Putting the CL on that ASS!

A Bernie's Daughter Thing



I Am Woman, Dammit! The Super Woman’s Credo

I don’t watch the news, so I’m usually late when it comes to events. You can imagine my surprise yesterday upon seeing a picture on my Facebook timeline highlighting an event from November 2015.  A young woman in Georgia took her college exam while she was in labor.  She has since  been lauded as strong, determined, having her priorities in order, and amazing for doing so.  This is not the first time a woman has done this.  Back in 2011, an Illinois woman took her bar exam while in active labor.  This woman was also lauded with compliments for her extraordinary heroism as she barreled through her exam.

I understand that we are in a culture which supports and idolizes action. We are all about doing and achieving. And when you’re done with that, do and achieve more.  That picture and those who commented on how wonderful it was only reinforced that notion.  And while I believe these women–and women in particular, for that matter-are extraordinary, I can’t help but to feel a bit sad about how much that mentality has affected us. Most  women who have given birth can tell you what an exhaustive process labor can be.  And in the midst of this, these women felt that they really had no choice but to “woman up” and take an exam instead of focusing on the task at hand–a mighty large task if you ask me.

Now I know there are some who will say “But what’s wrong with what they did?” To you I will say, there’s nothing wrong.  I’m not speaking from a place of judgment.  I do applaud these women for doing what they felt they needed.  I think women are incredibly resilient. And while extreme, these two ladies, and any other ladies who’ve done similar things, illustrate this point. But reading their stories and all the comments of those who applauded them raised some questions for me. Tyler Collins, the 21 year-old Georgia mom who took her psychology exam while in labor said, “I just didn’t want to make an excuse for not taking it, but I also wanted to keep my GPA up.” I’m amazed by her strength. But I’m also amazed that she would have considered giving birth an “excuse” as to why she couldn’t take her exam. We’re not talking about a slight sniffle of the nose here. No, we’re talking about birthing a child!  How is that an excuse? I just wonder how long we woman shall rumble and roar just to say we did? Furthermore, I wonder why we even feel the need to?

Again, there is no judgment. I couldn’t judge if I wanted to since I still struggle to retire the invisible, yet still seen S on my chest and cape that flows from my neck.  I just am saddened that we as women still fall into the trap of thinking we have to do, get, labor (figuratively and literally), and toil in order to be worthy and strong. We still don’t quite understand that strength is a quiet trait.  It doesn’t make a grand entrance. It merely shows up when needed, does what needs to be done, and exits stage left when it’s done.  And sometimes strength realizes that rest or seeming inactivity is the thing that is needed. We forget that sometimes, the seemingly “weak” thing is the strongest thing to do.  We are after all, feminine beings. And feminine strength doesn’t look like masculine strength; nor does it need to.  What’s more, Collins scored a 76 on her exam and admitted she wasn’t pleased with the score, prompting her to email her professor to see if she could retake the exam. Thankfully, her picture and story went viral, so it prompted her teacher to give her extra credit, which bumped her grade from a C to a B.  But I couldn’t help but wonder, if she’d simply focused on her labor–you know prioritize–and taken the test at a later time, would she have received a score more to her liking. But that’s the mentality that we live with.  We must do it and we must do it NOW! There is no later.  If you wait, you won’t get another opportunity. And often times we don’t see how we cause our own suffering with that mentality.

I will repeat, these women were in labor! I understand the gravity of that can be forgotten in today’s world; since women have been doing it since the dawn of time. I get that how in the midst of all the medical, technological, and societal strides the human race has made, childbirth can seem so rudimentary.  Yet, it isn’t at all.  It’s heavy stuff, Man!  I also get that when we look at some of the things our ancestors faced, we feel like we’re chumps in the face of their adversity. And why shouldn’t we?  When you compare what they’ve gone through to our stuff one can’t help but arise at the conclusion that we have it made.  I’ve heard the stories of how our ancestors birthed babies in the middle of the cotton field, wrapped the baby and strapped them to their back, and then proceeded to continue picking cotton.  Yep, I’ve heard the stories. I was saddened by them then, just as I’m saddened now. And it’s because in spite of the advances, we still haven’t realized some things.

