For Brenda: or The Head Pop

Approximately three days into my decision to stop letting alcohol, drugs, and other fuckeries ruin my life, I was pretty convinced that I’d made the wrong choice. I’d joined this club where so many people had had lives so much worse than mine (or so I thought at the time). I had an education, a solid profession … two in fact … And a few coins in the bank. I was pretty sure “I” didn’t belong with “these” kind of people. Since, I was told early to look for the similarities and since the life I was living three days before was likely to have me dead or in jail, I kept coming. I kept looking. Then on November 12, 2009, in a room full of candle light and shared pain, I heard my story. It came raw, uncut, and with the wit of a PhD, beccause she was one. It was a woman I would come to know as Brenda R.

Now, Brenda and I didn’t have d.o.c or even occupation in common. What linked us is that we were both smart, and somewhere deep down felt that addiction was just another thing to be out smarted and in my case, solved via achievements. As I listened to her bitterly push through the story of her early recovery, I identified so closely with the sense of resistance she had to the process. She recalled that no matter how hard she bumped her head, she’d always go back for more. Sounded like me in a major way, and not specifically as it related to chemical addiction (it did), but also behavioral addiction and the general inability I had to get my shit together (the latter of which I can still lapse into until this day).

Brenda was a living breathing indicator that this was indeed where I belonged. I listened to her a lot in those first months. I’m not sure if she ever knew how much.  She was the raft I held on to until I looked around and realized that I was more like all of “these” people than I was different and I was able to let go and embrace the process. Brenda was a no bullshit kind of lady, and could be slightly intimidating until you got to know her and found out that tough exterior was wrapping up one of the warmest and most beautiful people you could ever meet. She was honest even when it didn’t paint her in the best light. There’s a recovery saying that goes “you can’t save your face and your ass at the same time.” In the time I spent with Brenda I saw her live this consistently, though she may not have lived it perfectly.

Shortly before I left for school Brenda was diagnosed with cancer. She fought it with the same tenacity in which I saw her fight addiction. She was weak but feeling good enough to come to the going away dinner some of my sisters in recovery had planned. At that dinner she opened up like flower. I saw a side of her I’d until that point never seen. She was gentle, open, and reflective. We’d been in one another’s lives for over three years at that point and I didn’t find out until that day about how educated she was and how much she’d accomplished in life while wrestling with the monster of addiction. Humility was definitely another of her strong suits. She sent me off with kind words scribbled in my travel journal and the gift of our shared experiences in my heart.

photo (1)

I saw her for what would be the last time this past Summer. Her cancer had worsened and it was clear that every moment I’d spend with her needed to count. Once again my sisters in recovery and I gathered together to hang out, fellowship and show one another love.  We talked, ate food, laughed, and cried together  we hadn’t in a long time. Brenda, had been struggling emotionally and it’s clear in hindsight that she knew her time in this world was drawing near its end. Rather than trying to put on a brave front she openly discussed her fear of death in a way that I had never seen anyone do before. It was truly brave and made me feel an incredible gratitude for finding recovery. Through the process I’ve learned that you can face all fears in a way that might not always feel good, but it will liberate you like nothing else can. I’m not sure, but I can venture a guess that when Dr. Brenda Richardson closed her eyes for the last time earlier this week she had fought her way through to acceptance of what was to be.

At one of her anniversary celebrations I once heard her talking about the sound one starts to hear around the point of their 5 year anniversary. The sound? “The popping of your head out of your ass.” Today, I celebrate 5 years clean and if I’m still enough, I can barely hear that “popping”, that clarity that comes with time and effort. If I turn all the music off, shut the door, and get real quiet … maybe I’ll hear Brenda in her matter-of-fact tone talk about how she fell short in one way or another, but that she’s gonna keep comin’ until she gets it right. This is for Brenda, in honor of her ferocious spirit, powerful mind, and vulnerable heart. Though I’ll miss the hell out of her, she’ll live on through my recovery practice. My face will often not be saved, my ass will be wholly protected.

