I have shoes, a lot of shoes! I cleaned out my closet, trying to get rid of clothes and shoes I can no longer wear. I had a problem letting go of the shoes I couldn’t get my swollen feet into. I have shoes that are over 10 years old, never worn, hoping for some crazy reason, that on a good day, my feet and ankles will appear slim and slide into the shoes like Cinderella putting on her glass slippers. I tried again today knowing that my ankles looked like a round can and the fat on my feet creeping to cover my toes. I don’t do well in the summer heat! Finally trying on the shoes multiple times, I let three pairs go, but still held on to the other two pairs. Hey! Don’t judge me! It could happened! Is there a lesson to this? Well, of course!
As I age gracefully, there are some things my body will not do anymore. My bald spot in the top of my thin hair will not grow. My breast will never ever lift again and stand at attention. My hips will look like dimples dent created by cellulite and my feet will require that I find the most comfortable pair of shoes, so that I won’t wobble as I walk.
Embrace all of it. Embrace that you are still alive to experience the image of looking in a mirror and seeing the wrinkles in your forehead, trying on again a dress that you wore at your friend’s wedding twenty years ago and being disappointed that your waist has gone sideways, and appreciating that you still have many good memories that keep you grounded in a chaotic world, imagining that it is still possible to wear those shoes you still keep in the box, collecting dusk. One day. One day. Maybe? It doesn’t matter! Just keep the damn shoes!
My biological mother died from lung cancer. When I first started my blog, I mention her as my inspiration to start writing, with this being a process of my grief and hopefully finding out new things about myself. I use to write when I was much younger. I wrote plays and songs, but I stopped because, well, I thought I wasn’t good enough. I am learning I can be my own worse critic, so I’m working through that and getting better. This thought brought back to my memory a question my mother asked before she died on her death bed, in a hospice center in the Bronx. She asked, looking up at the ceiling, with tubes in her hand and the oxygen tubes stuck in her nostrils, breathing as best she can, “What have I done?” Can I tell you that this hurt me to my core. For a woman, who struggled in her life, not totally because of her own doing; living at a time when Jim Crow was the order of the day, getting pregnant at age 15, running away from home, getting addicted to alcohol. “What have I done?”
Her question made me see that she was still wanting to be whatever her dream was as a little girl. Her question made me see that she was still dreaming a dream she had as a young woman. Her question made me see that she was still even dreaming that dream as a woman now in her seventies. But the question was one of guilt. She was angry with herself. She was angry as she laid in that bed, looking over her life and thinking about the things that she had not accomplished, thinking about the things she would never get to do because her time to leave was near. I felt her anger. I hated that she still felt she needed to ask this question even in the midst of her dying! Her question, unfortunately, became her main thought while in hospice. She could not respond to family members loving on her or being by her bedside. She became defensive, and to me, the child who was born to her at 15 years old, she saw only what she believed to be where her dreams started to end. I understood fully her pain, I understood her will to live and fight, I understood her wanting to prove everyone wrong. I understood her wanting everyone to see her as she saw herself in her dreams; a great captain on her basketball team; a great singer, orator, friend, woman, person. So on those days in her anger, I stood by her bedside so she could have a right to her anger and offered myself to the mental punches and throws that she was unable to dish out to the world that would not see her, the world that harmed her for being 15, pregnant, addicted and deemed unworthy. For this, the remaining of her life would be proving the world wrong. What a horrible struggle for a teenage girl! What a horrible journey that her one moment of mistakes would be what she focused on and would dictate the majority of her life.
My mother’s question stays in my head as a reminder that I am enough. Even in my struggles, my failures, I am enough. And it is unfortunate, that most women will have the question my mother had because somewhere along the line when a woman slips and fails, she immediately turns it into her own guilt. I hear this question when my daughter questions her abilities. I hear this question when I listen to the stories of women I work with whose children are in a foster care system and they are struggling with substance abuse. “What have I done?” is internalize that there has to be something wrong with me, something I did wrong to deny my dreams to live. Please take it from me, you have done nothing wrong. For a moment, you failed, you made a mistake, it was only a moment. Don’t allow that moment to be a lifetime of disappointment in yourself. You are more worthy than a moment. There is no shame in mistakes, we learn from them and we journey on.
My mother had over 20 years of sobriety before she died. I’m grateful for that. I know she was too. Loving yourself means loving all of you, your perfections and imperfections; your flaws, your missteps, your journey. Be kind to yourself. I love you!
I am adding plants to my home. Y’all, I am not good with plants. I know they should be green? At least the leaves? I bought two small plants, one I keep in the basement and one I have hanging in front of a large window in my dining room. Please don’t ask me the name of the plants because I threw away the little tab that had the name and instructions of how to take care of the plants. I figured adding water was all I needed to know. I mean, you add dirt and water, anything else, like plant food, correct temperature, singing to your plant is just a bonus, right? Actually, I bought three plants, unfortunately one died, so I kinda don’t count it. I did feel some remorse though, when I threw it in the garbage. The plant in the dark basement is thriving; I’ve learned this one doesn’t require much light or water. The plant in my window is holding on, leaves are dry and falling and it doesn’t seem as vibrant. I think I could be overwatering it and the cold air coming in the window probably don’t help, but I am giving it more attention by watching the branches and eyeing if more leaves are dropping. I agree, I should not have thrown the “how to care” instructions away.
It has been almost a year of being inside away from the things that we enjoy. Being away from those that we love, from from our churches, synagogues and mosques. Away from the things that also brought us life, our favorite restaurants, attending concerts of our favorite artist, partying with friends and celebrating getting a pay check on a Friday night. We all are dealing different with this Covid-19 season. Some of us are thriving, finding new ways of being and growing in wonderful ways. Some of us are drooping along, trying each day to make it, trying to find our way by figuring out what is it that we need so that our bodies will stand tall again and our countenance will no longer seem sad. Some have found that right amount of sunlight and water; some have found that they may require something different. We all come with a different set of instructions and my belief, intuitively, we already know what that is. But there is one common thread that we all require and that is love. We require to be love and to give love. Without the instruction of someone’s DNA, without the tab that tells us how to care specifically for one another, we seek to pay attention to each other. We notice if someone is hurting, we notice if someone is hungry, and we even notice when someone is happy and join in their joy.
The plant in the window looks like it may survive. I love the hanging basket that it sits in, but I may have to move it. As beautiful as the sun shines on it, the cold air stifles its’ growth and I want it to live. In fact, I need for this plant to live, in hopes that I can redeem myself from the one I threw in the trash. But more importantly, I need for you to live. I need for you to live strong. I need for your branches to reach to its highest height. I need for you to have the right amount of water, the correct temperature and a song that only belongs to you. And when you smile, I rejoice in seeing your face glow with excitement. God requires us to care and love each other. Let’s do that! “A new command I give you; Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34
Yes, I agree. I need to know the name of my plants. I will work on that!
Trying to live under the expectations of others will kill you. Pretending to be something you are not with the hopes that the person you are trying to impress will accept you is quite insane. I know. It does not work. No one gets hurt but you. As well as others who would have benefit from your talents and gifts if you were not chasing that one thing you believed you needed to earn some type of validation. Believe me, I know.
I know what it feels like to give yourself away. I know what it feels like to bow down to the thing that lie and make you believe that normal looks well put together, hair done, nails done, body thin, clothes perfection, flawless. Conversations perfect, home immaculate, family perfect. The burden is too much to bare, too much to give away.