There has been and still is this idea that in order for a woman to succeed, she must do so with masculine energy. She must act.  If she isn’t acting, she’s not achieving.  Now admittedly, women have made great strides in their careers. Yet those strides have begged the question, at what cost?  The notion that women need to be like men in order to be strong is erroneous.  We were created different for a reason.  A woman can be strong in her feminine without embodying the masculine.  We can prioritize, possesses determination, and be amazing all without putting ourselves last.  It’s not a badge of honor to deplete ourselves in our quest to get things done.  Yet, that’s the model so many of us have chosen to emulate.  My wish is that every woman knows how splendid, beautiful, and yes, strong, she is.  But we can’t realize that trying to reach it with a masculine model in mind.

I just wonder that with all that women do,  why we feel it’s not enough? I wonder how long we will have to be the Strong (and often times Black) woman giving and doing with our might before we whittle away at everything we’ve got. Why is it that we feel like carrying, laboring, birthing, and raising our children is nothing? Why do you we feel like we haven’t done enough?  Why do we feel like we have to be “on” constantly, giving of ourselves until we’re depleted, to prove how we good we are?  Why are we constantly applauding women for these acts of self-neglect?  Yes, I said self-neglect, because that’s what it is. We give and give up so much from our cups that many of us have been holding empty cups for years–scraping the residue from the bottom to give even more.  I understand that there are times when we must toil because there is no other choice.  But there are other times (probably more than we care to admit) when we choose to do it.  I know I’m asking a lot of questions.  But what I’m trying to say is deeper than the questions.  There is grace in rest. There is no weakness in recognizing that what one needs is to have a seat or two, or several more.  We need to bestow grace upon ourselves.  As far as we’ve come, we need to understand that we don’t need to fight to prove our strength.  There is no battle to wage on our life.  And again, I’m not judging.  I do believe they are strong. I believe women are strong. I just wonder how much steam that strength of ours will have to run on if we continue this way.  That’s all.


Gratitude Day #5

Well it’s day 5 and today’s gratitude is a bit deep.  It has to do with a secret that I carried around for much of my life.  I actually never even told my father before he passed away.  Yet today, I don’t feel the heaviness of it as I did in years passed. In m opinion, humble as it may be, that is a true mark of my growth.  And yet another reason to be thankful.

On this day I am grateful for my unborn child. I’ve not shared this with many, but almost 20 years ago, when I was 16, I got pregnant. I felt ashamed, embarrassed, and disappointed. But most of all, I was just plain old scared. I was scared of what my father was going to do to me when he found out. He would have killed me—or come very close to it. And who could blame him? After all, I deserved to be punished. I was supposed to be a good girl and if I was pregnant, that meant I was having sex, and good girls simply did not do that. It also didn’t help that I’d begun having sex simply because my boyfriend wanted to. I wasn’t even remotely curious about sex. I just really wanted to be loved so when he showed me in a most non-discreet and obvious way where we were headed, I fell silent and complicit. I thought to myself, “Oh wow, I guess I’m going to have sex now.” And I did. I felt ashamed, but that was when and how he showed me attention and I desperately wanted his attention, so I continued to engage. I acted like I liked it. I acted as if I wanted it, but I didn’t and I died a little inside each time I succumbed to his will. I was in agony. Winding up a sobbing hot mess on the bathroom floor after reading the positive result on a pregnancy test only pushed me further into the abyss. I decided that I wouldn’t tell my parents. I’d get an abortion and never think about it again. But for the next 10 years, all I could think about was that baby and the horrible thing I’d done. The abortion only fueled the war I’d unconsciously waged against my already fragile self-esteem. I was in misery every single day.

