Black Cracks

There’s a belief in our culture that “black don’t crack.” Since I hit forty several years ago, someone often tells me  how good I look for my age. “What they say is true, because you prove that black don’t crack.” Yes, for the most part black women tend to look younger than we actually are. In fact, expecting to age well has served as a platform from which I’ve juxtaposed my life with that of a white woman—from here, I’ve stuck out my tongue, rolled my eyes, and flipped her the bird. Aging gently, to my mind, is the universe’s way of balancing things out. One evening not long ago in Whole Foods I met a middle-aged couple visiting Los Angeles from Memphis. They were kind, and we talked about our lives very intimately for just having met. I shared my struggles of being divorced and co-parenting a child with special needs. She shared about her marriage and how she struggles living in the south being as progressive as she and her family are.  Finally the woman asked me how old I was, and I told her forty-five; she shared that she was fifty-two. She then spent the rest of the evening going on and on about how good I looked for my age in comparison to how she felt she looked. I found myself growing annoyed because it felt like she was suggesting that she was surprised consider the challenges I had shared with her just moments earlier. Eventually I said, “If I looked like what I have lived through, I would look like the walking dead. Don’t you think it’s fair that life would be kind to my face, since it has been so cruel to my heart as a black woman in America?” “I guess so,” she responded. I’m willing to admit that she hadn’t meant to be insensitive with her comments, but in the moment I felt that that conversation was ignoring a much bigger truth.

The issue came up again for me recently when I took a trip to the East Coast and reunited with a group of my girlfriends from college. I hadn’t seen any of them in a decade. Yes, there’s Facebook, but that’s nothing like seeing one another in person.

I was eager to see my friends. These were the girls that I had danced in clubs with all night, and had shaken awake the next day to take an exam. Over the years, we had comforted one another through romantic betrayals, dying parents, and pregnancies. There had been weddings, divorces, illnesses, financial distress. And now there was aging. Truthfully, I had believed what  people had said to me about my brown skin and genetics. I’d looked in the mirror most days and thought, with the exception of the gray hair (which I colored for years), I was holding up pretty well. Yes there were times when I wondered about the frown wrinkle between my eyes—did other people see it? And unlike most of my peers I had managed to keep off the extra fifteen pounds that sits around the waists of the middle aged. Disciplined exercise and diet had been my path to maintaining a steady one hundred thirty-two pounds.

As my friends sat down at the restaurant with me, I thought, “It’s true. Black don’t crack.” We all looked really good. But we didn’t look the way we did at eighteen, twenty-five, or thirty-five. We looked like women, with bodies that had given birth to babies, nursed them, and held them until they walked. We looked like women who had lived and traveled, been brokenhearted and recovered to love again. We laughed about not being able to lose the weight as quickly as we had in the past. Sitting with the friends that I had known for nearly thirty years was a wake up call for me. I realized as I looked in their faces and listened to their stories I was aging. I have spent my entire life secretly telling myself it doesn’t matter how difficult your life is, you won’t wear it on your face, because black don’t crack. But smooth skin or not, life was having its way with me.

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There’s No Place to Get

I’ve decided to put to bed the part of me that needs to have things be a certain way. I’m moving slower, breathing deeper, worrying less and being with what is, without the need to make it different. I feel a certain knowing that I’m fine just as I am. I don’t need to make anything happen because what is happening is and feels perfect.

In my new languid approach to life, I can have a desire and hold it close to me until I’m inspired to take action—or not. I can allow my wants to manifest (or better yet be magnetized to me!) without erecting the roadblocks of urgency and desperation.

The other day I realized that I hadn’t spoken that day with the man I’ve been seeing. I thought about texting or calling him, and then I decided that it was fine not to be in touch. The entire evening passed, and we didn’t communicate at all. We’d talk when we do. Simple.

In the past, I’d have followed the desire to take action on my feelings and thoughts. But I’ve invited space into my life, and within that space I trust that things will work themselves out and be exactly what they should be—without my assistance. I can take my hands off something and watch it unfold in a way that’s much better than it would have had I messed with it. There are relationships in my life that are broken or have cracks in them. In the past this was a no-no for me. I’d have to mend the rift, make amends, and work things out to my liking. I couldn’t accept that someone was upset with me. But recently, I’m fine with it. I don’t need to tie up every relationship in a nice little bow. Everyone doesn’t have to think I’m great or a good friend.

