Bassey's World:

Tales of An Underachieving Overachiever

Didn’t Turn Out Exactly How (my) Mom And Dad Wanted Me To Be

I call my blog “Tales of an Underachieving Overachiever”. It’s a tongue-in-cheek acknowledgement that the expectations I predicted or were predicted for me as a child have gone largely unfulfilled. Even in my young adult hood, I was carving my path and okay with what I was seeing but I also allowed fear to be more brick wall than persistent wind. I note that my parents aren’t sure what to make of me. I note that my uncles and aunties (friends of my parents) have no idea what to make of me. I’ve been okay with that for the last few years but coming home to restart life with a child in tow and few resources, I’ve had to come to terms with decisions that I’ve made that I’m not proud of. I’m not ashamed of any choice I’ve made, don’t get me wrong but I am ready to admit that I’ve made quite a few poor choices.

Now, it would be easy to blame those choices on my illness and the illness does play a part. Absolutely. It’s kept me paralyzed at times and spinning into a dervish of debilitation and  dysfunction. It’s why I didn’t finish college. I had trouble convincing my mind and body to work in tandem. If I could even make it out of the fog of depression to make it to class, I’d often sit there with words battling for space in my head. Thoughts speeding in loops that would make NASCAR enthusiasts dizzy. I spent most of my twenties trying to figure out how to navigate and negotiate my broken brain. I think I did pretty well but as an “underachieving overachiever”, I feel like I could have done more. But at some point, I do take responsibility for who I am and what I’ve done and I take every day as an opportunity to do and be better than I was yesterday.

That’s just how I feel. I’ve been taking inventory of my personality the last few days/weeks/months and the verdict, thus far is that I’m pretty awesome. I mean really, I love the person that I am. I’m not going to sit here and list my positive attributes, if you know me, you know them. I’ll just go ahead and write “arrogant” in the not so great section of my list. Kidding. But seriously, one thing that I’ve noticed is that as brave as I am and have been in my life, I’ve also let fear rule me. Fear of disappointing others. Fear of being alone. Fear of being unloved or unlovable. Fear of failure. Fear of success I can’t handle. The list goes on and on. I’m working on figuring out how to leap more often and more frequently. Deciding not to perform poetry anymore was a huge step. It’s all I’ve ever done professionally. It’s been my only job and I think I did it as long as I did because I was scared of not having anything. Sure the money was great when it was there but I was tired of living scared that suddenly all the gigs would dry up and I’d be left out in the cold. And things did slow down. I stopped putting myself out there because of tired of constantly having to prove and sell myself to the new batch of college students who hadn’t heard of me or seen my work. It’s not the life I wanted. One of my twitter friends (@speakwritelove) does this amazing service on twitter called #TarotTuesdays. It’s brilliant and I wish there was a way for me to praise, protect and promote her work. Anyway, she read for me about some recent changes I’ve made and marked that “my passion is finally meeting my purpose.” Speaking of course about The Siwe Project.

I know how difficult it’s been for me to live the life I wanted while trying to battle this “thing” I didn’t understand. I wasted a lot of years. I disappointed a lot of people. I broke a lot of hearts, mine included. I hurt a lot of people, myself included. And I feel like I have to pay restitution. To finally get my thoughts and actions in line with my purpose and my expectations of myself. I’m very difficult to love. I’m never emotionally or physically stable enough to hold on to. I turn and I fly and if I do return, I’m never like I was when I left. An ex-boyfriend once told me after a particularly silent car ride that “You left again.” and I was pissed off at the emo nature of the statement but I understood what he meant. I checked out and I wasn’t coming back. I ended the relationship less than a month later. I don’t know why I checked out. Or why I ever check out and never come back but I’m learning to enter things for the right reasons. That’s been the most difficult thing to learn. The “right reasons”.

I remember writing in this space about a year ago that I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’ve never been in love. I’ve loved deeply and I’ve loved loudly. But I’ve never felt that soft, fold and comfort that comes with the “in love.” I’ve joked that I’ve never fallen in love, I’ve flung myself at it. And it’s funny but true. I’m finally at a point where I’m cautious and I’m careful and I’m studied and I’m learned about what I do and how and why. It’s been a slow process and I’ve noticed it slowly occurring over the last year. After some particularly terrible, relationships (both friendship and otherwise) all layered on top of each other, situations that I NEVER should have entered but was too dazed and frantic to see at the time. And then after the last guy, almost a year ago, I realized that I was tired of it all and if I wanted to love and be loved and not “leave for cigs and never come back”, I had to take careful stock of who I am and what I had to offer and why I was offering it. It’s been tough. It’s difficult to hold a mirror to yourself and notice that that hairstyle isn’t as cute on you as you thought. But it’s necessary and though I acknowledge that I still have much work to do, I’m pretty damn happy with were i am now. I have my ups and downs. I woke up a little down this morning. Not sure why. Just felt a heaviness in my belly that I couldn’t target but the difference between now and a few years ago, is that heaviness would have sunk me to the bottom of the ocean. This heaviness just sort of feels like I had too much fufu. I just need to sit a little bit and let it digest.