A few days after the procedure, my mom found my medication. She’s a nurse so she knew exactly what the pills were. Too ashamed and afraid to tell her, I lied. I said they belonged to my best friend. She believed me—or at least she really wanted to. I felt so bad that I confessed to my friend. Being the wonderful friend she was/is, all she said was “Well, your parents already think I’m fast so a little less respect from them won’t hurt me.” Now it would seem that I’d been given a pass so that meant that I should’ve been ok from that point forward. But I wasn’t. I actually felt worse. In my mind, not only was I a fornicator and a murderer, but I was also a liar with no morals and a horrible friend. I deserved a fate worse than death. I deserved to be brutally punished over and over until I wished for death. And because I was so low, I didn’t even deserve to be relieved of my agony through death. For over a decade I rooted myself in this torment. I would be 27 years old, finding myself pregnant for the second time when I recognized that everything I was feeling was nothing but guilt and I had been wallowing in it. Before I gave birth to Jasmine, I thought about my unborn child every day. What would she/he look like? What would I have named him/her? What kind of mother would I have been? I didn’t believe I’d ever get the chance to become a mother. After all, I didn’t deserve it. When I found myself pregnant with Jasmine, I was happy but afraid. I was afraid every day of my pregnancy. I thought something would go wrong. I thought I deserved for something to go wrong. How dare I enjoy the beauty of motherhood after what I’d done to my first child? Once Jasmine was born, a peace wavered over me that said, “Enough. You must take care of this little girl who is here. It’s ok. You’ve punished yourself enough. Now stop this foolishness. It’s time to enjoy.”

I’ve heard it said that the soul of an unborn child simply waits until the next time to be born to their mother. So I don’t know if Jasmine was the soul waiting to be born through my unborn child at that time, or if my unborn child was another soul who has gone on to glory. But I do know, that I love that unborn child with all my might and I appreciate my unborn child. Through that brief encounter, that beautiful little soul has touched my life in a most amazing way. That soul taught me that guilt is a monster that serves no one. Guilt is a beast that robs of all joy. I wasn’t even able to get the lesson intended for me because I was stuck in my shame spiral. Through my unborn child I learned that guilt and sorrow are not the same. Sorrow says, “I messed up. I won’t do that again.” But guilt doesn’t. Guilt isn’t necessarily sorry for the act.  It simply feels bad about it because it knows the act goes against your moral compass.  Sorrow seeks to make amends.  Guilt just wants to feel better.  Guilt will continue to repeat the same thing and cry afterward having the nerve to say “Oh I feel so bad.” Yes I was sorry for my mis-steps, and I never did repeat the same mistake. However, the guilt is what allowed, even compelled me, to remain in the horrible cycle of punishing myself time and again. The guilt prohibited me from receiving and enjoying good. That unborn child also taught me compassion. Before I found myself pregnant, I judged young, unwed mothers. I looked down upon them. They were something to point at while I puffed up my chest and told myself how much better than they I was. The sweet irony of ending up just like them forced me to bake and eat my very own humble pie. While it wasn’t as sweet as I would have liked, it was very necessary and it was sustenance for my soul. I learned that we are all on our own journey and no one person is better than any other. We may cling to petty and superficial ties to make ourselves feel superior, but underneath all that bravado lays insecurity. But our insecurity is no excuse for having the audacity to think we can judge another. I’m still not convinced that I didn’t make the best decision for me at the time, but what I am convinced of is that it was all par for my course and I’m thankful for it. If my unborn child can hear me, I simply want to say that even though I didn’t birth you, I love you with all my heart and know that Mommy finally got the lesson. Thank you.


Gratitude Day #4

While I didn’t get to post my gratitudes for the past 2 days, I must say I’m still feeling quite grateful.  My daughter and I have gone to visit my best friend who moved away in August.  I’ve known her since we were 4 years old.  She’s been an integral part of my life throughout its duration.  I was quite happy when she received the amazing job opportunity in August–which is what prompted her move.  I was so excited for her and her son (who is also my amazing god son).  But, I can’t lie.  I was sad for me.  I was sad that my best friend was gone and I would no longer have the opportunity to just run by and sit on her couch while we talk about everything and nothing.  I was so excited to see them when they pulled up at the airport that I burst into tears.  It’s been great spending time with them.  And my Fizzle is so happy to see her “brother.” We’re reunited and it feels oh so good.  So this feel good feeling that we’re all feeling is only inspiring me to continue on with the gratitudes. So here we go.

