Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Very rough draft of my story

Chapter 1

I have been revisiting my journals. There are so many memories in them. I have always enjoyed writing. It was my passion and my escape. My stories were and are my friends and release. I have thought a lot about writing a novel or some other book besides the poetry and short stories I'm used to. When I go over in my head what I want to write about what comes up first is to write my own story. So that's why I'm going through old journals. I will share many of the entries with you.

As a child I wanted to grow up and be the writer who would write the book that would change the world one day. Change the world? Please, at this point in my life I just wanna let it out. Finally. Honestly. My own stories. My own life. Breathe in and out with no lingering stories there nagging to get out. And right now, they are nagging. Memories, stories, self-conversations popping up at unsuitable times. But are the times ever really unsuitable? They come, I feel, when they are ready to be handled with care, written about, sketched out, set free. My stories are my most consistant company at night. Nudging me, and that's putting it politely, telling me "Let me out next. Me. Ok? Me next."

Life is what it is. We are dealt the cards we're dealt and expectantly play the best hand we can play. I have humbly learned that I am not the accretion of my stories. I am not my bank statements or career choices, height or maritial status. Not my gender or shoe size or gynecological appointments, kept or not. I am not completed by the words I have used to describe myself. Woman, lover, mother, daughter, writer, sister, friend, dot dot dot. I am infinite possibilities and have decided to embrace all of who I am, and who I am not. I embrace all of my experiences, understanding that I needed them to form me into who I am today. Wouldn't take nothin' for my journey now. My experiences are, each of them, the pleasant ones and those that still hurt too much to mention, plainly the corners of my shaping.

I, right now, abdicate my position of right and fautless, knowing that it never existed, accepting that it doesn't matter anyway. I also release, right here in this memoir, my stories. Ok, some of them. I am now of the understanding that what has happened in my life and my stories about what has happened in my life are separate. The drama has always come with me trying to make them the same. They are not. What happened is what happened. I created my stories from my own background and sensitivities and ran with them. Called enough people to validate my point of view and there you have it. Me, the self appointed victim of my life, choosing to pay more attention to the ebb than the flow.

I accept that as I created that position, I am powerful enough to create a new reality. I heretofore create a space and possibility of a life of me achieving my goals, loving myself fully and accepting others as I love and accept myself. I create right now, a journey of success and lessons learned and love given and received. These are my words, wishes, prayers, to God's ear. My story that I share with you.

There is no place to begin to tell your story, you know? Only a place you choose to start. Because later you find places to begin before that moment and you try to go back. And then it happens again. There are places even before that. I am thankful for those places. Those before and before places that allow me the reasons I need to justify my procrastination.

Too many reasons to hold on to stories. But they are lies. Every voice in my head that tells me that I am not good enough. Every whisper that shouts and threatens to tell the world (what the world already knows) that I am a human being. Perfect in all my imperfections. Beautiful in my ugly. Lives are to be lived. Stories to be told. In tracing the steps to tell my story I find myself laughing out loud, at me. It's a funny thing, me revisiting journals. There is always this urge to edit and pretend that I was always this...wise...woman (lol). I wasn't. Who was? Am I even now?

I am honoring myself for the courage to read my journals from forever ago and love the young, silly girl. Sure, I would love to retype them and when he said...and called me a...I looked at him square in the face and said...! Grabbed my bag and walked out and slammed the door! But I didn't. I cried. Hoped he would stay.

One of my favorite parts of The Wisdom Course at Landmark Education was the section on how as adults we are still triggered by things that happened to us as children. Yes, as children when we didn't know how to use or have the tools we needed to properly defend ourselves. So we grow up (physically anyway) and similar things happen and while the adult incidences feel like and seem like isolated incidences, they are only adult versions of what happened to us as children.

I remember once when I was at John Muir Elementary in Long Beach, I don't remember exactly what grade, but I believe it was third. Yes, third because I wasn't on the big playground with the tether balls yet. I was in the cafeteria eating my lunch. That day I was eating alone. Why was I was eating alone? I usually ate with my best friend, Tara and a group of other chatty girls practicing cheers too loud. My name is Robin, yeah! I am a virgo, yeah... But that day I was eating alone.