Which is how this blog happened. It didn’t really do what I wanted it to do. It started one place and ended another. Much like my life. Much like me.

I’m cool with that,

B.

Get Out of My Dreams…

I’m pretty much certain everything I write for the next few days will have a Billy Ocean lyric as the title. You’re just going to have to deal with it. I’m sorry.

I’m not sorry.

I really liked that song when I was little. I think it was half in cartoon. It’s the same reason MC Skat Kat and I were peoples. I loved that video. I know the whole dance routine. I know the dance routine to most videos that came out in the 80s/90s. We were too poor to afford dance class so that’s how I learned how to dance. I checked out books in the library to learn proper ballet technique. Remember that for my inevitable Master Class on OWN… provided OWN still exists in a year. No shade. I just find the channel hella boring except for the Master Class series.

I didn’t do anything productive today. Not one single, solitary thing. I didn’t cook. I didn’t write. I didn’t clean. I didn’t cheer my estranged truck driver father on as he participated in the world series of arm wrestling. Screaming, “Over the top, dad! Over the top!” Nope. I did none of that. I just sat here, staring at my blank google page, watching it blink and blink and blink taunting me with it’s incessant, persistent, ticking like some sort of demonic metronome.  I read a little bit. Then back to the blinking cursor. I really want to write about Beyonce’s pregnancy and how it’s turned into some sort of round about vilification of single motherhood. I just can’t seem to figure out the best way to enter the conversation. I talk about my son a lot and it’s obvious I’m a single mother but I don’t really talk about the circumstances surrounding this. And not talking about it would make my post inauthentic at best and downright useless at worst.

The blinking cursor got annoying so I did a “Name it and Claim it” I made a bullet point list of where I wanted to be exactly one year from today. You should try it. It’ll surprise you plus it will keep your goals close to you. You’ll have a destination in mind for the amazing journey you’re on now. Or you’ll have a place to look forward so you can start on a journey.

Thanks to one of my amazing followers (@kenya_d) it looks like there might be a BasseyWorld Live: Redux. I’m going to look into the venue after my sabbatical and see what happens but it looks good. It will also serve as the first fundraiser for The Siwe Project. We need funds just so we can put the website up. I  gave up a lot to start this organization. I’ve turned down gigs that weren’t really in line with where I’m headed. I’ll still do colleges/universities because I have the opportunity to spread the message as well as read some poems. Boogie is well taken care of and I trust and believe that my personal needs will be met. I’m never without. Something always pulls me through. And I feel like this is a big enough “thing” that it will have its own rewards. I have to believe that.

And I do believe it.

Even though I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to come about Boogie’s winter uniform but it’ll happen. It always does.

Paciencia y fe. 

Lesson for the stubborn and impatient.

I have nothing of interest or importance to say. I just felt like giving that patronizing blinking cursor something to talk about.

This new medication is taking my appetite so I have to remember to eat something. So far it’s protein shakes and tea. Chewing has become tedious but I’ll do it. The medication is working so I refuse to stop taking it. I might finally have the combination. I feel completely balanced right now. Not too up and definitely not down. I feel “normal”. I like normal. I just need to relearn how to function in normal. It’s a reset that I have to do with each med switch. Nothing about me changes. My personality remains the same, I just have to learn to move without the crutches. It’s almost like mental/emotional physical therapy. Which is where regular ass therapy comes in and giving myself permission to sit and not write anything all day and not beat myself up over it. This ability to be kinder to myself and treat myself the way I treat and care for others. It’s good. I like it.

I’m sorry this isn’t poetic or inspirational. It’s just all I have right now. And a closet full of shoes and bags that I need to organize in some way. Swapping out summer for fall. Every year, I wonder what happened to my clothes. Suddenly I have nothing to wear for fall. Plenty of shoes, coats and denim but where are my tops? Do I even own any sweaters? These are questions I have.

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you about why I’m in this deep deep place of self reflection and evaluation.

Or I won’t.

#youcare

B.