On this day I am grateful to my mother. When I was growing up, my security relied on my parents. In my mind, we were a Love Triangle–our own Holy Trinity if you will–with my dad at the top, and me and my mom at the bottom. I didn’t want much if we weren’t all together. As the years went on, my mom and I developed an incredibly close relationship. I would tell people she was my best friend. I would nurture her and look out for her. I never told her, but I’d even get scared in the middle of the night that something might happen, so I’d get up and check her breathing. Mother-Daughter relationships are extremely complicated and can be incredibly volatile. Yet somehow, my mother and I were able to navigate through the explosive Mother/Daughter realm with ease. We were the amazing dynamic duo. We were the envy of mothers and daughters everywhere. I had several friends chastise their moms with cries of “Why can’t we be more like Je’Niece and her mom!” Of course our relationship would irritate the hell out of my dad and he’d say things like “Your mother is going to hurt your feelings one day.” I thought that was incredibly odd and quite rude to say, and I couldn’t understand why he’d say that—until he passed away

An incredible shift took place in our relationship. A distance I’d never known grew between us. It felt quite hostile. All that mushy gooey-ness we shared seemed to dissipate before my very eyes. It was incredibly hard for me. As an only child, I’d built my identity on my parental units. Now my father was dead and it seemed that my mother was (in a way) dying to me as well. I would ask if I’d done anything, did I remind her too much of my dad, and of course she would say no. But she wouldn’t offer me any thing else. We went from talking for hours every day to not talking—sometimes for weeks at a time. She had her story she was into about me and I had my story that I was into about her. It was so bad that when she got engaged, I may have been the last person to find out. She told people at the spa we both went to before she told me! I was crushed. I don’t do well when my feelings are hurt. I retreat. To others, it appears that I’m angry, but I am not. I am simply hurt and unable to move forward. It’s a simple defense mechanism, but this time I made an exception. I chased my mother. I mean I ran after her until there were holes in my proverbial emotional shoes. I couldn’t sleep or eat and it seemed like the harder I chased, the faster and the farther she ran away. Until this day we have never come to a true conclusion as to what prompted the shift. But you know what? It doesn’t matter. All I know is that I am so thankful that it occurred, because it forced me to recognize some heavy truths. While I love my mother with one of the purest loves I’ve ever felt, we had an extremely co-dependent, slightly dysfunctional relationship. My father was the center of our universe and much of our bond centered on an Us vs. Him set up. We weren’t very honest with one another either. I think we both believed my father to be a brutally honest person who would not dare hesitate to hurt your feelings in the name of “Truth” so we wouldn’t give that honesty to one another. We’d give the sweet, syrup, sugar coated version of what we thought the other “needed” to hear. I think we both also bought into the notion that the only “important” person in the family was my dad. Even before he became famous, he had this electric energy that just commanded attention. We both knew we were important, but just not as important as he. So we settled into this coddling type of relationship with one another. Neither one of us living to our true potential, but telling each other that we were. When my dad passed away, we didn’t need that anymore. We needed to move into something that would better serve us. But I didn’t get that. Hell, I didn’t want that! I felt like: Dammit there has been enough change in my life (with my dad’s death and my divorce) and if I couldn’t have at least this one relationship the way it’s always been what the hell was left for me?! But I realize now that was one of the best things that ever happened to me. And it had to happen as it did because I wouldn’t have gotten the memo any other way. Had she not stepped away from me, I probably would have moved in with her and become a spinster. I would have played safe, put all my focus on her. I would have asked permission to make any type of move in my life and only done so if she wanted me to. I remember her coming to me after my dad died. She said, ‘I had a dream that you moved to California with Jasmine and I was so hurt. I just couldn’t believe that you would do that to me.” I really did want to move to California, but I took what she said as a warning and decided, “OK well I won’t do that.” That shift in our relationship showed me that having boundaries in our relationships is one of the healthiest, loving things we can do for the ones we love. That shift in our relationship healed the mother/daughter bond and allowed me to be a better mother to my daughter. Otherwise, I probably would have repeated the very same pattern with Jasmine. Regardless of my initial reaction, that shift was the best thing that ever happened to us. We both have gone on to the paths we were meant. I now know that better days are ahead of me and that I am the only person required to give permission in my life. And while our present relationship is not what it was, I don’t love or appreciate my mother any less than I did then. I may actually appreciate her more because she helped me find my strength. So in some ways, once again, my dad was right because my mom did in fact hurt my feelings. But whether she meant to or not, she made me a better person, Woman and Mother. So thanks Mom. You were and still are a great teacher.