I sat between two older students who were probably in the fifth or sixth grade. I don't remember why, but for some reason, neither of them wanted me to sit next to them. They didn't know me so I was probably the one designated cootie carrier of the day. The boy, whoever he was, was very big. He was tv sitcom schoolyard bully big. Probably what The Gouch from Different Strokes looked like had we ever got to see him. He had really dark skin and wore his hair in a black fluffy afro. He made some negative remark about me and told his friend, a girl who was also big and dark and wore her hair in short pig tails. Why do I remember short pig tails? Whatever he said to her, she immediately agreed to and didn't want me to sit next to her either. Children! As it was, I was sitting between them. Duh!

He told me to scoot over. And I did. I was a nervous child. Nervous and smart enough to not get into a fight if I didn't have to. Still, not bold enough to defend my boundaries. So, I scooted as much as I could without touching the girl who seemed to be equally grossed out by me and my apparant cooties. "Ugh! I don't want you sittin' by me either. Scoot over!" So I did. Voice! Oh voice! Where are you? Again I scooted as much as I could. The scoot over game went on until the cafeteria coach walked by and heard them taunting me.

I ate my lunch. Silently. Got up. Threw my trash in the appropriate dumpster and went to the playground. The small one without the tether balls. Where I was safe and people wanted me around and I didn't have the cooties.

All these years I held onto that story. I don't think I've ever mentioned it. As an adult I'm triggered by people trying to push me around. Maybe that's where it came from. I don't know, but I don't like it. I don't like it happening to me or to anyone. Thankfully I have grown to use my voice. A voice big and powerful enough to call the foul when I see, feel, hear it.

When we are willing and ready to do the work we can connect our current pains to a pain before the moment we are in. A moment we didn't deal with or haven't healed from. I connect many of my relationship issues from me not taking the time to heal from an incident at only four years old. Sure, I thought I took the time. But for a long time my idea of healing was to just say "God's got it" and then sweep it under the rug. But we have a bigger responsibility to our pain, to ourselves, to our lives than that. But, to our credit, we are doing what we know how to do. A lot of times in church that's all we are taught. To just "let go and let God." And for many in pain that statement falls like a slogan no different from Nike's "Just do it." Or telling a drug addict to "Just say no." Or a rapist that "No means no." Yes, all of those statements are true but they mean nothing without the proper tools to handle real life situations.

I'm in therapy now. Don't be surprised or judgemental about me having a therapist. You probably need one too. I knew it was time for me to do something. I kept repeating patterns in my life that kept getting me the same undesired result. Now, is therapy a subsitute for my spiritual pracitice? Not at all. God is my all. I wake up every morning in prayer and live my day inside of it. Just like I drink tea, take herbs or medicine when I'm ill knowing that those remedies aren't a subsitute for God. Therapy is my gift from God as much as is the $5.99 God blesses me with to buy Tylonol (I know! $5.99 for headache medicine!) Perhaps I sound like I'm going on a bit too much about therapy, but it's an issue, at least within the black community, that is still a little taboo. What does it mean about us? What does it say about our faith in God? What will people think? But we are dealing with some serious issues. Issues of our own and issues we inherited from great grandparents. And we are walking around like it's no big deal. Walking around with all this stuff stuffed under the rug. We are ticking bombs with pretty faces and good jobs and other people's lives in our hands, waiting for the next trigger to explode and be done with it all.

We wonder why our relationships don't work? And when I say relationships here, I mean relationships of all types. Romantic, work, friendships... all of them. We have sores we haven't dealt with and we bring them into our relationships expecting (at least on some level) for our partners to fix or be more responsibile for them then they are capable of being. As for me, I had issues I wasn't communicating to anyone but my journals. And even then that was the politically correct polite watered down pretty version. I wasn't intenionally keeping many of them secret but it was almost like I had a magic disappearing cloak I could/would put my pain under, say a prayer, wiggle my nose Bewitched style and then VOILA! Pain be gone! It was my "disconnect to pain" my therapist called it. At some point as a child I developed it and it did help me, but now that I am an adult fully capable of connecting to and feeling it. I can. I am. Now, is therapy the answer to everything. No, but it's helping me right now.

Helping me? Yes, helping me. Helping me heal. Helping me feel. Helping me write. Helping me feel and move on. I don't have to babysit old pains. No, I didn't need therapy for that lesson. But I am growing to a place where I don't pick up old pains to hurt myself even more. That's the work of prayer. A lot of prayer. Because of prayer, faith, God (always only God), because I am talking talking talking, letting go of shame, talking, feeling, I let go of something I held on to for too many years.

