As I sit here trying to figure out how to even sum up this insane year, I can’t get the vision of the yin and yang out of my head. This symbol of light and darkness opposing and simultaneously containing each other. That is the only way I can see 2017, greatness and darkness in bed together, conspiring to either break me or motivate me. Many times over in my life and this year in particular, people in my life that believe in “God” often tell me, “God” only gives you what you can take. I often wonder if they ever think about what role their mystical “Devil” plays. Light and darkness. I am a survivor of childhood molestation, physical abuse, rape, near homelessness and assault. When trauma becomes a reality for you at the age of 6, you begin to question the notion of “God” and learn that life is just full of shitty ass people who will teach you to blame yourself for the horrible things they do to you. That’s what 2017 has been for me. A year of consistent triggers, consistent realizations, consistent moments to take a step and decide to lose my shit or keep it moving. A year with just enough darkness to think I was going to have to check myself into a center and just enough light to be inspired to keep pushing.
I knew this was going to be a trying year, as 45 would take office and we’d have to bid farewell to the greatest President we’ve had to date. I came into 2017 sober and maintained that for the first half of the year. It was a decision based out of protest and for protection. I didn’t want to put myself in a position of being whiskey drunk while some idiot decided to praise their new leader or felt emboldened to come at me and my partner walking down the street as we held hands. I wanted to clear my head to give myself the space to figure out how I was going to take on the establishment. I had very real talks with my daughter throughout the year about what I wanted to do versus what was the best option for my family. Best believe if I wasn’t a mother, I would have been chained to a police station and deep into anarchist planning. *Lesson: my children keep me from going to jail or doing something stupid and becoming a hashtag!
I didn’t know what that role would look like for me, but what I did know was that waiting tables for the most cis male white privileged restaurant owners I have ever witnessed, was not what I was supposed to be doing. This is when I came close to my first mental breakdown. It’s that moment when you realize you are not happy and only working to make money. That moment when you feel like a failure because you have been so focused on providing for your family, that you realize you have given up on your own principles. Then you go in the downward spiral of being grateful for the children that keep you out of jail, but blame yourself for having those children with men that can’t bring themselves to help financially. Feeling like a sellout, house nigga and fraud, because by day your literally playing servant to the same people who create the legislation that allows businesses to not serve you because your Queer; witnessing your undocumented friends being overworked and underpaid by the owner that got a little extra pep in his step once the election results came in. Yet, at night you’re attending rallies, using your platform to speak out against bigots and doing everything in your power to inspire people to get involved in the fight. My options, darkness… lose my shit and stab someone in the throat with a fork OR light… reach out to those actually living the life I admire and see what happens. I chose light and was able to get a job with the American Friends Service Committee, actually fighting against the establishment. *Lesson: Being silent about what you want will not get you any closer to the life of your dreams.
I finally was able to have a job I believed in. As well as continue the legacy of my ultimate hero, Bayard Rustin, who also worked for AFSC. I was using my time to stand up for social justice and felt like I was actually making a difference. I’ve met with Andre Carson, spoke at press conferences, helped organize rallies and could see my future as an actual organizer. Yet, there is no yin without yang… the position is only part-time and I still needed to provide for the children that keep me out of jail. So I decided to juggle multiple “dream” jobs and keep one service industry job to pay my bills. This year I made the decision to go after my dreams and do everything in my power to live life on my terms. For that I am grateful, but this decision has also lead to me at its peak working 7 jobs/projects at once. I have gotten a glimpse of what I want my life to look like. *Lesson: You have 24 hours in a day and there is no reason you can’t utilize some of that to pursue your dreams.
This summer I was able to work with IYG, House Life Project, Social Justice Scholars at IUPUI, became a teaching artist facilitator, spoke on panels, seen my vision for VOCAB actualized and performed as a spoken word artist. One of my greatest accomplishments and highlights was being asked by the ACLU to speak on a panel and perform at their event “Speaking Truth to Power”. If there was ever a day when my ultimate life came together it was this day. Let’s take this all in, one…the ACLU asked me to speak and be on a panel! Two… Speaking Truth to Power is a term coined by Bayard Rustin (my life hero). Three… I was able to be interviewed live on NPR the day prior (bucket list check off). Four… this was the anniversary of the inauguration and the concept of “freedom of speech” was recently hijacked by bigots to help them be bigots. Five… this happened to be the national kickoff for the campaign I’m most passionate about, called the Deadly Exchange. It’s a program that speaks out against the exchanges that happen between the US police force and the Israeli military (look it up). Six… the leading group in Indianapolis that is a supporter of these exchanges, just so happened to be a sponsor for the event (there are no coincidences). Seven… I performed a memorized piece on the Toby stage (bucket list check). So what did all this mean? I was able to perform a memorized (never done by me before) poem to speak out about the campaign I’m most passionate about, on the stage sponsored by the “enemy”, put on by an organization committed to freedom of speech, honoring the motto I live by (Speaking Truth to Power), have a panel discussion and then left to make it to VOCAB directly after. You can’t tell me that’s not LIGHT to the 10th degree! *Lesson: stand in your truth and things will align to let you shine.
