digging deeper

Waking up in 2016, 20 years after I left the foster care system as a high school graduate, I have since earned my bachelor and my master’s degrees but accumulated 70k of debt. The burden of debt is an albatross around my heart, but I perist because I have a vocation, not a job, and that has made all the difference. I wake up as a single mom because I made some choices that made a lot of people doubt me and my spirituality, but I didnt give up along the way, even when many people that I loved the most told me that I should give up my baby. The trauma of my life impacted my belief in myself.

I didnt want to be a survivor of child abuse, rape, assault…. it’s been a hard life, my emotional scarring is continually healing; I have learned to love unconditionally; I understand that wisdom comes from knowing Him who is within me and practicing self-love, which is nearly impossible even when you have two degrees and knowledge not to mess up but the past always catches up and it purposefully suffocates joy and peace constantly. No one ever understands the daily struggle. Maybe I deserve it? because of my decisions?

I have to dig deeper. I have to accept grace.

It’s not that just some random day, I woke up and told myself that I’m not ever going to be worthy of being loved. That’s the messaging I recieved since birth from all the people that are suppose to love you no matter what. I told a friend of mine that I always become depressed in june and july…there is pain everywhere but it is crazy how we can put on a mask so we do not have to be completely authentic. We post pictures but we do not post our vulnerablities and our wounds…..What would really happen if we were exposed as broken and not whole? If people knew that we struggle just as much as we thrive, that we fear just as much as we hope, that we cry just as much as we laugh?

We have to dig deeper. We have to love wider.

I am progressing on this journey but it makes me angry that men who violate, traumatize, hurt, violate and downgrade women are being put in leadership roles and given less jail time…..I am afraid of the messaging of society and its impact on how women see their value.

We have to dig deeper. We have to lead differently.

writers block, sort of…

I just haven’t been posting and sometimes it feels like writer’s block. And I suppose I’ve been holding back – because this platform shouldn’t be my journal. After all, this is a blog – not a notebook of my private thoughts. Right? Agree? Disagree?

Well, this sounds reasonable, except my life has normally been an open book, especially when I’ve faced insurmountable odds. To put it in the most succint of terms -for me- writing is breathing, so what the “block” is wrong?

Writing is the glue that has held my heart together through all my years. The ability to reflect has kept my head above water, even though I’ve never learned to swim- my life preserver has been my faith- writing has brought me nearer still.

To write is to experience transformation. The ability to be changed is the result of knowing you cannot be limited by your experiences themselves. Sharing is the moment I can let it go and words mutate into something I couldnt have imagined – restorative knowledge.

So what gives? I have been writing and not posting because it hurts too (enter explicative here) much. Its like having your insides scraped during an annual pap exam. This past week my doctor said, you look nervous. And without hesitation I said, “ever since I was molested and was examined by a doctor invasively at 14 years old, I cannot help but feel nervous in an exam room. No matter how much time passes, I am still traumatized.”

Writing is figuring out that pain is temporary, and remembering that you are gonna survive.

Writing is a vehicle to transporting your thoughts to the field of dreams. There, I have found peace in the valley, daringly, even in the midst of doubt- somehow writing perpetuates confidence to begin again in reconciliation- with myself, others and God.

Writing has always been a way to create sketches in order to paint the masterpiece of knowing what matters most. There are linear thoughts that become twisted and knotty between the spine of my story but that doesnt mean my life has less value and that’s the chapter I’ve never been able to write until now.

Coming soon…

How I learned to love myself.Note121415_0.jpg

Exposing a redefined soul living for lasting change.

A couple weeks ago, I was in a car accident; the split second in which it happened, I heard the screeching and scraping of metal, which juggernaut-ed my soul to the equator of emergence; but get this, in that moment, I saw and felt nothing; somehow I pulled to the side of the road and I looked at my son. Ultimately, that single moment has replayed in my heart and mind for the past two weeks; I think about all the decisions I made that day, and  have replayed every second of that morning and perhaps the crash could have not happened if I had just made a different choice, but instead, I experienced a knee jerk reaction, it wasn’t pre-meditated; that’s what truly makes it an accident.