I mentioned earlier that I connect many of my relationship pains to an incident when I was only four. They may not seem connected, but I know. Now again, when I say relationships I don't only mean romantic relationships. I connect this incident as a source of why I don't like feeling pushed.

It was 1973 and my sunny days began and ended with me sitting impassively on my front steps. My castle. Not like many children today who seem to require expensive electronic gadgets to occupy themselves. I could caper around busying my inquisitive mind for hours on end on my steps, counting perfectly the cars that went by. Ford, Ford, Toyota, Pinto. Pretending I was the exquisite Diahann Carroll giving an eloquent speech to my loyal fans, head held high and tilted, looking down beyond my pointed nose, hair curled and poofey and perfect like a high fashioned helmet, or pressed straight and pulled back tight in a bun.

Me, a queen on my royal grounds where I first loved the smell of water tasting thirsty sidewalk on hot days and California cold nights. Where the smell of grass was my favorite fluffy lounge chair at Starbucks and chamomile tea. Though I did not drink tea in those days. And there was no Starbucks. Where there was my tree, just nine papa steps in front of my porch. Whose leaves and branches reached to God’s house and hung almost to the grass but were not strong enough to hold me. Yet assured me that I was strong enough to brook whatever should come my way. That I was okay. My front steps. I have blocked out some of the details of this story, but that part is clear, those were my steps. There were only three and that was perfect.

My mom, dad and I had recently moved from the green (or was it brown?) apartment building on Walnut in Central Long Beach commonly known as the east side, to the single family dwellings on the west side of town at 1367 Cameron. Right around the corner from both sets of my grandparents who lived on Taper Street across from each other. In the apartment on Walnut, before my sister Roshann was born, we lived on the second floor. The steps were ugly and concrete and cobblestone. There was a peek a boo space between each step and a black iron rod to hold onto as one traversed up and down.

But those steps were not mine. No. They belonged to everyone. And no one claimed them as their own. No one dreamed of having long brown hair and marrying a prince on those steps. Those steps were not my friends. I would not tell my secrets there. One day I was in the living room and the door was left open. I was finally, to the surprise of my parents, tall enough to open the screen door. A screen that barely held out flies. An easy unlock.

My tricycle was parked at the top of the steps and was blue and had white strips of plastic hanging from the handlebars to flitter in the wind as I rocketed by. I opened the door and I was on the top of the steps. I sat there wondering, visualizing myself gliding down on my tricycle. I fancied my plastic strips waving away in the wind. Like fire. A delightful way to spend an uneventful Sunday afternoon. The coast was clear and I went for it.

God is wonderful in what He allows us to forget. I don’t remember tumbling all the way down, but I must have. About five years later I fell and was in the intensive care unit at Memorial Hospital for two weeks with a fractured skull from another fall. Again, I remember falling, but not hitting the ground. From the stairs I do remember landing and crying at the bottom step. I remember being hurt, but safe. Mostly I suppose I was disappointed. That was not what I had envisioned. There were three teenaged boys strolling by who thought without thinking that my tumbling was funny. My father, annoyed by their mocking and suddenly sobered from Schlitz Malt Liquor and Mary Jane, reminded them in his special way, that surely it was not.

My Cameron Street steps were not disappointing like those. They did not call out to me with the intent of temptation when I was momentarily unsupervised. They did not propose excitement on a peaceful Sunday and then produce danger. My new steps did not lie. I was only safe on those steps that were red and three and my own.

Next door on Cameron, west of us, in the green house where I do not recall a mommy or daddy (but there must have been at least a mommy) lived two girls whose names and faces I can never call to mind. I have not outgrown their voices however, raspy and bumptious, heavy for such thin girls as it occurs to me in my hindsight. They had cool sneakers and strong arms, cold fingers and could Double Dutch a full song. Indeed they were real. Though I have had lovers who wished they were not. I remember them to be about fifteen and sixteen. My mother remembers that too.

