Life called Birds & Bees.

The byline had read:

Some information is so big and so complicated that it seems impossible to talk to kids about. This week, stories about the vague and not-so-vague ways to teach children about race, death and sex – including a story about colleges responding to sexual assault by trying to teach students how to ask for consent. Also, a story about how and when to teach kids about the horrors of slavery and oppression in America.

Okay. Sure. Let’s give that a listen.

It was thought-provoking and the individuals interviewed brought insights that made me consider my own language regarding these topics.

Especially the segment that detailed the experience of a facilitator teaching consent on a college campus. There were many moments where male students were very vocal about their confusion about what consent means. Honestly, it sounded to me like one of my kids looking for away around following the rules.

It’s cool. That’s often how developing minds expand.

You can listen to the podcast (highly recommended) but basically, they wanted answers to questions like;

What if she said yes earlier in the day?

Wouldn’t checking in ruin the mood?

What if we’ve both been drinking?

Scary stuff. As universities across the country work to educate men on how not to rape rather than teaching women to prevent rapes from happening to them, these questions were indicative of just how much more work there is to do.

Fast forward to Friday morning. Josh Duggar sexually abused children in his own home as a teenager. Some of the girls he victimized were his own sisters.

You’ve probably read the headlines. Unless you’ve decided you’ve had enough terrible news about teens sexually assaulting other teens or children and adults covering it up and/or blaming the victim. I know I’m pretty tired of this story.

Exhausted in my bones.

Here’s where this story hit me.

The Duggars practice a faith that I disagree with but they are clearly parents who are trying to raise Godly people. Does their definition of Godly and my definition of Godly align?

Girl. Nah.giphy

But they love their children and they have invested their entire lives into homeschooling their children and separating them from the immoral, sinful world chocked full of people like me. People that dance, drink, get tattoos, accidentally swears, works outside of the home, don’t have a particular church called home and allow children to watch superhero movies that are rated PG13.

If there’s a slippery slope, I’m surfing that bitch with wild abandon.

As I’m reading the stories, I’m getting scared. I’m thinking if these people can’t raise a son that can honor the bodies of little girls in his home, including his beloved sisters, than how the hell am I going to raise 3 sons to be good men?

This is where my mind was at as we stepped onto the trail at Fitzgerald Park. I’m not saying this was a correct mindset. I’m just being completely honest and letting you into my mildly over-reactive brain.

My oldest son held my hand as I turned to him and began to tell him about Josh Duggar.

Yes, I have a tween that will still hold my hand. BOSS.

I explained what Josh Duggar did in language I decided was appropriate. I expressed how saddened I was by the story. I used the word sex but I didn’t giggle or blush.

I was a total adult. Then I asked him,

Do you know what consent is?

He said he didn’t know that word.

Well, let me give you an example. If we were home right now and I asked you if you wanted a sandwich, what would you say?

He shrugged and said, “I’d say yes.”

You just consented to a sandwich. You could have withheld consent by saying no and you can withdraw consent at anytime if you change your mind.

He understood. Phew. Now on to the tricky stuff. I explained the podcast I’d heard and the questions the college students had asked. I said,

Some people think that if someone gives consent they can’t change their mind later. They can’t withdraw it after it’s been given. So if a girl says she wants to have sex and then changes her mind….

And then my son interrupted me to say,

Well, that’s silly. What she says now trumps what she said before.

YAHTZEE!

Collect yourselves. It’s too early to celebrate. I had follow up questions and concerns.

I’m so glad you feel that way. I just worry. You know? I do the best I can to make sure that you and your brothers understand things like this. I try to have the important conversations with you but if people like the Duggars with all of their focus on holiness can muck it up, what can I say to make sure you guys understand.

Mom, I don’t know. I mean, you’re the parent.

Damn. That’s true. A point that makes the reaction of the Duggar parents all the more maddening. As parents, your job is to not only teach the lessons. Your job is to hold your children accountable when they break them. It’s not easy but it is necessary.