We cannot undo, what has been done, but we can try our very best to do things differently next time, right?

And then I think about this metaphor/exercise that I read during college; about listening and obeying to the voice of God; I think it went something like this, “Every time you listen and obey, it creates a pinhole through which you see and experience more of God.” For a long time in my journey, I lived through pinpoints in time, in which I purposefully listened and obeyed and life seemed sequentially and quintessentially fine.

However, not surprisingly, many singular happenings have occurred, in which my heart leapt or paused, just within a single breath of courage or fear; long story – very short, I know I haven’t listened or obeyed near enough in my spiritual journey, even when it made the most sense to do so…

This very sentence couldn’t be illustrated any better, than by telling you something that I have heard my four-year old utter, “I don’t have to listen to you.” Besides the obvious response, “Yes, you do, I’m your mother,” let me just say that his defiant spirit is not much different than my own, at 37, in which, I know I have refused to listen because guess what, “I don’t have to….”

Regardless of your beliefs, I write this all to explain another single moment.

A New Beginning. That’s the name of the book my foster mom gave me in 1993. It’s a book of daily devotions for women survivors of sexual abuse. That same year, when I was 15 or 16, I read every page prayerfully; through the years, I’ve bookmarked favorite devotions and written notes on the pages of the book.

After the crash, I started thinking about this book and I knew I had to find it. And one day, last week, I opened up a box and I saw it. I immediately picked it up and flipped through the pages until I saw it, the newspaper clipping of my abuser’s bond and arrest. And it hit me; I felt my adolescence crashing at 14, when my mother said that she would always choose her husband over me; that singular moment shattered an already broken heart and reinforced my walls.

October 7 (Paraphrased a little, A New Beginning)

He tells me that I am worthy, but I’ve always failed in accepting that  grace. It’s hard to believe that anything good can come from my past rejections. But I have heard God say that that my pain will help others on their path to healing. I choose to believe Him, not my fears.

For the longest time, I have desired to be a part of a faith community; I can articulate a lot of reasons why I cannot find a home church, but none of them ever included the fact that my heart was closed off because of my fears of rejection. My fear of rejection stems from abandonment, judgment and imperfections.

Vulnerability is this experience, where we choose to be welcomed and welcome others into our frayed lives. Honestly, I have walked through many church doors, but I didn’t really try to join a faith community; my walls prevented me from being my most authentic self; I just made excuses time and time again. I finally recognize that his has been my major operating system since I was young child. I have always looked for exits rather than pathways.

A few years ago, when I was living in New York, and I was at iHop with a bunch of friends; I was asked, about relationships and I said I didn’t believe in them; I was quite serious, but everybody thought I was joking, so I laughed too, but deep down, I knew I was being more honest than ever.  But more than that, I was still avoiding pathways to relationships.

So, what’s next?

I am choosing to expose a redefined soul living for lasting change.

I am worthy. I am on my way. My fears do not own me. I am breaking free.

Being loved.

It’s been a year, since I have been carrying her keys on my key-chain; there are days that I’m trying to unlock my door, and I mistake her keys for mine; I get so frustrated and I tell myself that I am going to take them off. But I refuse. I don’t take them off, they are a reminder of the door that opened when I knocked on her door for the first time in 10 years, almost to the day. I’ve read her journals several times over, and I know she suffered her own trauma, but I know she could have made better choices; she was still my mother. So I read in her journal, and found that date and read what she wrote on the day I came to see her; the day I introduced her to my son; she said it was the best day in her life, besides the day she was born.