Rosie.

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That’s just how I feel.

  • There is a polio outbreak in Somalia
  • There are comparisons being drawn between the conflict in Syria and the genocide in Rwanda.
  • George Zimmerman got off scott free for killing an unarmed black teenager. 
  • Stacey Rose is struggling to find gainful employment, has a mere $70 in her bank account and only one more paycheck from her last job coming.

Guess which one of these headlines is keeping me up at night?  As self-centered as it is I often have my head shoved securely up my own ass that I’m unaware the world has bigger problems than mine.  Hell, people in my life have bigger problems than mine.  At times I feel incredibly guilty about my tendency toward self-centeredness until I remember:

  1. I’m human.
  2. I’m not ALWAYS self-centered and actually have times when I am incredibly generous.
  3. The world doesn’t need me to help it rotate more than it needs me to participate.

When the stench and hot of being lodged into myself gets to be too much I am often rescued by an opportunity to volunteer or be of service to someone  else. For the time I’m listening to someone, helping them with a task or otherwise engaging a situation that’s not my own, I feel better.  My finger is off the panic button and I feel like a member of the broader human race.

When those other times return, I try to be conscious of when they arrived. I do what I need to ride them out, the most import part is knowing that despite whatever else is going on in the world the things that are going on in my life are important too.  Does the world need give a shit because I have to have a varicella titer done and paid for out of my own pocket? Probably not. Do I need to? Yes, because caring for my own well being ensures that I’m contributing my very best to the world around me. What I can’t do is stay stuck or react in ways that will move my situation from bad to worse. I must acknowledge the fear (or whatever else I’m feeling) jump into the solution if there’s an immediate one, and accept the situation in it’s entirety. Being a self-serving dick head works in small spurts, no guilty trip required. That’s just the way I feel.

Rosie.

Intentionally Speaking.

I’m delayed in posting this as my New Year began with me a little under the weather in body and spirit, but I’m back (for the most part) and ready to take on 2013.  Here goes … A wise man, and quite a few yoga instructors hipped me to the concept of setting an intention.  Setting an intention in  yoga practice has more to do with giving me a “focus” for my practice.  That goal may be  something that I’d like to see fulfilled in my life … say … “happiness” … “financial stability” … or “getting laid”.  Ok, so I never really set getting laid as the intention of a yoga practice, but BOY have I been tempted.

Anyway … In life intention, at least for me, is similar but magnified to the level of day-to-day living.  I set a tangible goal(s) and practice my life in that direction.  The trick is,  the goal is not the goal, make sense? No?  Maybe? Well here’s an example from my life:

Last year applying to and attending grad school was on my “Goals for 2012” list.  If you’ve been following me at all over the year you know that I meant business about that shit.  I threw all my energy into applying, getting denied,  continuing to apply, continuing to get denied until I was ultimately accepted (to a school I technically didn’t even apply to I might add) and ultimately ending up at the school I wanted to attend in the first place.

The gift of that experience, while it was quite unexpected and TOTALLY awesome, was not getting what I wanted but all the hard  earned insight and personal growth. The real rewards were:

  • Understanding that I need to pay my damn bills because bad credit isn’t going to simply go away.
  • Growing a thicker skin when it comes to my writing/understanding that I’m not the best, but certainly not the worse writer there ever was.
  • Patience is a virtue … and will mature the hell out of you if you let it.

… and really a whole host of other things if I sat and thought about it.

With all this in mind, I sat down and created my goals/intention list for next year.  It was a very forgiving process as there was definitely room for things I did not accomplish last year.  It was a joyous process as there were quite a few new things that were added to replaced things I did accomplish in 2012.  There is balance, and that is always the goal for me, miss it though I may.

I’ll end with a  prayer of confirmation.  Yes, I said prayer.  Heathens pray too.

