Letter to My Sister, a Soldier (or) Love is a Revolutionary Act

Love, Personal Narrative

Note: I wrote this a few months ago – late winter, early spring. I sat on it for weeks and worked it a bit in June. Not sure why I’ve not posted it until now…

For the past several weeks, my flight has departed from or returned to the international terminal of the Atlanta airport. This, despite the fact that I was only traveling to and from Cleveland, of all places. Each week I have been struck – overcome really – by the abundance of soldiers in this terminal, dressed in their telltale camouflage. They’re men and sometimes women of all colors, sizes, ages. Sometimes on phones, sometimes on computers, sometimes deplaning from parts unknown, but oftentimes sitting. Waiting.

Today, however, I was struck by you.

Now for sure you are not the first female soldier I’ve ever seen. You are not the first black soldier I’ve ever seen. You are not the first black woman soldier I’ve ever seen. But today you captured my attention. Or more accurately, my heart.

As soon as I entered the concourse bathroom, I noticed you – slight, brown skin, dark hair slicked back in a ponytail. You looked eerily like me. Not babyishly young like some of the boys seem to look. Not particularly old like a career soldier on the verge of retirement perhaps; but about my age, maybe a little younger, a tad slimmer. You were going through your toiletries. It seemed you were unpacking. Repacking. Shifting. Transferring things from one pouch to another. Organizing perhaps. I don’t know, but I was moved.

She is me, I thought.

I felt my heart bursting with the overwhelming desire to embrace you. It was as if I were a vessel and Goddess wanted to send you a message of love.

I resisted it at first and headed to a stall. Yet I rushed, hoping you’d still be there when I finished, even though I really didn’t know if I had the courage to approach you. When I emerged, I washed my hands slowly, decidedly shy, stalling for time as other women entered the bathroom.

This is so silly, I said to myself, heart racing, belly full of butterflies. It’s just a hug.

You, still arranging. Me, hanging back, primping in the mirror a few paces to your right. Breath, shallow. Feet, cement blocks. I silently hurried the other women along. I didn’t want to sound crazy, I guess, to them or to you. The voice, the feeling, the knowingness – urged me, You have to do this.

I applied more burgundy lip gloss. Retied the matching scarf at my neck. Pulled my black dress straight. Gathering courage. Passing time.

Finally, coast clear, deep inhale, I approached you.

Excuse me?

You turned to me, face and heart open. Curious. My words tumbled out, a hurried explanation, an apology, I just have the urge to give you a hug. The words barely free of my lips, you threw your arms around me. And we shared a moment. Spirit embodied in flesh. Life to life. Heart to heart.

Throats tight, eyes swimming, we echoed words of thanks to each other. And then, you pulled away, barely above a whisper, You’re about to make me cry in this bathroom. You shook your head, eyes down, turned away. More organizing, packing, shifting.

As soon as I saw you, I had the urge to hug you. I couldn’t leave this bathroom without doing it. My parting words a confession, tossed out gracelessly over my shoulder. And I left, plodding down the terminal corridor, choking back tears, heart full, exhale.

I replayed the moment again and again along my walk to the escalator. I hoped you knew that all I felt in that moment was love. All I wanted for you in that moment was love.

Not fear. Not shame. Not worry. Not doubt. None of those things a person normally feels. I just wanted you to know…love.

That moment we shared was a moment of revolution.
Because loving a stranger is a revolutionary act.
Loving a soldier is a revolutionary act.
Loving my sister is a revolutionary act.
Loving myself is a revolutionary act.
I saw me, in you, and I loved us both.

Wounding. A 20-year lesson.