It’s been a year since I sat by my mother’s side; every day for a month, I remember making that trip with my mom from the nursing home to the radiation treatment facility to treat her inoperable  brain tumor; I remember holding my mother’s hand; I remember the thin white sheet that covered her and the doctor moving in real close to hear her faint voice, as he asked, “Do you want anything?” And she responded, “I want one more day…with my grand-babies.”
It’s been a year, since I brought Carter to see my mom, they would draw together; artistic expression made all of our faces smile. Maybe my Creative Arts Therapy degree prepared me for those moments, in which I could clearly witness the power of healing that transcends pain. In those quiet moments, I felt more connected than I had ever felt before; these moments transformed my heart and life.
It’s been a year, since my brother became angry with me, since he quit talking to me, since I saw my nephews and nieces, since he stepped out of my life, for a second time. As teenagers, when i was in foster care, I could barely comprehend his words, “I want nothing to do with her.” But as a 30-something adults, his actions have severed the tie that bonds and that loss is the greatest loss of all.
It’s been a year, living with this ache….hiding, crouching, much like I did as an adolescent, in which I knew despair as the covering of my soul; this time around, my heart dropped and my faith was dismantled but it did not fade away. I’ve learned that it’s still possible to be suffering and to push the world through the eye of a needle just to try to prove that I don’t need anyone, but I do. Imperfect I shall remain. Striving for a better way; I seek the best path for my family, for our future, for whatever comes next. I stand up and walk out of the past and claim my life back, like never before to connect with others more purposefully and earnestly.

I can’t believe it took 365 days to get to this moment; to let go & to hold on; I have been avoiding this moment; I told my counselor that if I just had my “coming to Jesus moment,” I would be more whole.  I have sat in many churches this past year; sitting, waiting, contemplating, complaining, and sometimes fuming; and this past Sunday, the tears flowed but I did not move forward to kneel at the alter to say a prayer; rather, in the middle of the closing benediction/prayer, I wiped away the tears and stepped out into the foyer, into the beautiful vestibule and kept my eyes down, as to not make eye contact with anyone; I went into the bathroom, checked my mascara and gave myself one heck of a pep talk, prayed and walked out, chin up, to see familiar faces that did not really know me anymore.
Did I have my “coming to Jesus moment?” I think Jesus came to me; I don’t speak religion, I don’t quote the Bible, I don’t try to pry in the lives of others, because I don’t have the right to judge others and no one has a right to judge me.Over the past year – I have been in wrestling with my story, with my inadequacies and failures; the skeletons in my closet are strong boned, they have choked me in a mental head-lock; I know how important it is to move forward, but the loss of my mom and my brothers took a toll on my heart, and I have been experiencing great sorrow while facing my fears of abandonment. This has meant being reflective and really looking within to figure out what’s going to be next.

I have to accept being loved.

3/30 The Maybe Musings of an Artist, #napomo

There is a passageway

A darkened tunnel

filled with complete disaster

and breakthroughs

To create something new

is to unveil inner-most knowledge

In the midst of roadblocks

and life’s many responsibilities,

Including motherhood-

Space is pushed back from all sides

And compacted to clear the mental clutter,

to do lists, and piles of laundry-

Given permission to begin again

Consecutive hours in the zone

spilling out my soul

an undefined canvas given flesh

and breadth of life

to expose vulnerabilities

excavating underlying realities-

affirming the existence of flaws

and skewed perceptions-

actualizing layers of congruence

and resistance-

emerging to illustrate the narrative

of my combined life experiences-

posted via my digital thumbprint

on the world wide web-

to be seen and felt-

(or unseen and indifferent)

without ever being displayed

in the very formal space

of a galleria or book-

but maybe someday.

 

 

2/30, YMCA Sports camp, #napomo

My little athlete-

Always starts off resistant

From the moment

he passes the Pop-Tarts

in the vending machine-

They are always the worst possible distraction!

Today, for the first time in 7 weeks,

He had a male instructor

Who motivated my son

To stay in line, listen, run around and around-

catch, throw, and play flag football-

at the close of class,

my son walks up to the coach

(with a little nudging)

And says “Thank you”

And then it happens again,

We exit the gym doors….

And I hear,

“I am hungry, pop-tarts!!!”

My answer is still no,

His grumpy little face

Says it all.

My heart asks why?

But it takes just a few geese outside

To turn that frown around.

Until we return-

For the last class next week!

1/30, A proper introduction, #napomo

For a long time,

I have considered-

No, I have definitely scrutinized the odds,

The peculiar pull of knowing that there is more to be known.