G.O.D.*,

I first want to give gratitude to whatever universal forces, ancestors, or beings that guided and protected me into a new year of life. The other night at work while I rushed through unfocused, eager to get off and go about my evening, a patient said something that stopped me in my tracks.

“I count my blessings before I pray for my wants.”

I am abundantly blessed in my life.  I am relatively healthy, as are my son, and family.  I have an amazing network of friends that love me unconditionally as I do them.  I am gainfully employed at a job that I genuinely enjoy. I’m a thriving theatre artist about to embark on an amazing opportunity of a life time at NYU. Now the real miracle:  Despite any circumstances that came down the pipes I did not use drugs or alcohol as a means of getting me through the problem.  I celebrated 3 years clean in 2012!

There are so many other things I could have listed, but this post needs to end at some point (and besides … G.O.D. knows my heart right? 😉  ) Now,  my “wants”.  In 2013 I want to be:  A better mother, a better friend, a better daughter, a better sister, a better lover (of self), a better love (of others).  I want to create healing in the day-to-day practice of my life through art, healthier relationships, and open honest communication.

I want to continue to be able to grow through recovery, face my fears, hell maybe even embrace them.  I want to continue keeping the faith when it feels like nothing is going right.  I want to continue keeping the faith when everything is going right (because for me these are the hardest times to be faithful.) Most of all, if it is in a higher will, I’d like to be here this time next year writing about how I got through it. If not, I will like my life to be a testimony on how it is quite possible for a poor girl from the mean streets of Elizabeth, NJ to get over.

All this I pray in Sweet black baby Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, The Ancestors, and whoever else will listen’s name …

Selah!

Happiest and most prosperous New Year to you and your folk!

Rosie.

*in recovery we sometimes call GOD, Good Orderly Direction.
 

http://youtu.be/l49N8U3d0Bw

 
No one will ever stir my soul quite like Mahalia
 

1096: A Testimony.

I woke up yesterday morning at approximately the same time I did on November 10, 2009.  On November 10, 2012, I knew exactly where I was; at home.  I was in my less than savory bedroom with clothes in need of washing, papers in need of filing.  My first thought, as usual, was “Okay, what do I have to do today?”  November 10, 2009 was worlds different.  I woke up not knowing where I was and only vaguely sure who I was.  Dirty clothing and assorted documents were the least of my worries.  I was sick, in my body, in my mind, and worst of all in my spirit.  That morning I knew, in a way that old women tend to know things, that if I didn’t stop getting high, I was going to end up dead or in a situation where I sorely wished I was.

It’s hard to describe the type of desperation one feels during a bottom.  The closest I could come would be to say it’s like an animal caught by it’s leg in a steel trap.  That would be the obsession element of addiction.  You’re there, stuck, you know something bad is going to happen if you don’t get out.  You’d be willing to chew your leg off to get out, but you can’t. You’re too terrified to think.  So, that’s the cycle of thought:

I want to stop.  I can’t.  I’m afraid.

(repeated so often, in my case that I was ready to drive off a bridge … literally.)

Then, you hear the hunter coming.  It’s the compulsion element and you know once it has a hold of you, your ass is done.  During active addiction, when the hunter shows up, you freeze up.  He gets you, fricassees that ass, and serves you for supper. The wonderful part about a bottom, if you’re realize you’re at one, is you become willing to chew your fucking leg off (or anything else for that matter.)

On November 10, 2009 I chewed my leg off, well I should say, I removed the trap with the help of my family, my friends, a great recovery program, and my higher power.  Yesterday marked the three year anniversary of my escape from the trap, the thing with addiction is, the trap is out their waiting for me at any time.  The minute I forget that and think it’s  safe for me to test the hunter, is the moment of my assured doom.

While I must stay vigilant, being clean for me hasn’t just been about existing in a bubble while being afraid of my own shadow.  It’s been the opposite in fact.  Abstaining is just that, not using while white knuckling it through existence. Recovery has turned my world on it’s  ass challenging everything I ever thought about my life and myself.  It makes me realize just how great things can be. I have lived more boldly, honestly, and beautifully in the last three years than I had in the thirty-three that proceeded them.  Gratitude only scratches the surface of what I feel about my life right now.