Many years ago I was angry with someone and did something that really hurt her feelings in reaction. For months I tried to talk to her about it, hoping to clear the air and move forward, but she always refused. About five years later she reached out to me to work out our differences. By then I’d made peace with the experience, forgiven us both, and released it. I told her that I was willing to talk and listen to her, but I was no longer holding any ill feelings and didn’t need to process it any longer. I’d apologized and didn’t feel the need to revisit the event; I’d moved on. This experience taught me that some things actually don’t need to be addressed right away. Sometimes doing nothing is the thing to do.

The gift is that I feel present. I feel soft and willing. I trust the universe is on my side, and I’m safe right now. All is well, and my life just gets better and better.

In Celebration of Homosexuality

Some of my most cherished friendships are with gay and lesbian people. For some reason I have always felt connected to the plight of the person who couldn’t fully be him- or herself for fear of being shamed, too different, or, where I grew up, an abomination to God. Today I have several gay friends, and I have the pleasure to learn from them as they live out loud, unashamed and fully themselves.

I’ve spent the last two years experiencing my own sexual revolution, coming out as a woman who celebrates her sexuality and makes her own rules. Gay men have been inspirational to me in this respect because they seem to have a sexual freedom that I’ve never seen in heterosexual women. Of course, I’m speaking only from my own experience, but gay men generally make no apologies or have little shame about who they are sexually. Rarely do I hear them speak of “rules” around sexuality, such as the “right” number of sexual partners or when it’s appropriate to have sex with  a new lover. They treat their sexuality and sexual expression as simply part of their humanity, and not like a prize to be rewarded or taken away.

The beauty of some of my friendships with gay men is that I can have very explicit sexual conversations with them that are purely based on sharing information or experiences with no judgment or sideways looks. There is no shame, no pressure and no judgment. When I say “I want to fuck a stranger,” rather than raise a question about sexual safety or morality, they usually share an experience they’ve had to encourage my curiosity.

It has been my experience that heterosexual sexuality is riddled with rules of engagement, negotiations for specialness, and shame. Sex is a prize to be rewarded to the man with a good deal of money, who waits ninety days, and who can provide a woman with the lifestyle she desires most under the guise of romantic love.

Since this exploration has begun for me, my work has been to acknowledge myself as a sexual being. I need sex the way I need food. Sex is a function of my humanity and not necessarily a pathway to love and a long-term relationship. I watch as my gay male friends give themselves to the pleasure of sex without attachment, and I have to admit I envy their ease. It is so deeply engrained in me that sex needs to “mean something,” that even when I’m certain I’m only interested in just having sex, that idea won’t leave my consciousness.

As a woman in her forties who has spent the majority of her life feeling that her natural sexual instincts were somehow wrong or sluttish, gay people bring a freedom and authenticity that I rarely find in my straight girlfriends. It seems to include the very basic truth that sex is natural, nothing to be ashamed of, and not at all a prize to be rewarded to I’m so grateful for my gay friends. Their acceptance of who they are sparks a desire within me to be deeply and unabashedly true to myself.

The Healing Begins

After being diagnosed with a precancerous lump on my breast, I’ve decided to make some changes to bring optimal health to my body. I’ve never had any real health scares with the exception of having an abnormal pap smear when I was about sixteen. The test showed that I had precancerous cells in my uterus, which is now known as HPV. Even though the doctor suggested surgery, my aunt took me to see an Eastern naturopath. I was given several months’ supply of an herb named chaparral and told to take something like twelve tablet every day. I followed the holistic doctor’s strict orders, and I’ve had only regular pap smears ever since.

This recent lump in my breast has given me a reason to pause and remember what I learned from that experience many years ago. In an effort to heal myself without using any modern medicine, unless it becomes absolutely necessary, I’ve enlisted my herbalist. The first thing he said is that everyone has precancerous cells in their body; that it’s nothing to be alarmed by. I’ve also recommitted to my daily green drinks, which include watercress, dandelion, and various other greens like spinach and kale. Of course, based upon my childhood experience with chaparral I’ve added this along with bladderwrack and nopal cactus. This combination will work to restore my body’s balance, but I must help by drinking lots of water and eating healthy meals. My biggest challenge is cutting the white sugar out of my diet again. I’d managed to stay off sugar and all processed foods for nearly four years, but early this year I gave into a craving for ice cream and I have not shaken it yet. Sweets really act as a monkey on my back, which is why I joined food addicts anonymous the first time I gave up sugar. Having the support really worked, and I might need to take the route again.