Also, can we just agree that modesty cannot be the scale by which we measure how much our children deserve to be sexually assaulted? Instead, let’s send the message that your judgement of an individual’s morality is not grounds to associate their being with a lesser value.

Let’s agree that even if you think someone is behaving immodestly – totally using Duggar language here – you still don’t get to sexually assault them and blame them for your disgusting, criminal behavior.

No one deserves to be sexually abused or assaulted. Ever.

WORLD, WHY CAN’T WE AGREE ON THESE SIMPLE IDEAS?

There’s so much more about this that bothers me but I thought I’d focus on a conversation that can benefit our families and our communities.

Consent. Teach it. Add it to the list of things you plan to teach your children about this summer. Use metaphors like sandwiches.

Or the next time a little girl says she doesn’t want to be photographed, don’t. Show her you deleted the image and thank her for telling you how she feels. Recognize that she owns her body and the right to opt out of you taking pictures of it.

Or the next time a teen cringes at being hugged, step off. Better yet, start by offering a high five or a hug. Give options. Not everyone wants a hug from you. It’s true!

The next time you witness your child stepping into a friend’s space without consent, teach them to check in while the stakes are just Legos and unwanted squirts from a water gun.

It is so very important.

Sincerely,

Tashmica

PS – I really enjoyed this post about teaching consent to children. Check it out and then share one of your favorites in the comments.

Bird has a job.

I’ve been struggling all day with how I am going to break this story down and give it to you in short form. This weekend I went to the Bronx for my first official research trip. *trumpet blast*

It was a trip full of deep emotions and strong words. Words like;

Villain. Deliverance. Refract.

Other phrases followed me in the door as I arrived home. Like the scarves you tie to luggage to help you identify your belongings in a crowded baggage claim, they wafted off of handles and out of pockets.

The Land of Make Believe. Parallel lines.

Let’s begin this story with a new platitude that I feel very strongly could become the next big thing.

Nothing bad ever happens over a slice of pizza.

pizza

Like all other platitudes and positive affirmations, there’s exceptions to this rule but dang, don’t you agree that this should be a universal truth. If bad stuff happens, it should never happen over pizza.

Good friends make excellent mirrors. Jena & Me.
Good friends make excellent mirrors.

Over a slice of pizza, my friend Jena told me that she was shooting a wedding in New York and asked me if I’d like to come along. I said I’d check my calendar and see if I could swing it.

“I have to do some research there anyway.”

It took a few weeks of moving things around on the calendar but in the end, it worked out. I didn’t tell anyone I was going. If you know me, you know that there’s not often a thought that passes between my ears that I don’t blurt out.

I was nervous.

Technically, this was the first trip I had accidentally planned for the specific purpose of researching my father’s life. At the time, it seemed like a convenient, economical way to begin the process. Plus, I’d have the support of my friend to help me through any of the rougher spots.

Every idea seems like a good one at the time. (It was a good idea but we’re not at that part of the story today.)

After 15 hours of traveling, Jena and I approached the city in our rental car. She squealed, “Yaaay, we’re almost there.”

I sheepishly squealed back. Or maybe I said,“Baa…”

Nope. It was definitely a squeal.

Suddenly a tsunami sized wave of self-doubt came crashing into me. Hard. I felt a shortness of breath as I looked at the city stretching out around us for miles of darkness marked by sparkling lights. I was suddenly confronted with a very harsh and unrelenting interrogator.

Who do you think you are? You think you can just come into this city and ask questions? Who do you think you are that you deserve answers at all?

The voice in my head kept berating me and I slowly leaned over, put my head between my knees and started to do some deep breathing. I steadied myself and eventually, the voice quieted down a bit. At least it quieted to a volume that allowed me to hear my own thoughts.

The days that followed found me challenged. I asked questions that resulted in 3 different reactions.

  1. Here is your answer.
  2. You don’t want to know.
  3. I don’t remember.

And maybe there was one more.