Tales From The Mommy Side

If you know me, you know that my daughter. The Fizzle, as I affectionately call her, is the love of my life. I love her in a space where there are no words. But, as much as I love her, that love is not enough to sustain me. If I did nothing else but love her and be her Mom, I would die unfulfilled. Now, before you write me off as a selfish Mommy, hear me out.

I said that I love her. She is the love of my life. However, my love for her cannot shade my divine soul purpose. I know that I was put here on this Earth to do something beyond motherhood. That’s not a mark against motherhood though. I think that being The Fizzle’s mom is one of the most rewarding roles I will ever fill. What I’m saying is that it’s not my only role.

When the Fizzle was first born, I was overwhelmed. I had this image in my head of what being a mother was supposed to entail.  I was so fixated upon this image that I overwhelmed myself. I felt bad if I let her cry for too long. I felt bad when she cried even after I’d crossed off all the important items on the baby comfort checklist: fed and burped her, changed her diaper, had her at appropriate temperature. I simply felt like a failure. I can’t even say that I put myself last because I didn’t even put myself on the list. I fell into the trap of thinking that a good Mommy is one who martyrs herself for the sake of her child. And as a result, I was tired and miserable. I remember one particular day when I was just spent. I had nothing left. The Fizzle was only maybe 3-4 months old. She was crying and so was I. I had done everything I could think to soothe her, and was unsuccessful. So I put her in her crib and closed the door. I decided I would go downstairs just to collect myself. I couldn’t even make it down the stairs. I fell on one of the steps and simply cried. I remember saying, “I know I wanted to be a mother. This is what I wanted. But I didn’t think it would look like this.” Well the problem was that in my vision of motherhood, I was showing up every day. But in the reality of it, I was not. I was failing to show up for myself. I demoted myself in this world as just a Mom. And in doing so, I signed myself up to feel inadequate and to not take up my rightful place in this world.

I thought about my daughter and all that I wanted for her. I wanted so much for her. I wanted her to be and have everything that she wanted. And I believed that she could do it. So how is it that I could have all this faith in her, yet none for myself? And how exactly did I expect her to do whatever she wanted if I didn’t model that for her? How unfair I was being to the both of us. I was being unfair to myself by failing to show up for myself in every way. I was being unfair to my daughter by placing an unrealistic burden on her to be my everything. While it makes for catchy song lyrics, she was not, in fact, all I needed to get by. No one person can ever truly fulfill another—not even a child. To ask one to do so is selfish in my opinion, so I won’t. That is far too great a task to ask of my precious child. And I love her (and me) too much to do that.

No, I couldn’t ask that of my baby. Mommy needed to get on with the business of living for both of us. And that meant that I needed to engage my innate gifts and talents. That meant that I needed to admit that I had dreams that needed fulfilling. And if I didn’t go on to fulfill them, what was I doing with my life? And just like that, I gave up the ghost of martyrdom. I stopped telling myself that being a good mother was all I needed to do with my life. I stopped pretending that there weren’t dreams inside of me. I made the conscious choice to dedicate myself to myself and live my truth.

I’m so grateful to my daughter for helping me to learn this lesson. She showed her Mommy the way—and she didn’t even know it (or maybe she did and I just didn’t know). And that is why I can boldly and lovingly say that which I said at the start. While I love my daughter, motherhood alone will not leave me fulfilled. My father would say to me that the world owes me nothing. It is I who owed the world. I owe it to not only myself, but also this world to put forth my best self and use the talents that I possess to leave my imprint upon this world. And that’s exactly what I’m doing.

*photo by YourMemories Photography*

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