Someone told me the other day that my story was an inspiration. I cringed a little, as compliments make me squirm, but it’s true.  Well no, maybe my life a testimony.  That’s it!  It’s a testimony that an overweight black girl raised poor in a housing project can persevere through sex abuse, being raised by and then becoming a single parent, a turbulent marriage, addiction, frequent battles with self hatred and loneliness  and host of other internal cluster fucks. The beauty of it is, my testimony isn’t the only one.

So, on my anniversary I’d like to wish you the best life you can possibly live.  Make it your testimony, your highest truth.

Rosie.

1095 days + today = One day at a time.

Drowning in tears vs. Water for growth

I could have baptized a small village with my tears today. I guess sometimes it just has to go down like that.  I’m in the middle of a written self discovery process that would be kindred to shoving a sharp instrument into your gut through your navel and emptying your abdominal contents on the floor for you to then examine and analyze. (Next, I get to examine them with someone else!)  Sounds harsh, but at certain points I’d rather opt to literally shovel my guts out.  Emotional pain is  horrible, but the pain of me being stuck repeating the same stupid shit over and over again is a fate worse than death.

Good news is I have a lot of love and support, and every time I have a day like this the universe sees fit so send me a silver lining.  Today it was:  THE AFROBEATLES! When I came across this ingenious mash up situation, my tears dried, my ass shook, and the world … if only for 1:47 … became a better place.  Enjoy!

“Water no get enemy.” –Fela Kuti

“The farther one travels, the less one knows.” – The Beatles

Rosie.

More here!

http://www.jumpnfunk.com/#11435

Eat This!

As I sit here near the point of copious salivation in a manor reminiscent of Pavlov’s dog, infatuated with my friend Mekkah’s ketchup laden fries,  my thoughts drift back to my younger years.  When my relationship with food was cast in the annals of my psyche.  Food was and at times still is my constant companion, my lover, my friend, my enemy.

In processing my relationship with food with my therapist, my friends, and anyone else who’ll listen (thanks for reading in advance), I’ve stumbled upon some long forgotten stories that have helped me make sense of my strange love of food. I’ll share a few here.

Food as a the spoils of war.

To say my brother Curtis and I fought as children would be severely minimizing  the fact that he saw my birth as an official act war, an affront to his very existence.  Curtis’s disdain for me probably lay in the fact that he’d been the “baby” for five years before I brought my unexpected ass along.  Our battles varied in intensity, but there was no other area where the battle got quite as hot as when the source of conflict was The Cap’n.

exhibit A: The Cap’n

In our desperate need to get “crunchatized”(which I don’t think was even a term back then), we would outwit, steal, hide and any other unsavory act we had to commit.  Alas, I was often at the losing end of this battle, but there was one triumphant morning that me and Alteric (our brother from another mother) got the jump on Curtis the sleeping dragon.  We beat him to the freshly purchased box of Cap’n Crunch with Crunch Berries and proceeded to remove every crunch berry in the box.
Saturday morning  cartoons were funnier, the sun was shinier, and our bellies were stuffed  full of crunchaliscious crunch berries.  This state of rapture lasted for maybe thirty/forty minutes. When Curtis awoke to find a severely misshapen  box of Cap’n Crunch sans any sign of crunch berries save for tell-tale red dust, There was hell to pay.  Quite honestly, I forgot what happened. I think I blacked out. Hell,  I probably repressed it. If I had to guess, I’d say I got the natural hell beat out of me, then he probably turned his rage on Al, sitting on him and punching him in the chest until he ran home.  I still had the day though, and as you can tell I relish the victory to this day.

The Lesson:  Food obtained through violence, aggression, or Machiavellian scheming is the best kind.

Food as an analgesic.