When The Going Gets Tough

I’ve been listening to a lot of Billy Ocean the last few days. I don’t mean, I play his greatest hit CD on iTunes once a day. No. I mean, that continuously from the moment I wake up until the seconds I fall asleep, Billy Ocean is on a continuous loop. I’ve always been a fan of his. Since I was little, I just liked the dude. I have no idea why. When I started listening to him recently, it was kind of a joke. I’d heard Lover Boy somewhere and went on Youtube searching for the weird ass Dark Crystal alien video that went with it. Then I started listening to some other songs and I was like, “Wow. I forgot how much I like this dude.’ from there comes the downloading of the greatest hits and well– you have me. Listening to this CD all day every day for the past 3 days.

I get like that sometimes. Something enters my brain and I’m completely obsessed with that thing for a week, if it’s extra awesome, a month and then suddenly, it fades slowly out of my circle of thought and it’s like it never existed. (See also: Beyonce’s new album, Les Twins, avocado toast, cooking– the list goes on.)  I do this with people too. I’m not proud of it. I’ve been doing a lot of self evaluation (evaluating?) lately because I’m getting ready for some important changes in my life. I have to be prepared to take on these huge professional and personal changes and I have to make sure that the things that have prevented me from these types of things previously, don’t rear their ugly heads at the most inopportune time. I’m not going to sit here and list all the things that would annoy me if I were my own friend (or something.) but it’s eye opening to see yourself through a clear and honest mirror. I’m working on making the changes. And accepting some of the things about me that probably will never change. One of which being that I am a complete neurotic freak. Ain’t enough medication or therapy in the world to change that. I just have to make sure it doesn’t completely get out of control. I’ve learned to check myself constantly and keep it contained. The urge I have to go overboard stays internal. So and so hasn’t contacted me in a few weeks? Okay. Now don’t get me wrong, I will freak out and come up with every illogical reason as to why not often ending with my accidentally insulting a personal friend while telling one of my jokes. (“Dude, I didn’t know Lil Wayne was your cousin…”) Now, I know that’s not true. Okay. I’m not sure if it’s true but the odds of it being true are slim to none. Now ordinarily, I would have apologized for this mystery slight that never happened just to find out what the fuck is going on?!?!? Now, however, I think these things, might even vent to a girlfriend or two, but for the most part I keep it and eventually shrug it off on some, “Well. Whatever. Everyone’s busy. Hell I’m busy. Let me get to my life. Get at me when you get at me.” See? Growth.

Kinda.

I’m taking a social media sabbatical. I’ve decided that blogging doesn’t count. These are my rules, I’ll change them how I like. I’m also not responding to emails unless they’re super important. I even have an away message telling folks that I’m unavailable until the 8th. Why the 8th? Why the fuck not. See? My rules. All jokes aside, I need a break. I have so much going on in the future, that I need to clear my head and my hurt and prepare for it. I need to be ready. Things are going to be huge. I’m being purposefully obtuse because I can’t give details. Just know that I have to be ready to handle the pressure and the stress with confidence and aplomb. Don’t you just love that word “aplomb” it makes me think of some sort of magical fruit.

My grandmother died.

I have to say that a few times a day because it really doesn’t make sense. She lived in Nigeria so every once in awhile, my brain convinces me that she’s at her house, tending to her farm and I’m going to see her as I planned in about a year. A year. I decided on a year. I didn’t know she didn’t have a year.

I know everyone says “live each moment like it’s the last” or “love the people in your life because they may not be around when you get around to it”? Wait… nobody says that. I think I just made it up. Well, there’s a saying like that and I can’t remember what it is. Point is, I’m taking that mad seriously these days. I’m all about grabbing for the highest thing. I don’t care what it is. I’m going for it. Oh, what’s that you say? I can’t so that? The hell you say. Watch me do it and then quit it and then do it again just to show off.

This blog is all over the place. Not tweeting has all these random thoughts that I usually put out there sort of just swimming around in my head playing water polo and shit.

So yeah. I’m good. Working on The Siwe Project. Trying to maintain some sort of balance in my mind, heart and spirit. Cleaning my room. Oh my God. I cleaned my room and threw away tons of stuff. Clothes and shoes and letters to old flames that I for some reason made copies of and kept. Weirdo. Yeah. Tossed all that. I don’t need that energy. Not if I’m trying to invite new ones. The past is the past. I’m ready for the future.

It’s 9:00PM and I’m ready for bed. Like I’m legit yawning. I’ve been waiting since 7 for it to be a reasonable time to sleep. See what happens when I’m not on Twitter, Facebook or g-chat? Fatigue sets in. I think doctors should study that.

I’m good though. A little anxious just because this project could be huge and I don’t want to fuck it up. But I’m pushing through the nerves. It’s too important.

Things are okay. Day one of internet (except blogging) hiatus has been a success. I have way too much time on my hands now so I’m going to start reading. Oh books. How I’ve missed you and your fragile paper pages. I think I’m going to re-ready some J. California Cooper. #YouCare (yes, I did.).