Not just more, but someone-

One person who gets most of my quirky tendencies-

An equal confident and best-friend

Who doesn’t reject my instinct to pull away-

(Because unfortunately, I happen to do that when I am afraid)

To accept possibility-

 

There is comfort in a glance,

The tremendous effort of a half-smile and the complexity of a furrowed brow

Seemingly acknowledging a sacred connection without having to dance –

deferring judgment-

launching a paradigm shift that changes fault lines to linear truths,

rest assured

providential circumstances prevent time from being threatened again-

peaceful salutations deliver ground-breaking awareness-

 

it always seems too difficult

to shift from one side to another

from yes, to no, to well, maybe I will

to finally, I definitely cannot find another answer, other than yes-

to wonder and wander in dreams beyond fantasia,

diving deep into the depths of the sacred universe

it is much too similar to holding a kite in the middle of a storm,

and it supposedly happens-

 

just like it always happens in the movies-

between

Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan

the maximum power of vulnerability

transforms the miniscule molecular fibers of the wounded spirit

to inspire the reconciliation and introduction of hope within a new beginning-

 

and it might be called conversing-

or simply defeating former complexities

that previously existed-

or it might be called a proper introduction.

 

More about  #napomo, AKA: National Poetry Month:

  1. What is National Poetry Month? National Poetry Month is a month-long, national celebration of poetry established by the Academy of American Poets. The concept is to widen the attention of individuals and the media—to the art of poetry, to living poets, to our complex poetic heritage, and to poetry books and journals of wide aesthetic range and concern.

The Secret Mission of Gratitude

1901879_4037357788033_2012436466_n(This is written as a response to a post on facebook- for those who cannot see it, my aunt was given a very special gift on the Buckeye Cruise for Cancer.)

The events leading up to Teresa’s Special Gift…

The Backstory…

Technically, my aunt and uncle are my mother’s cousins. They attended my mom’s wedding and were my eldest brother’s godparents. In a way, they have become my godparents too, as they have been completely supportive of my son and I. I seriously could go on and on about their compassion in action, not just towards my son and I, but towards many others, as well.

Last summer and over the past year, when my mother was diagnosed with brain cancer, my aunt and uncle frequently watched my son and lavished their love upon us. I had spent most of my life, since I was 14, estranged from my mother. My aunt and uncle  extended their hearts to me, in such a way, that my own heart was refueled to sustain the journey of reconnecting with my mom;  they are also  an extension of my grandmother and it feels like they have always been in my life. When my mother passed away in January; my aunt surprised me with a beautiful planter of an angel; a card was attached and it listed all my cousin’s names-this gift spoke volumes of their love and I had a very grateful heart.

Finally, the story…

I knew I had to do something very special for my aunt when I found out that she was five years cancer free and prepared to go on the Buckeye Cruise for Cancer. I got this crazy idea to ask a former buckeye to give her a gift on my behalf, so I reached out to a former player; he was agreeable and even enthusiastic about the idea. I messaged him on Facebook, because I saw that my aunt was “friends” with him. I just asked him if he would be willing to give my aunt a gift on the cruise; at one point, I asked him if he was kidding with me, but he replied that he really wanted to help.  So, I began thinking about a gift; I knew one of my aunt’s favorite activities on the cruise was getting her photograph taken with the players and then returning the following year for their autographs, so I decided on a photo album!

I found a company on Etsy, who happened to be in close proximity to Columbus. I asked them if they could engrave something special for my aunt, to celebrate being cancer free and also, to celebrate her love for the Buckeyes. And oh, yeah, I told them that I needed it quickly-like in a week! I only had so many days to get the gift and actually give it to the football player before they left for the cruise.

icm_fullxfull.36207377_t6rko0k2ag0k4kwk4wow

I got an amazing response; the owner and his team agreed to make the album  and they sent me a proof;  I was immediately awestruck by their beautiful engraving, as well as, their gracious accommodation on a very short deadline. They called and asked me if I wanted to write a personal message to be engraved on the inside of the album; I told them I wanted to think about it ( because I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to spend); on  the same day, they sent me an email stating that the owner wanted to give the album for free!!!!!! Therefore,  I was able to write a very personal message for my aunt and uncle…

And so, I picked up the album on Valentine’s Day and got lost ( I never quite know where I am going-LOL!), but I finally found the place and  made sure to give the owner a hug! I still can’t believe they donated the album! It was so beautiful ; the engraving was beyond perfection-I was so very thankful for their generous part in this surprise!  They didn’t even have the name of their business on the box or album; they were “anonymous” but I’m letting you know that they are http://www.ryderengraving.com.