4. You’ll never understand.

For the answers, I was grateful. For the rest, I was insistent. I tried to balance being respectful of a place in time many didn’t want to revisit and honoring my own right to know about my father.

In front of my Great-Aunt Catherine's apartment.
In front of my Great-Aunt Catherine’s apartment.

It felt like balancing on a tight rope at times. The tension in my own spirit was difficult to carry and the self-doubt kept revisiting me every time an answer was hard to extract. Always reminding me that I would never find the answers I was looking for. Always cajoling me to move on and let it go.

I cannot.

I was not my father’s only victim. I have known that for a while but I was not aware of the full story. I was able to hear more than I ever heard before. I was able to look into eyes, hold hands and drink in the energy in the room.

As a side note, that story only came to be known through my willingness to share my story. From that, there was a seeking of deliverance and healing.

Dear Self-doubt, Suck it.

I learned that they called my dad by the nickname, ‘Country.’ He came to the city by way of Anderson, North Carolina. He was a big, strong, country boy that people feared and loved. I saw the hospital where he was born. I met friends who knew him as a teenager. When I asked one friend about his gang life, he told me that my father was a villain but he loved him very much.

It lead us to have a conversation about how we all have a dark side. It made me think of all of the people in my life that I had loved regardless of serious character flaws. It made me wonder how his friends would feel if they knew what he did to me.

I didn’t tell them. I’m not sure why.

I think we all tend to think of good and evil as parallel lines. We think of them as living in a 3 dimensional space and never intersecting. But they do. They are as intertwined and inseparable as bones and flesh.

I am tired today. I’ve spent much of the weekend trying to do the opposite of what I want to do: shut down.

I’ve cooked healthy foods for myself. I’ve allowed myself to get completely sucked into mundane tasks. I’ve listened wholeheartedly to my children. I’ve been to yoga and gone on walks. I’ve returned to my blessed present.

I even watched a few movies and was hit by this phrase from Cold Mountain.

Bird has a job. Shit has a job. Seed has a job.

As I stood outside of the housing projects my father lived in, I listened to others talk about their experiences living there. I remembered how much my father wanted the lives of my brother and I to be better. He never wanted us to return to the place where he lived as a villain.

11147903_10203134145953987_9193105674401880192_o
Aunt Deborah & Me

He wanted us to live in a home where the Cosby’s were our role models. He wanted us to live in a community where drugs wouldn’t be involved in our daily interactions. He wanted us to speak properly and stand up straight. He wanted us to be educated and took us to museums we passed on road trips.

He gave us a good life amidst the evil he was doing in secret.

Shit had a job. 

On Sunday afternoon, I practiced yoga in the back of the class with 3 young survivors of sexual trauma and their parents and guardians. On their way out the door, I gave them new art sets and neon sparklers. I chose not to write them a note inside it. I left the pages blank in honor of their ability to tell their story in the way that they want to.

Like me.

Seed has a job.

After my travels were over, I said goodbye to my friends and sat on my couch. Other than to meet my basic needs, I didn’t get up again until that yoga class forced me up and out the door. I sat shell shocked watching episodes of Parenthood.

If you’ve ever seen that show, you probably already know that as far as a tool to wrench choked back tears from your body, that show is the top of the line. On a normal day, I cry at the end of every episode.

Seriously. The show has some tear inducing magic spell attached to it.

There’s always a sort of hangover effect that comes with doing this research. It’s like my heart gets locked up, my tears are frozen to the inside of my eyelids and I can feel my body twisting into the knots sailors must’ve used to keep their sails tied down in the worst of storms.

I have learned through this process that it’s my job to unlock, defrost and untie. It’s my job to unbind myself from any negative energy, any scary remnants of the past and any emotions waiting to be released in a safe space.

I sat on my couch and I waited to cry. It took an episode or two but sure enough, Max got into that really great school and I cried. Once the dam was broken, I jumped into the waters that rushed through. I was gone. Crying my eyes out and it felt good.

Bird has a job.11268367_1040474219326260_1577484150989361945_n

Sincerely,

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