Tomorrow, hopefully, writing will happen. I have more to say than I thought.

Laters love bugs,

B.

PS. I’m okay with it and I get why it’s not as easy as most things and that’s why I want it. Because it’s not as easy as most things. Which means, it has the potential to be better. So don’t be afraid of how quirky, neuortic and adorable I am. It adds to my charm and trust me, your life will never be boring. Never.

That was an open note of sorts. If this was 7th period English, I would have asked my friend to slip it in a locker for me. I asked my blog instead.

See? quirky. Adorable. awesome.

The Grit And The Grain of My Grandmother’s Gari

I wrote about my grandmother, my mother’s mother, in the poem, Homeward. I spoke about the challenges we faced attempting to communicate. She spoke no English, barely even pidgin and I had lost my Yakuur tongue at the age of 4. Still, we spoke in love. My grandmother loved me like no other human being. Even if she didn’t say it, even if she couldn’t say it. I felt it. I knew it. The first time I saw her after being away from Nigerian for 7 years, my grandmother, this tiny 4’9, skinny woman, grabbed me and lifted me off the ground. She was so strong. I remember watching her those days carrying bundles on her head. In the States, most women her age would be in nursing homes or glued to their easy chairs and television shows. Not my grandmother, she trekked to her small plot of  farm every day, tending to her prize winning yams and other vegetation. She was so proud of that garden. She won award after award for her produce. It was her only thing. My mother lived in a dirt floor, thatched roof, one room house. It’s what she wanted. We wanted to build her a house some place she could live in grand style. She would shrug us off tell us she was happy where she was. She was happy with her room and the tin pots that lined the walls. She was happy tending to her farm. It was that farm that had her refusing time and time again to even visit the United States. She knew where home was and she wanted to stay there.

My grandmother has that face. The one my sister and I have. The one my mother has. In fact, she has the exact same face as my mother, only hers is etched with time. We share the same hands. Small but strong. She was a stubborn old woman. Like my mother. Like me. In the poem, I talk about how it breaks my heart that I can only love her in English. I wish I would have tried harder to love her in a language she understood. Life in America is too easy. For immigrants to this nation, those of us born home but raised here, we have a tie to this land that created us but have settled comfortably in the country that owns us. I don’t want to speak about regrets. I want to speak about her. My grandmother. This powerhouse of a woman. This sharp tongued quick witted woman. This strong willed, determined woman. This woman that raised me from almost birth to the age of 4 when my mother, done with nursing school,  took me to join my father in The United States. I barely remember waving to her as she said her good byes. Every time she saw me after, she would cup my face, then take my hands in hers and blow three times. This was a blessing. I didn’t know my grandmother very well. I know she lived a hard life. I know she tried. I know she did the best she could. I know she raised three women, all with her face. All stubborn. All determined. All heavy with burdens I will never know or understand but that woman, she did the best she could.

And a lot of what I’ve done was to make her proud. Even if she didn’t understand a word. She saw videos. She saw my pictures in magazines. She was told of my writing and she was so proud. I was her “mmabassey” and she was one of the women who shaped the woman I have become.

My grandmother passed away yesterday. I’m heartbroken not only for myself but for my mother who is carrying silence right now. I’m sad. Deeply, deeply saddened. but a few years ago, she broke her hip and was confined to a wheelchair. She was unable to tend to her farm. She was unhappy. I was told she’d lost the fire I’d remember her possessing. I’m glad she’s at peace. I’m glad she is where she needs to be, tending to her farm, cultivating her yams, carrying bundles bigger than her tiny body. I’m not sure if I believe in heaven but if there is one, I know my grandmother is there. I Jesus needs some pounded yam. My grandmother will bring it to him.

Free Write For Amy Winehouse.

Wasn’t happy with the poem I was writing for Amy before.  It was just pedantic and trite. It was being forced out and not coming how I wanted. I decided to do a free write. I’ve had this Zora Neale Hurston quote in my head for weeks and Amy on my heart for weeks. I used that to guide me a bit and organize the scattered thoughts. I set a timer for 10 minutes, put Amy on itunes and then I wrote. I went back and cleaned some things up but kept the structure true to the free write. 
I might work on it some more. I might not. I’m just happy that something happened.
love
B. 
For Amy and other women who carry chaos.
If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.
                                                   -Zora Neale Hurston

this flame and flicker
was  not meant to last this long
we were not meant to chase the sun this often
uncertain, as we are, that the days will occur without us
so we wake
and lift
and push
and throw our bodies across these minutes
collecting respectable stacks of time
we wish to be praised for “trying”
maybe someone will call us brave
or strong
or marvel about how we are not like this one
or that one
sure that those whispers do not touch our skin

drugs.
booze.
men that hate you for loving them.
all this to dull the ache of living.

say we are worth this trouble that we cause
say you will love us until the chaos slides off our bones
lie if you must

we like the weight of water
appreciate how tidal waves mimic our moods
carry our hearts out to sea
seek life raft
seek buoy
return ship wrecked
splintered debris
saltwater and blood stained

we try

every morning new beginnings
crawl hands and knees to our beds
when nightfalls
Call out to God, Jehovah, Allah
pray someone will tell Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad
someone who answers when we are at war with ourselves.