The oldest lead the ghetto bureaucracy. In short, she was the boss of us. Of her sister, who was taller with shorter hair, quiet with issues of her own brewing with no place to unfold. Of me, lucky and next door. Of what seemed like the neighborhood where each house appeared occupied with private business. After some time it was okay with my parents that I went in their backyard with them that shared the same fence as ours. Whose grass was the same green. That was the same size and also had pomegranate and lemon trees and a garage and no dog. We did not have a dog yet. But theirs was not mine.

They had a white tent behind the garage and a nephew who was a few years older than I and shy. There was also a big boy, a teenager or older in the tent. I do not remember his name. Almost his voice. Barely his hair that was short like big boys wore their hair. Faded blue jeans slightly too big and looked clean but were not. Was callow and slim but had burly black boy sad eyes that had been in trouble before with full lips and a half happy smile poked and held to one side. The oldest was the cagey heavy whisperer of the cabal. Something was up. I saw the fusee signals and heard the cacophony of voices in my head but crossed the line anyway.

I was four and they demanded I stop being a big baby and suck his dick. I remember that it had never been a dick before. Somehow I knew that boys had pee pees, but dicks were new. Perhaps pee pees grew into dicks, I must have thought. But my young Virgo analyzing and attention to the byplay was not going to postpone this. There was a dick in front of me and big girls I thought were my friends begging in their demanding voices to suck. But it was not peppermint or Bit o Honey, more like a Bomb Pop or Big Stick. But not from the ice cream truck with bells and whistles. It was not smooth and orange and sweet and inviting. It was Play-Do left open. Ashy and uncared for.

I wanted my steps. This was my first dick and I wanted my steps that were safe and red and lead to my porch, where there was dust and loose gravel and chipped paint and no dicks. My porch had no dicks. But I was far away from my porch. Far from my lawn never perfectly manicured but mine. Just next door but miles from my father who would beat that dick up if he knew. Far from my mother who would spank their big girl butts if she knew that her daughter, who was sugar and spice and everything nice, was not sucking at all. Was gagging on flesh too big for her mouth, too hard for her jaws, too long for her throat. A dick. Even the name was not nice. If my father knew… If my mother knew… What if I was not everything nice anymore?

I did not like her yelling hand with dark brown rough knuckles on the back of my head touching too firmly my barrettes that were red and friendly like my porch. Did not like the bossy one moaning like it felt good to her. Her eyes half closed and head moving passionately in half circle then back again. The slow inhale hiss and ahh. Like I was doing it right. Then from nowhere there was liquid that was warm and salty and not my spit anymore. I ran out of the tent screaming. “He peed in my mouth! He peed in my mouth!” I ran as fast as I could to get past my porch, that was just a porch and not safe, into my bed, my for real castle.

Before I could get to the gate the shorthaired one caught me. I kicked and screamed but she carried me to the t shaped clothesline post that was strong and sturdy. Like maybe this was for more than sun drying skirts and blouses to be worn on Sundays. Maybe for other girls who had pee in their mouths and ran to get away.

She tied thick brown rope around my neck and tied the other end to the top of the post. She picked me up and held my body as it swung. Surely that was a station for girls who did not swallow pee. For girls who could not run faster than a fifteen year old and threatened to tell. This was a four year olds Calvary. She told me that I would not say anything because if I did she would tell my mother that it was all my idea and I was a nasty girl. Me?

My mother could not believe that I was a nasty bad girl. But what if she did? What if I was? She let me go with a shove that said all I needed to know. I was too scared to tell my mother, too scared to tell my father. That night when it was time for bath my mother noticed the rope burn around my neck. I lied to her about how I got it. Told her that I was playing some game and it didn’t even hurt. My mother, being a mother, wasn’t satisfied with the story. I couldn’t go in their backyard anymore. I couldn’t be with the girls at all. Fine with me.

I don’t remember the speech after the bath. Don’t remember what happened to the dick or the nephew. I vaguely recall the girls after that. I do remember that my steps were too close to theirs. They were not my steps anymore. There was a dick.

And that's how I went into my relationships, one pee pee after the next afraid that they would grow into dicks. And I'm healing. Each day more than the one before.

And it's too easy to put the ownness on them. On him. The random hims, the ones that came and went. I have to take responsibility for my fears. And we all have them. Fears, wounds, scars, joys, faults, all of it. Each relationship we enter we bring all of it there too. For right now, just for right now, I'm taking a break from relationships. That is, intimate relationships where I call him my man, boyfriend, baby, whatever. Taking time for me with me. Me for me. Men, it seems, will be there. They've always been. I noticed that I don't choose them well. I do, to my credit, choose pretty cool right now partners. It's just that right now goes away so fast I can't believe it's over when it is. I have given way too many extensions in my day. And brothas have given them to me.