And next, the football player agreed to meet me in Polaris, but then he said something about 270 and 23 and well, to make a long story, short, I either got lost or misheard him, but he called and agreed to meet me at a gas station near his house. When  I handed him the box, he said, “You do know that there are 2500 people on the cruise?” And so I gave him a picture of my aunt; as soon as he saw her picture, he said, “I know her, she loves to give a lot of hugs.” We had a good laugh! I am so glad that Dimitrious Stanley agreed to participate in this secret mission of gratitude!

I learned from my aunt, that he gave her the album on the last night of the cruise! I am so glad that the moment was captured! She was very surprised, and she got three more hugs!

The challenge of compassion…and a few lessons along the way.

Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen

“The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.”
― Mother Teresa, A Simple Path: Mother Teresa

Within the past year, I have been asked, “How did you find the strength and courage to love your mom?”

When I was fifteen years old, my mom gave up her parental rights to stay with the man who molested me. As a teenager, this reality broke my heart. My mother and I never had a very close relationship; I felt like a burden, rather than a blessing. I have referenced these feelings before, I felt worthless and rejected; the pain I endured, left an imprint on my life. I spent a lot of my life struggling to overcome the odds of feeling less than, rather than greater than these emotional hardships.

I worked incredibly hard to graduate college, participate in AmeriCorps, and attend graduate school; I transitioned from my own personal struggles to focusing my energy on making a difference in my community.  No matter my professional accomplishments, my heart was still fractured and all of my relationships suffered. So, when I reconnected with my mother two years ago, I didn’t know what to expect. Throughout life, I learned to have zero expectations; but this time, I earnestly hoped for reconciliation, but I never imagined  that we would have so little time to overcome a lifetime of ache; the challenge of compassion revealed the possibilities, including forgiveness.

All along the way, I felt an ever-present peace and abundance of hope through my faith. This abundance made itself known when I became a single mom a couple years ago. Hope was the ultimate message communicated to me and I learned that everything, is indeed possible. I was strengthened most by the people who came beside me and loved me—without judgement. God essentially prepared my heart to love my mom, by blessing my life with a child. It was through the process of becoming a mother, that I surrendered my heart to my creator. In this context, my heart was prepared for the challenge of compassionate action; this was the path to loving my mom.

My mother was adopted; as far as I know, I know she was loved, but she always felt discarded, unlovable and rejected. My mother came into this world feeling unloved and throughout my mom’s life,  she sought love in all the wrong places; after three marriages; she ended up very alone. Seven months ago, when my mom was diagnosed with brain cancer, I made a promise – I wanted her to know she was loved. No matter the struggle, I chose to stay and be present with my mom, offering my time (and as many milkshakes as possible)!

Loving my mom was a process and gradual evolution of my heart progressing towards loving authentically. In the beginning, I was angry and frustrated; especially when my mother refused to get the care she needed or when she refused to tell her children the truth we deserved to know. We had questions and wanted answers. Over time, I learned to shut up, let go and be open. I think that’s an enormous lesson to practice…the art of learning to listen; listening requires that I purposely let go of my agenda. It was important for me to step into her experience and feel a fraction of her ache; this didn’t excuse her from the pain she caused in my life, but my heart surrendered my resentment and hurt.  I relinquished my demands, questions and anxiety to know peace that passes all understanding. I forgave her and I believe that forgiveness set her free and helped us to understand each other better. Forgiveness didn’t erase years of disappointment and estrangement, but my pain was eased and I was able to let go and finally  love without creating conditions or rules; the process of surrendering created a safe space for love to grow.