Choose drugs.
Choose booze.
Choose men who hate us for loving them
say we are worth this trouble we cause
say if we pray hard enough this chaos will slide off our bones
lie if you must
it is only a matter of time before we stop bleeding
they will ridicule the stains on our sheets
before we’ve even stopped throbbing
before the ache has fully left us
they will ask us what we did to cause this
why we couldn’t welcome sun like the rest of the world
why we turn to men and drugs and booze
instead of god and work and money
nobody has the heart to tell them for us
we did not choose this.
did nothing to deserve or invite this beast in
we did not request our footprints on the sun
this chaos we wear on our heads
this life is neither punishment
nor reward
your life  turns palm over fist
easy like judgment
we fight ourselves
avoid our palms
duck our fists
just so we can live the life you ease into
so that we can make it out alive
unbroken
scarred a little less
so just tell us
tell us that we’re worth this trouble we cause
say that this chaos will one day slide off our bones
lie if you must

Happy Birthday, B! (Or 35 Things I need to Know and Remember)

Dear Bassey,
  1. Fuck fear, love anyway.
  2. Your heart is neither briar patch nor tumble weed. It is lush, tropical rain forest. Treat it accordingly.
  3. Listen to your head, trust your heart but let your gut break the tie.
  4. Release the myth of martyrdom. Joan of Arc didn’t set herself on fire.
  5. If they demand your silence in exchange for your friendship or love, then they aren’t worth the sound of your voice.
  6. You dream. You act. You plan. You work. You be. You will. I promise.
  7. Elaiwe is your greatest gift to the world. Your gift to him is to build a life that doesn’t revolve around his.
  8. Your failures don’t define you. Your successes won’t sustain you. Never stop growing.
  9. Patience may not be your strongest suit but it has always revealed your greatest rewards.
  10. Remember that everything you are can be found in the space between pinky and thumb. You are fist. You are palm.  You are fan. You are a welcome wave. You are measured goodbye. You are treasured caress. You are steady. You are rock and roll.  You are a necessary part of prayer. You are one. You are peace. You are a bad mother fucker.
  11. You are at your best when you are smiling. Find at least  one reason an hour to be at your best.
  12. Despite what you’ve told yourself or others, it is never too late to steady yourself and start again.
  13. It isn’t about forgiving and/or forgetting, it’s about moving on and getting better.
  14. Make new mistakes.
  15. Edit. The poem. The writing. The conversation. The choice. The decision. The life. Nothing is final. Edit.
  16. You are an empath.  Be careful.
  17.  Remove yourself from those that drain and refuse to replenish.
  18. What scares you most isn’t the action, it’s the reaction. Don’t let it stop you from taking first step.
  19. They will love you no matter what but it is your responsibility to never force them to prove it.
  20. Someone will always find you.
  21. Every morning provides a new opportunity to start again. Take it.
  22.  You can’t sing. Promise to  do it anyway.
  23. You are a blessed thing when you’re laughing and dancing.
  24. Who you were and what you did, good or bad, has nothing to do with who you are and what you will do.
  25. Never apologize for how you choose to take care of yourself.
  26. Pack your favorite shoes. Wear them even if just to sit and stare at the way they love your feet.
  27. Let fear be the wind at your back not the brick that keeps you from moving.
  28. Elaiwe is the highest place. Teach him to find a place even higher than that.
  29.  Go find something to be. Something that tells you why you’re here.
  30. You will be a writer even if you never write another word. You are not a writer because you do.
  31. There is a road map tattooed to the inside of your eyelids.
  32. Change your mind. Change it back.
  33. Be beautiful without permission.
  34. Live like poems written when strength was common.
  35. Love someone and mean it.
Start with yourself.
Here we are. Finally facing the other side of this life you’ve built thus far. I can hear you trembling. Can feel the quake of your worry start to over take you. There is more to come. There is more you to peel away and discover. There is a new journey. Some days, I know it feels like there is nothing to hold you. That your past sits on your shoulder like the devil at high noon. You know that’s not true. You have grown towards the sun. Don’t let anyone try to drag you back. You are neither shadow nor brick.  You did the right thing. You did the right thing. You did the right thing. Hold that. Grow with it. Carry it with you on this adventure.
Happy Birthday, mama girl. We have secrets. They are beautiful. This time next year, there will be a new moon to gaze at and marvel at how far we journeyed to get here.
love,
B.
PS. Tell him I said hello and it’s about damn time.