It’s funny how other people remember your childhood.  When the facebook revolution began and I reconnected with some of the folks I went to school with, I kept hearing stories of how funny and well liked I was.   This was odd to me as I mostly remember feeling isolated, fat, unattractive, and picked on.

Exhibit B: Rosie c. 1990

One particular year of school, my 6th grade year, I had a falling out with a group of girls that had been my “friends”.  I was tormented for the entire year. I was called fat.  They talked about my hair and my clothes. They took “children can be so cruel” to new heights.  I spent most of that year feigning illness not to go to school, on the guidance counselor or nurse’s couch, and of course eating.

I would bolt home drop everything and head straight for the kitchen. Twinkies, Krimpets, Devil Dogs, Cereal (Cap’n or otherwise), pizza … essentially anything that wasn’t tied down, locked up.  After eating I always “felt” better.  None of the things I had endured that day mattered. My addict gene mutated that year, and became something that in my adulthood would nearly kill me.

As can be seen in the photo (taken only a year or two later), I’m wasn’t nearly as hideously fat and ugly as they made me feel or than I came to believe. I can’t say I lay any blame at the feet of the children who picked on me.  It could have very easily have been me on the giving end had the circumstances played out differently. I don’t hate them, but I do hate what the situation did to my relationship with food and essentially anything else that was pleasurable that allowed me to escape.

The Lesson:  You’d better not stop until you’ve eaten all your feelings young lady!

Food as the enemy.

I have the good fortune of having a great many food snobs in my life.  They challenge me (sometimes successfully) to experiment with new tastes and textures.  You see, my brother and I were and to some degree still are very bland eaters.* We barely did veggies, and while I would indulge in fruit fairly regularly that was about as far as it went.

Exhibit C: The Food Saboteurs!

Case in point:  My mother was a single working mom of four. She worked long hours during the week which left us on a lot of evenings popping tater tots or fish sticks in the oven and Steak Umm’s or other ‘easy’ foods, on the stove.  There were some occasions that Ma would get a wild hair and decide to fix us something “special”.  Curtis and I  had an “exit strategy” prepared for  these times: a strategically cut hole in the kitchen screen.  The undesirable food stuffs were simply shoveled out onto the grassy knoll outside our window.  No harm, no foul … that is until we were finally caught.

Ma, for some ungodly reason, decided that it would  be a great idea to prepare a tuna casserole.  The foreign smells had our guards up already.  We already knew what needed to be done.  Time came to sup, and before us sat generous portions of  Ma’s experimental meal.  We waited. Sifted forks around.  I even became brave enough to take a bite (either that or I’d been threatened. Can’t remember which.) Eventually the coast became clear and we proceeded to the window with our plates.  One after the other we scraped the ill fated casserole out of the covert slit.  Things would have went fine, except most of the casserole ended up on the window sill.

The next morning my mother was greeted by a swarm of pigeons devouring the meal we had so generously donated to them the night before.  Our cover was blown. Needless to say we never dared dispose of another meal in this manner.  We just found other ways. >:)

The Lesson: New food bad. Old food good.

Thirty-six years of practicing this and other kind of “bad” food behaviors can’t be undone overnight, but I’m working on it.  The hardest part I’d have to say is adding new food. My brain goes into resistance mode, and even when I manage my way through the meal, it tells me I’m not full :/.  Odd indeed, but I have managed to introduce some new items that I’ve found quite delightful like: Hummus and Sushi … the cooked kind. I’ll keep eating,  you keep reading (hopefully), and maybe one day I’ll be a certified food snob … MAYBE.

Rosie.

Exhibit D: In Gorton’s we trust!

 

 

 
*I’m gonna go ahead and say that my brother was probably the source of 85% of my hang ups with food. (Sorry Curtis, pero es verdad). 

i want me to want me.

Phrases like:

“The only way for someone to love you, is for you to love yourself first.”

or

“To thine own self be true!”

OR

“You’re special just the way you are! God don’t make no junk!”