Yet, there is no yang without the yin. Not even a month prior, my life had completely flipped upside down and I wasn’t sure I was going to make it out. The epicenter of that was my birthday, well actually the day after. Indianapolis had recently experienced a situation of IMPD blatantly shooting an unarmed black man, Aaron Bailey, in the back 4 times, seconds after he got into a car accident and I was trying to wrap my head around that fact. I couldn’t comprehend how very few were getting involved. When Trayvon Martin was murdered you couldn’t get on social media without seeing his picture or reading his name. The same for Erin Garner. Philando Castille. Sandra Bland. Micheal Brown. Yet, one of our own, on one of our streets, gets shot in the back and crickets. There was a rally for him the day after my birthday and there was nothing that was going to keep my from going. The week leading up to my birthday, I drove my daughter to Rhode Island for her orientation for her dream college. There I was able to come to terms with another of my children moving 1000 miles away. We drove back just in time for me to make it to VOCAB. *Lesson: Black Lives Matter
Back to the story at hand. That Saturday, I woke up to a rarely empty house. My daughter was in Chicago with her boyfriend and his family. My youngest was with his father for a rare extra day of visitation. It was just me and the two cats, that had to be separated because one was a birthday present and the other was an asshole and territorial. So I left for the rally, excited to finally see my city come together for one of our own and take a stand against police murder. What I saw was a protest for Black Lives, during Black Expo weekend, only attended by white people aside from a few of us people of color. Completely surrounded by police for a two black radius and blocked in if something went wrong. I couldn’t help shake how fucked it all was. Yet, after everyone had left the few black or black presenting folks that attended found each other and we had one of the greatest conversations I’ve ever been apart of. The hour after the rally, became the real rally for me. It was in that hour that I left feeling empowered and ready to take on the fight again. After, I went to the Fantasia/Babyface concert, of course. It was by birthday weekend and I’m living my best life! *Lesson: Fight for what you believe in but don’t forget to enjoy the gift of life you’ve been given!
So I went to see my best friends for a quick cigarette, more great discussion and rushed home to get ready. Now when I say rushed, I mean rushed. As a freshly turned 39-year-old woman, that birthed 3 children and has worked in the service industry for 20 years, my bladder control is an orchestrated dance that consists of being able to hold in pee for hours to the point of literally trickling pee on myself. This was one of those moments. It was during the 7 minute car drive that I realized I was seconds away from becoming a Depends commercial. So I burst into my house, wasting no time to even take off my shoes and used the bathroom. As I walked down my tiny, can barely call it a hallway, hallway, I heard my daughter’s door slam. This is where the cats come into play. I left the asshole cat in my daughter’s room and assumed she had lost her mind trying to escape. While I wasn’t thinking about cat’s lack of opposable thumbs and how that negates a cat’s ability to open a door. I was thinking about the time, I’ve witnessed a cat lose it’s mind. As well as, maybe it just being one of my neighbors being loud as hell, as everyone in the neighborhood was home at the time. Instead, I opened my daughter’s door to see the patio door, we never use, wide open and realizing the noise was in fact someone breaking into my house. The door slamming was actually my daughter’s bedroom door being slammed shut by a person that assumed I wasn’t home. My daughter’s bedroom. Trigger rape AND molestation memories. While I was home. Trigger assault memories. Call the police? Trigger Aaron Bailey’s murder. Against my better judgement, I called the police. Only to be reminded that because of where I lived, it would take them 45 minutes to show up and tell me to put a stick in my door. *Lesson: Fuck the Police!
That is where the downward spiral began. One… break-in while you’re home, triggering multiple life traumas. Two: living in an apartment complex that you had been arguing with over mold growth after a flood they caused. The same complex that wouldn’t fix anything and then didn’t tell you painters were going to come over your patio wall, triggering everything again a week later. Three: Your daughter being terrified to sleep in her own bed. Four: The IRS wiping out your bank account. Five: forcing you to face eviction which in turn triggers near homelessness. Six: your daughter has to decide to not go to her dream college because her father forces her in a horrible position when we ask him to co-sign her student loans. All of which triggers feeling of being a failure because you’ve only worked to pay bills and not pay off any debt. Add relationship turmoil and you’ve got the making for a real life mental breakdown. I have felt hopelessness in my life before. When your life is bouncing from one trauma to another, you learn how to push on despite. My way of dealing with things prior, has been to compartmentalized and then pretend it never happened. In the matter of a week, events played out that I wasn’t allowed that luxury anymore. Everything was out and taking over and I have no idea what to do. So, I asked for help and took my ass to therapy. *Lesson: therapy is the greatest gift you can give yourself!
So, here I sit. Months into therapy, facing my traumas. In a house that a dear friend is letting me stay in as I get my affairs in order. A house, that has room for all my children. My daughter, is working towards her goals and I’ve learned to just be supportive of her. I have publicly come out as a survivor of multiple traumas and am a better person for it. I have learned to speak up for myself which has helped all my relationships. I have learned that triggers only work if you don’t face the traumas. I am learning to not blame myself for the horrible things people have done to me. I am learning that you can’t have light without the darkness. I am learning that I have some amazing humans in my life and to never take them for granted. I am learning to be present in the moment. I am learning to be honest with myself and the world about what I believe in. I have learned that the masses are the worst and trying to fit in, never serves me. I have learned what love is and what it looks like to me. I have learned that 2017 can simultaneously, go fuck itself and was one of the greatest years of my life. It was where I began the journey to live life on my terms. It made me face the darkness head on. *Lesson: You are more than what people have done to you and what really matters is living the life of your dreams.