Free Write: Sucks To Be Me Right Now

I don’t do tough love. I hate it. I don’t respond well to it. It just makes me feel worse and I either want to fight you or shut down completely. More often than not, I shut down completely. It’s my kryptonite. No. It’s my battery drain. Okay, let’s go back to kryptonite.

The last few months have been difficult. I’m not even going to pretend. It’s money. It’s work. It’s writing. It’s not wanting to write anymore. It’s whether or not I’m parenting properly. It’s whether or not I’m being a good daughter or sibling. It’s whether or not things are going to suddenly click and just make sense. And then after they make sense, will there be a magical list of instructions and directions that appears to me in a burning bush? or however that story goes. I haven’t read the Bible in years. I’ll wait while someone posts in the comments section that my problem is that I haven’t read the Bible in years.

Anyway, I have ideas. I have lots of ideas. I have things that I want to accomplish. I have projects that I want to work on. I have all kinds of things that could lift me from this rut but the truth of the matter is that I’m scared. I’m scared of failing. I feel like I’m running out of chances. I know every journey begins with one step and that’s true but meanwhile, I’m in my closet staring at my shoes trying to figure out what pair to wear to make the first step. They have to be the right pair of shoes. Don’t tell me they don’t. They do!

I wish sometimes that I could wake up in the morning and be in the middle of things. The starting up has always left me full of self doubt. I wonder if I’m capable. If I can be trusted with it. If other people think I”m capable. On twitter the other day, I spoke about how weird I am with compliments. I think I’m awesome. I really do. I have the best time with myself. I make myself laugh. I choreograph amazing drag routines to Beyonce songs. I sit around most of the time in my pajamas and a pair of stilettos because I can. I’m a good person. I mess up but I mean well. My heart is in the right place and often that place is somewhere in my belly. I’m an empath. I feel things strongly and deeply. Not just my things. Your things. Your moms things. Does your dad have things? I feel those too. Pause.

I think I’m amazing. I’m just not sure why you think I’m amazing. And that is what usually keeps me grounded. When I lived in New York, I was given all these amazing opportunities that I didn’t earn and I didn’t really capitalize on. Let’s be honest. I was in the right place at the right time and a bunch of really cool shit happened. I was lucky. I was talented and personable and kind and sincere but so were a lot of people who didn’t have those opportunities. I’m grateful for them but I keep them in perspective.

The truth about the acorn is the tree.-Hegel

It’s not even about regret. It’s about wishing I had made different choices. Not gone left when I should have gone right but maybe slowed down when I made the turn. It is what it is. There’s no Back To The Future IV: Bassey Strikes Back in the future. I’m not wallowing in regret. If there’s nothing else in the world for me, I’m proud of Boogie boy. He’s an amazing child. And growing into a good person. Last week in the car, he told me about this bad dream he had about this giant that was chasing him. I listened intently as he spoke but he went from typical tot to baby Buddha in 4 seconds flat. I wrote about it on his blog so I won’t recap it here but what I walked away from it is “Make friends with giants” or find away to make peace with the things that frighten you. You need those fears to help you grow. The fears aren’t there to keep you stagnant. They’re too push you forward. I’m editorializing his original comment but it’s not too far from the truth. Seriously. go see for yourself.

http://www.boogiechronicles.com 

I told you. He’s amazing. And I’m trying to listen. I’m starting a new writing project soon called Making Friends With Giants. It’s about conquering fears. Silly things that I’m afraid to do, I have to do at least one thing a week that scares me for a year. That’s 52 fears. I’ve already started and I’m working my way up to the giants. Right now, I’m making friends with Smurfs but you gotta start somewhere, right?

Every day is another day for me to try again. My birthday is in 2 weeks. I’m not where I thought I would be at 35.Ten years ago, if you would have asked me where I would be, I would be in Brooklyn. That’s the only answer I could have given you. Ten years later, I haven’t seen Brooklyn in months and I don’t miss her like I used to. I don’t feel like she looks like me anymore.

But my books are still in boxes here. And there’s a bag in the corner that I haven’t unpacked in 4 years. I know what’s in it. It’s for home. Soon as I find home, I’ll unpack. Until then…

I’m not sure what the point of this blog is. I didn’t want Siwe’s death to be the last thing that touched this space. She was too much love and light for that. In her honor, I’m creating spaces for girls like her and me (and you) to heal a bit and feel safe and heard.