So as I sit here (today I am in Utah) watching leaves fall, hoping for snow, preparing for work tomorrow and writing today and celebrating that thirteen years ago this month my water broke and fourteen hours later came the most beautiful face I've ever seen, my son, Uraeus. Every pain I can be rid of, I'm ready to rid. If not for me, for him. Ready yourself, as you will read my spiritual, Chirstian, womanist/feminist, black, human stories about love, about life, about me, about the world and how I see it. I will warn you here, not to let your judgements hook you. Remember that being a feminist does not mean man hater any more than a black power fist means white hater. Again, this is the world from my side of the street. Hopefully you will be moved to write your own story.

Chapter 2

Dear God,
listening to You
letting go
taking on


I thank God I had a safe journey from Utah to California. I am preparing to go for my morning walk now. Such beautiful sun shine. The snow was great but this is well...home. I did have a great breakthrough while I was there though. I spent quality time with myself without the noramal distractions of my daily life. I let it go. Wrote, stayed up, slept too late, prayed, ate, didn't eat, prayed, created art, wrote bad poetry (and not bad meaning good, the for real bad). Went through the stages of grief, and then...I let the anger go. No wonder my favorite color for the moment is sky blue and not the red is was before. I read this quote in a book by Zora Neale Hurston, I don't remember which book it was. I don't know why I don't recall it right now, but it will come to mind soon. Anyway the quote resonated with my bones in such a way I knew I had to write it down. And so I did. "But I am not tragically colored. There is not great sorrow dammed up in my soul, nor lurking behind my eyes. I do not mind at all. I do not belong to the sobbing school of Negrohood who hold that nature somehow has given them a lowdown dirty deal and whose feelings are all hurt about it. Even in the helter-skelter skirmish that is my life, I have seen that the world is to the strong regardless of a little pigmentation more or less. No, I do not weep at the world - I am too busy shaprening my oyster knife." And if I may add my cents to her story, nor am I tragically womaned.

I think that we are all doing what we can do to get through our lives. We are using the tools we have to work it out. Prayer, positive thinking, whatever. Lately I have been waking up lately setting an intention or a declared way of being for the day. I create this intention as creation, not from how I felt last night or what I want to accomplish, but from...nothing. "Nothing" if there is actually "nothing." Today I created happiness as a way of being for the day. Not just happiness for myself but happiness every place I am today.

And so what does that look like? Does it mean that everywhere I go today will look like a scene from High School Musical where folks spontaneously break into song and dance? No. The happiness I am creating for today is happiness as a point of view. There are always a million and one ways to look at something. My declaration is that today I will look through happy glasses. Sounds corny? Hopefully. I have been through a lot in my life and today I am affording myself a little...corn. What are you creating?

Today was a slow wake up day. Nowhere to get to fast. I will add fresh water and a new plant to my father's alter. Had a dream about him last night again. He held me and told me that he loved me. He wanted me to know he was with me. I will walk today, cut the grass, I will paint today and mop the floor. Today is that kind of day. Today is a day of observing all of the movement in the quiet. The sound in all the stillness.

There is the some celebration going on in the bird's world right now. They are singing like it's the queen birds birthday. I am ok with that. There was a time when I would not have been. Back then my windows and blinds would have been closed, praying would not have been the first intentional action, except a prayer of "God, please get me through this day." I am thankful today. For where I've come from. For where I will be. For where I am right now. This right now. This blessed right now.


  1. Jaha, this is beautiful. Just beautiful. And right on time for me in the process of my own memoir. I just finished Chapter 8 at 27,000 words and this hit home girl. Thank you thank you. I love "When we are willing and ready to do the work we can connect our current pains to a pain before the moment we are in." I am connecting, I am definitely connecting. Love you.

  2. Lakshmi, thank you for reading and posting a comment. Contests on going so far in your writing. I bet that you are learning and releasing more and more with each sentence. I know I am. Blessings on your journey.

  3. Hello l, my computer corrected the spelling of yor name and turned into the jumble that is printed. Sorry about that. Thank you again for the comment.