There were other key influences in my life; I definitely drew strength from my faith and people like Mother Teresa and Henri Nouwen. I have always had people in my life who offered their support. Their acts of kindness kept me from diving into depression, they motivated me to keep my chin up, and inspired me to accomplish my dreams.  I attended a Christian college and had mentors and volunteer experiences that changed my heart. I learned about living compassionately and love in action. Those lessons and influences are integral to the woman I am today. I experienced generosity and was inspired to pay it forward; my heart experienced growth because seeds were sewn into my life. Those folks were mostly women, who I still have connections with today; my elementary art teacher,  high school english and spanish teachers, my foster family, job  supervisors, mentors, roommates and classmates.

My heart was prepared/cMom_9onditioned for healing; whenever I found myself in the same room with my mother, I wanted to find the nearest exit. I didn’t know what I could offer, but I learned to offer simple things, like a milkshake or smile. After my mother’s diagnosis, during the first few months, whenever I sat with my mother, I saw her as a person first, and a mother last. For years I suffered a great loss, because she gave me up. There is a unique irony to our stories, because we both felt discarded, unlovable and rejected. My mom never took responsibility, she never apologized, she never acknowledged my experieinces with her understanding, until this past October. During my childhood and adolescence, she ignored my suffering and disposed of me, when she should have fought for me. This stung a thousand bee stings (and I am allergic to bees). Ultimately,  this painful cycle convinced me to be the best mother I could become; I’m thankful for my son and the lessons I have learned over the past year.  I focused on letting go and actualized forgiveness; as a result, I became my mother’s daughter; we were no longer estranged from one another. My mother and I learned how to be family once again. That transformation changed our lives forever.

Over the past two weeks, I have had time to reflect and recognize the power of moments; some of them will always be indescribable, but I’ve attempted to encapsulate them into 5 challenges/lessons; I’ve written them as as a way to honor my mom; I am thankful for the gift of transformation….

The Challenge of Compassion, #1- Approach forgiveness as an opportunity to help, rather than be helped. In the process, all hearts have the opportunity to be changed.

The Challenge of Compassion, #2- Hope despite all impossibilities; healing is possible, when you stop giving the past power over the present; forgiveness truly mends the broken-hearted; fragments are sewn into wholes, the empty spaces are filled with love.

The Challenge of Compassion, #3- Simply being present is a gift. Kindness isn’t about what we can give, but it’s about how we give- it’s about the quality of presence, not the quantity or value of many presents. The worth of our presence will always surpass everything else.

The Challenge of Compassion, #4- A small gesture of kindness can be monumental; live graciously—

The nurse who took care of my mom, came to the nursing home and was by her side during her last moments. During the past 7 months, she was very supportive to my mother.  She eased my mother’s pain with her presence; she always appeared to offer her help, especially when she wasn’t working. She made the choice to be with us. In one minute, she was getting us coffee and the next, she was listening to my mother’s last breaths. No one that morning at the nursing home took care of us. They had other things to do, I suppose. My mom’s nurse totally went out of her way, many many times and never asked for anything in return. I am so thankful for the gift of her caring presence (#3); it was beyond comforting. Since my mom passed, we have told one another, we would be friends for life.

The challenge of Compassion, #5- Don’t wait. Make time in your calendar to love without reservation. Don’t wait for the ah-ha moment when things make sense. Chances are, none of it will make sense. People don’t always make sense; cancer doesn’t make sense, but we deal with the nonsense, by doing something as simple as making time to love without reservation. We can’t say we cannot love because….we must say, “We must, we can and we will love because of HE, who entrusts us with His love—

Two years ago, I didn’t know I would lose my mom this January. I can’t change the past. Honestly,  I spent the first year and five months, being distant and reserved. I was taking baby steps, trying to play it safe; I justified my actions;. After all, I did not have a relationship with my mom for 10 years. I was careful yes, and I should have been, but looking back, I could have done more to express my desire to get to know her again. All and all, I didn’t think I was ready. And I wasn’t. But if I had pushed myself just a little, we might have had more time together in the beginning. I am very thankful for the past seven months and for what happened between us- our hearts aligned in a beautiful constellation of understanding. Courage provided the strength, but I could have done so much more.

So? Increase your measure of knowledge  by implementing these challenges in your life. Reach deep within and reach out and around, you just might feel a squeeze in return, but don’t give up, “just keep on, keeping on.”