I just gotta figure out what shoes I’m going to wear.

B.

PS. 1000 words

Free Write: Right To Life

 

 

I’ve never tried to kill myself. This doesn’t mean that I’ve never wanted to. It only means that I’ve never tried to actively kill myself. The first time I was hospitalized in October of 2004, I was hospitalized for severe passive suicidality. In layman’s terms, that means that I lost the will to live. I didn’t have the heart to actually swallow pills or slice wrists or dangle from ceiling. I simply gave up. I stopped eating. I stopped sleeping. I stopped bathing. I stopped brushing my teeth. I stopped getting dressed. After days of being awake and crying and wandering the streets of New York, I would pass out from sheer exhaustion and 20 minutes to an hour later, wake up often on the floor of my Brooklyn bedroom with disappointment slapping me in the face.  I was doing life wrong and I didn’t know how to fix it. I just wanted a do over. I wanted my friends and family to stop worrying about me. I wanted to stop being a failure and a loser and someone who couldn’t get it together.

I didn’t want to wake up. I thought it was better that way.

I know it wasn’t but I didn’t have the space or the tools or the presence of mind to think otherwise. It took about a week of hospitalization and new medication combos and literally being forced out of bed and out of my own head every day to spark a turn around. Even then, it wasnt’ about me.

I read a lot about people who don’t “understand” suicide. What’s there not to understand? Depression is a fungus that attacks your will to live. You want to escape it. You want to be out of its reach. I’m not advocating it by any stretch of the imagination but I think the first step in helping those who are depressed and who justifiably believe that suicide is the only way out, is to acknowledge and accept how real that line of thinking is. Saying, ‘life is wonderful” to someone who has evidence to the contrary is not going to help. It’s as delusional as depression and mental illness themselves. Saying, “Suicide is a sin.  You will go to hell.” is also not going to help someone who feels as though they’re life is already a living hell.  As difficult as it sounds, as awful as it feels, you have to acknowledge how real the feelings are. how seductive. how easy. How much sense it makes given what it feels like to live. You have to say, “I understand what this feels like. I understand why you would feel this is the best thing for you. I”m here to tell you that it’s not the only way. It’s going to take a shit ton of work. It’s going to take massive amounts of will and I know your tired but you won’t always be.” You have to start by acknowledging that the feelings are real. Trying to convince someone that they aren’t will only make them feel more like an outcast. When you feel like waking up and getting dressed and leaving the house is the easiest thing in the world to do but you can’t seem to convince yourself that it’s worth it. I know what it feels like to open  your eyes to morning and wish you didn’t see it. It feels like you’re doing the whole thing wrong. Everything. Breathing. Heart beating out of time. Organs doing everything but what they were designed to do.  Everything feels uncomfortable and wrong.

What helped me wasn’t me. I didn’t feel worth it so I had to focus on other things and other people to help pull me out. I might not want to live but my sister does. My roommate did. My father does. My doctors do. I need to live to see Love, Actually come out on DVD. I need to live to see Michael Jackson make a comeback. I need to live to see my favorite designers fall line. I made a list of all the things that I wanted to live to see. These things were outside of me until I Had the strength and the heart to find the life inside of me.

I’m not a doctor. I’m a person who has stared at a bottle of pills and wondered if sleep would become permanent.  I know what helped me and I know what didn’t help me.

I can’t begin to understand what Siwe was going through. I tried. I wanted to. I felt like I could relate to some of it but I also know that that little girl was holding more on her small shoulders than anyone should ever have to. Her triggers were enough to make me murder those involved. I wanted her to live in a bubble. Just her and her music and her writing and no one else. But we couldnt’ do that. She needed to feel what she felt and be surrounded by the tools necessary to catch her eye when she had the strength to look up. Yesterday, I said, that she “lost her battle” with depression. I’m not sure how I feel about that terminology. It works as far as words go but it’s missing something. Siwe was a soldier. Her commitment to help others through the pain she lived through every day should be commended. She deserves a purple heart. She was a soldier. This was a war. She didn’t lose. I can’t make that make sense but I know what I”m trying to say.

Suicide is always about the people left behind. Dionne said on the phone, “I’m glad she’s at peace.” and shit, so am I. There’s no reason for anyone to live through that much hurt and pain. We put animals down for less.  There are so many different ways to help. Siwe couldn’t be saved but thanks to her courage and encouragement. Thanks to her bravery and her transparency. Thanks to her heart and her spirit, she can and will help millions of young women like her.

I will see to it.