Make me want to strangle the well meaning sages that deliver them unto me with a recently ripped off chain of kitten tails, and  I would two except for two things:

1.  I love kittens.  Oh how I love kittens.

and

2.  I know, as hokey as they may sound, all that bullshit is true.

Where does one start though? Regular mani-pedi’s?  Dinner for one? Movie dates with yourself? Meh … while that stuff helps, my experience has led me to believe that it’s best to start here:

Sarah Baartman a.k.a. The Venus Hottentot.  (It is strongly advised that you click her name to gain a broader … pardon the pun … perspective on the history of black female sexuality and the western world.)  Sarah, which is ironically my grandmother’s name, could be my butt naked body double (or I should say, I hers).

Sarah (B), is definitely where I’m at.

The hardest part of  accepting myself has been getting past my body image.  I have lost tremendous amounts of weight.  Gained part of it back. I have cut, pasted, prayed, and starved in an effort to deny my Sarah Baartman body.  She will not be denied.  I have to accept what most diet/exercise programs don’t tell you … your body type is your body type.  I will never diet away my thunder thighs or the delectable craters found within my ass cheeks.

Now maybe your issues have nothing to do with good ole Sarah, maybe it’s your nose, or your relentless uni-brow. No matter, it’s not about what the thing you dislike about yourself is (at least not for me).  It’s the fact that it exists.  It’s the fact that my feelings about my weight , are a parasite that has drilled itself into my psyche and taken up residence.  It is with me of every moment of everyday whispering gems like:

“He couldn’t possibly want someone that looks like you, don’t even embarrass yourself by saying hello or even looking at him.”

or

“You look terrible in anything you put on,  so what’s the point.”

…and some that are just too unbearable to write here.

The only way that I’ve found to battle back the parasite that works (as alcohol, mani-pedi’s, and self-dates proved to be dismal failures) is facing that sonofabitch head on. There ain’t a quick fix on the market that trumps honest, loving self appraisal.  It’s a journey that I’ve been on for most of my life, but the honesty part just crept in about two years ago. Needless to say, it’s been a rough, albeit rewarding, two years.

More recently, as recent as this past Wednesday, I had another … break through? break down?  Hell, I broke … and had to come to accept that a man that I’d endeared myself to, for far longer than I should have, would likely never be able to give me what I needed or wanted from him.  I had been holding out hope that somehow if I proved how awesome I was to him that he would have some type of miraculous epiphany, look past my misshapen body, and “pick me” giving me a chance at the relationship I’d so desperately wanted.*

*Yes, on an intellectual level I know this is bullshit, I cringe as I write it, but it’s what my inner dialogue had been.

If I’m honest, and again I try to be these days, I’ll have to say that it wasn’t necessarily him, but ALL of the “hims“.  All of the men and the shitty situations that came with them, that I settled for because on a gut level I assumed that no one else would want me. It’s the parasite, the disease, my thinking (call it what you will), that had me believing that one sided situations with emotionally or otherwise unavailable men were all I could hope for. Now?  I’m just too exhausted to give a fuck.

The prospect of being sans a partner for the rest of my life is no longer terrifying.  The prospect of wasting my life lying in wait of what might be, is.  So if being single is what it is for me right now (or longer) I need to continue to do the work of being okay with the person I wake up to everyday.  I have to take care of me which for me includes:

-Taking care of my emotional and spiritual self by continuing do the work of recovery.

-Taking care of the one and only body I will ever be given by eating right and exercising, not toward any magical goal weight, but because it feels good.

-Getting enough rest.

-Setting healthy boundaries in my relationships, which include running in the opposite direction when I see the red flags.

-Taking care of my responsibilities (having bad credit is no longer “cute”).

-And most important, CONTINUING TO WRITE!

Despite all my emotional ups and downs I do feel a shift happening.  With continued hard work and perseverance,  I might just fall in love with myself, Hottentot table top ass and all, at some point before I’m dead ;).

Rosie.

Oh the irony.