Personal Narrative, Sexual Violence

A thief made off with a prized possession
Me
Snatched from sacred promises of love everlasting
Held hostage
Imprisoned
A cage of my own hand
Tortured
by hurt invisible,
choking out life, love

Twenty years I spent
Captive to that pain
Yet blind
Ignorant of my own walls
Fences

Wondering why you couldn’t reach me
Wouldn’t reach out to me
Feel me
Know me

None had eyes for well-hidden pain
Buried
And I with it
Trapped
Cowering behind a guarded heart
Safe
From you

Wishes escaped on wings of prayers
Floating beyond boundaries
of consciousness
Sneaking through cracks
Disguised as discarded hopes
Rising above barriers
Taking flight
A call
A song
in my key
Imprisoned heart unlocked
Responding
Wishes as balm
As pathway to freedom
Story as star
Illuminating the road home

Love

I Am Love

Love, Personal Narrative

The official record states May 25, 2003 as the date of death, but I know the truth. My mother took her last breath on May 24th after a heart attack earlier in the day. They thought she would make a full recovery. Doctors admitted her for a couple of days, you know, just for observation. I sat by her bedside that evening as she was supposedly sleeping, but even then I believed she had already slipped into a coma. I chanted nam-myoho-renge-kyo softly. A nurse overheard me and peeped in the room to ask what I was doing.

“I’ve heard of that,” she said. “Tell me more about it.” Just then, my mother sighed, her eyes opened, and the machine monitoring her vitals went haywire with falling digits. The nurse, unsurprisingly concerned about this turn of events, asked me out of the room and quickly urged others inside. I heard an unfamiliar voice announce code blue on the speaker. They were talking about my mother, I thought. I burst into tears. Afraid. Alone.

No one was in the hospital with me that day. My mother had insisted she was fine and didn’t want to needlessly stress anyone. I had told only a couple of friends but she was laughing and alert at the time. I’d told my dad, calming him down when he expressed too much concern. After all, everything was fine. She was admitted, but it was routine, I had told him.

A woman I’d never seen stopped me in the hall. Are you okay? She was worried I would hyperventilate because of the gasping. I mumbled something about my mother coding and miraculously found my way to a phone.

I called my father, barely able to get the words out. My mother stopped breathing, I managed to choke out. Twice, since he couldn’t understand me the first time. He assured me he was on the way. I sat in silence. Crying. Alone. I thought to myself over and over again, I’m all alone. I’m all alone. I’m all alone. I mourned for the husband who didn’t yet exist. For the best friend I couldn’t reach. For anyone who would be there with me so I wouldn’t be. So. Alone.  I remember vowing at the moment, I would not be alone any more. I didn’t have to be, I reasoned. There are people who love me. I just need to connect. To reach out.

That was seven years ago. I think about that moment today because I am anything but alone. I just left my family reunion…I was able to see branches of my family I never knew about and recognize my ancestors’ faces in cousins from all over the country. I paid for nothing – not registration, not traveling, not even coffee and treats while I was there. My family took care of me. All I had to do was reach out and go.

Leaving the closing dinner, I felt full. Loved. People told me they were proud of me and loved me; that my parents would be so proud of me. They encouraged me to continue my journey to finish my PhD and then do whatever I was called to do next. They hugged me tight and long, and kissed me over and over again, wishing me well. Some of them have known one or both of my parents for as long as 40, 50 and in some cases 60 years, and they loved me on their behalf.

I don’t know how or why my life was in such a place as to feel so removed from love, but it was an illusion. The love is always present. It always has been, and it always will be. I was never truly disconnected from spirit, from love. It was up to me to seek it. And in so doing, I found what was always there.

Goddess Awakening

Personal Narrative, Spirituality
Nike, Goddess of Victory

Although my mother didn’t do this knowingly, I am named for the Goddess of Victory. And in fact, my name and my mother’s name both mean Victory, or Victorious One, or Victory of the People.  The victory part, I always got. This goddess thing is new. And serious.

A little background is in order…At the end of last year I found myself wanting to bring in the new year with some kind of serious spiritual reflection. I usually chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo on New Year’s Eve with the intention of empowering my goals for the new year, but this year I wanted to step it up. After much stalling mulling, I realized I wanted to do an extended program of sorts, kind of like the ones Sojo does. And thus was born my 60 day plan: Rebirth: A Celebration of the Divine.