Poem: When Night Falls

when night falls
a poem for Siwe

you welcomed the quiet that held you
breast to belly
counted stars until they blurred and faded
night offered you quiet
peace
this world gave you despair
a battle you had to fight too often
night offered your peace a chance
to take root
the world gave you chaos

dealt you a hand then dared you to play it

your night was thick as second chance
necessary as third
welcome as fourth, then fifth
sixth
fifteen
we prayed that there would be more
that a lullaby would  provide lifeline
Something to promise you a morning
just one more
we wanted this for you
because we wanted you for us

but this was your night
what will we do without you as morning
without the praise songs glistening your lips
this hallelujah dancing on your tongue
this hallelujah dancing on our tongues
what is the prayer for?
for whom?

when did you sleep, angel?
when did you find a moment to rest?
soothe the ache that comes from carrying wings

you had to build out of silence and promise
flying in a world that offered you only brick
each tear crystallized
each breath a backwards gasp
how did you dance with so much
clipping at your wings?
danced so beautifully
created movement that the wind envied
made heartbeat something syncopated
a music will all danced to

when night came
your shadows took root
twisted themselves into an accepted darkness
they beckoned you
held your breath flat against sternum
told you “this is what it feels like to belong”
this is what it feels like to breathe
this is what it feels like to live without pain
and this is what it feels like to smile without burden
and this is what it feels like to love without caveat
and this is what it feels like to offer yourself a good bye

the night wanted you as much as we needed you
sleep came
held you in a comfort we could only pray you’d receive
and it’s not up to us to understand
only hope that night has come

to you who found comfort in dreams

Remembering Siwe

can you breathe where you are, lauryn?
Where are you?
do you know about the babies like Siwe
whose pain splits her open
chin to ankle
do you know how her mother longs for one last verse
one hidden track to hum as healing to her baby girl?
– Questions For Lauryn

I wrote that poem about 2 or so years ago. When I wrote the above stanza, I called my friend, Dionne and asked her if it was okay to use her daughter’s name in my poem. I have known Siwe since she was 4 years old. After moving to New York, I met and became close with her mother. Often babysitting Siwe and her older brother Sule while her mom went out. After leaving my big family and moving to NYC on my own, I loved having these little people around. I admired Dionne and how she raised these babies. They were beautiful and brilliant and I loved them like we shared blood.
When I was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder, I remember  having lunch with Dionne. I was fresh out of the diagnosis and struggling to articulate what it felt like and where my heart was at the time. Dionne expressed concerned about some things she saw in her own baby girl. A sadness and a fight she couldn’t understand but wanted to love and hug away. At the time, Siwe couldn’t have been any more than 6 or 7. I admired Dionne’s desire to do what she could. The strength it took to confront this head on and not live in denial. As time went on and Siwe got older, her life with depression and trauma and mental illness began to take it’s toll. Through it all, she remained gracious and strong and resilient. She wrote articles and short stories and a novel about little girls like herself. About this fungus that attacks our brains and hearts. This battle to stay on the “up” side of moods. I was struck by her clarity and eloquence. I was warmed by her humor and graciousness. Her writing far surpassed her age.  She was going to fight this thing that most adults ran from.

On Wednesday, June 28th,  2011, Siwe stopped fighting. I don’t have the poetry or the words to express the level of grief i”m holding right now. I know she’s at peace. At long last. But I hate this thing that took her. She was a brave few will ever know or understand. Those of us who wrestle with the pull and seduction of depression are often too afraid to discuss the real scary bits. This 15 year old girl, wrestled and fought and through every bone in her tiny body into the battle. She was scarred and scared but also allowed her voice to be heard. She ultimately could not save herself but thanks to her transparency, she has saved countless others and will continue to do so.

The last time I saw Siwe, Boogie and I met her, one of her brothers and her mother at a Chinese restaurant in DC. Boogie was in love. Hell, so was I. This little girl that I used to play games with and dance around the house with at 4, had become this tall, gorgeous creature. So comfortable in her own skin. So artistic and creative. So funny. So beautiful. So compassionate. So kind. So brave. So sad. There was a sadness underneath her smile that I recognized and I took note of the times when she felt quiet but also delighted in the moments when she played a song she loved from her phone and danced around the table. She was laughter and light and beauty and grace and I can not tell you just how brave this baby girl was.

I’m gutted. I’m struggling to be articulate in this writing. I can’t seem to find a useful placement for these words.
I’m wracked with so much hurt and pain right now but I’m so glad she’s found the peace that has alluded her during her time on earth. She deserves that peace. And as heartbroken as I am to know that she’s gone, that’s the only solace we can have and find.

Siwe, you are an inspiration to me. You are the reason why regardless of the stigma and hardship, I will fight for you. I will write for you. I will continue this battle, one baby girl at a time.
I love you.
I miss you.

Rest in peace and poetry and progress and power.