That program is a post all onto itself, but I want to make it clear – doing it was the start of a new life – a new me. One of the tangible outcomes? I’m embracing my role as a reiki channel of divine energy. One of the intangible, but more important outcomes? I’m open to receiving love and guidance that deepens my connection to this mystic universe.

Today’s post is a testament to that. In the past week, I have started to read about and think about the divine feminine.  I’m getting visions of peacocks and explosions of (what must be divine) energy, and urges to just BE. Be beautiful. Be sexy. Be powerful. Be FULLY ME.

Thinking about the divine feminine has stirred something in me. It feels important. Exciting. This idea of powerful, creative, sensualness – this is what is totally moving me today. I wanna be somewhere in a bath with oranges and honey, rose petals and cinnamon, and candles. I wanna be strolling in the world, fierce in power, confident in word.

That’s where I am today – all up in that. No, I don’t wanna be worshipped, but I do want people to respond to my power. I want other women to embrace theirs as well. I want to more fully awaken this divinity within me. She is truly a goddess. But she feels neglected. Silent. Quiet. Shy. She wants to be nurtured. Loved. Open. Alive.

Today I write because I FEEL her stirring. It’s deep. Exciting. It translates as sexual energy, but it’s not about sex at all. It’s about SENSUAL in every possible sense.

It is divine. It is feminine. It is ME. She wants nothing more than to more fully express herself. So to the world I say, watch out.

Memories of Stuff

Personal Narrative

My dad was easygoing. He was one of those people who always said, “Don’t give me gifts! Just be a good girl!” or “Just be happy.” And he actually meant that. Stuff was cool, but peace was better.

My mom on the other hand? She wanted STUFF. Flowers, jewelry, gadgets, whatever. Just make sure you got her STUFF. Preferably, wrapped goodies she could shake and pinch and guess about, then unwrap, ooh and ahh about.  Me being the (sometimes) good daughter, I’d shop, and wrap and give her stuff for Mother’s Day. We’d also go have brunch somewhere that required reservations and stockings. Such was our tradition leading up to 2003.

But that year, I wasn’t feeling it. I called her up and suggested a movie instead, fully prepared for her to laugh me off the phone and ask what time I was picking her up for brunch. Instead she readily agreed. We ended up seeing Bringing Down the House, the silly movie with Queen Latifah and Steve Martin. She laughed so hard during that movie, I remember being glad no one could see us in the darkened theater. She laughed from beginning to end, and all I could do was snicker and shake my head.

Afterward we had a late lunch at Applebees. We ate well and then ordered a dessert we’d normally never get. Some kind of cinnamon crisp, apple something or other that was surprisingly delicious. More laughter, although I can’t recall what on earth we talked about. She was glad we broke “tradition” and didn’t seem to mind that she didn’t get stuff, but laughter and smiles instead.

Two short weeks later, Memorial Day weekend, she was dead. A brain hemorrhage, a result of the clot buster doctors gave her to stop her heart attack, was the culprit.

Shock and devastation inadequately express my emotions at that time, but I remember being so glad we shared that time and laughter, rather than stuff.  I was especially glad because my mother and I did not always get along. Especially during my teenage years. There were many ugly moments that I’m sometimes embarrassed or sad to admit we had. I remember being grateful we had the time to work through our shit (because that’s what it was) before she died.

When she first died I tried to whitewash those bad memories – pretend they weren’t as bad as they were. I cursed her. I yelled at her. At times I hated her. But I realized it was wrong to try to wipe that away. It happened. It was us. And we made it through to the other side.

They really made me appreciate our laughter so much more – those ugly years. It’s the totality of our experience together that makes me a better person. A better daughter. And hopefully, when I am so blessed, a better mother.

Thank you mama. I love you. Always and forever.