I’m seeing that going the natural route takes commitment, and I’ve had to make changes in the products I use along with the food I eat. I’ve stopped dyeing my hair to avoid the products’ chemicals, and I’m now using shampoo and conditioners that have no parabens in them. I’ve stopped using Secret deodorant and switched to Arm & Hammer  because it’s not an antiperspirant. Some days my natural underarm odor makes me wanna holler and apologize to everyone around me. This week I’ll resume my hot yoga practice, which gives me the opportunity to sweat with other people who also stink. Showering twice per day has become a regular thing for me (I know, not the most eco-friendly practice.)

Gone are the days when I could just dial my health in. Taking care of my health has become a spiritual practice of sorts, allowing me to deepen my understanding of what my body needs to create harmony. There’s the inner work and the outer, the prayer and meditation is as important as drinking water and proper nutrition. In many ways I’m at school in my own body and mind, getting a degree in how to sustain myself.

I Feel Beautiful

About year ago, I started thinking about no longer dyeing my hair. Having been gray since I was twenty-three years old, twenty years of dyeing was beginning to just wear me down. The thought stayed with me in a very light way. Being the naturalist that I am I started researching herbs and minerals that might help my hair return to its natural color. Surfing on the web I found a Chinese herb named He Shou Wu, which has its users boasting of health and a youthful appearance. I tried it for a few months, until it began to feel no different from dyeing my hair.

One day I was standing at the counter in a store, and I noticed that the woman behind the counter was probably about my age, forty something, with salt and pepper hair. She seemed completely at ease with herself, and I could detect no insecurity or unworthiness about the way she looked. I watched her closely until an energy of freedom jumped from her and onto me . In that moment I realized all the years of attempting to catch my gray and turn it another color felt like trying to stop a wild horse on the run. There was nothing I could do to change what I’m becoming, and I just decided to let my hair go gray.

After several months, I noticed the texture of my virgin hair felt very different from the hair that had been processed with color. The colored hair was dry and brittle, while the virgin hair was moist and supple. I also noticed that my hair was inexplicably thinning and breaking on the crown of my head, and I needed to address this. Off with my locks.

If any of this has been difficult, it’s been the reactions of some of my closest friends. The myths about beauty in our culture are deeply ingrained in most of us. I will admit I dyed my hair because I didn’t want to look old. Some of my friends have said things like “You’re too young to have gray hair,” or “I would never do it, because I’m too young.” I’ve held these notions too. But now I know that I’m not too old to have gray hair because I do have gray hair. After admitting that I had totally bought into an idea of what beauty and looking youthful is according to our society, I decided to define my beauty myself.

Everywhere I go people ask me how do I like my new short gray hair. I admit it, when I first saw myself at the salon with my hair cut off and white, I was shocked. I realized I didn’t feel like a girl and that scared me. But after a few days I started to realize I didn’t feel like a girl because I’m not a girl. I’m a woman.

I’m a grown, sensual, intelligent, self-realized woman who looks how I look. And I feel like a woman too. I know how to identify what matters to me and how to create it. I know how to ask for what I want. I know how to allow a man to make love to me without a need to perform. I know how to seduce a man and send him home after we’ve loved. I know how to be loved without being owned. I know how to compliment another woman and celebrate her beauty. I know how to share wisdom and knowledge with younger women and help them be free. I know I can bleed for an entire week without dying. I know how to do absolutely nothing while a human grows within me. I know I can provide life-sustaining nourishment from my breast. I know what I want without having it validated by another. I know how to laugh so hard I cry. I know how to pray and how to curse. I know how to forgive and how to forget. I know how to be with my inner darkness without cowering. I know my thoughts independent of those of another. I know how to take responsibility for my failures and how to share my successes. I know how to scream and cry really loud. I know how to stay and when to leave. I know how to hold a broken heart, my own or someone else’s. I know how to stand with a tree and feel the energy of eternity. I know how to love my body, mend my heart and love myself. I know how to worship the moon and receive life from the sun. I know how to find the Divine. I know I am beautiful.

For those who ask, how do I feel with my short white hair? I feel absolutely beautiful and more like a woman than ever before.

Some Day My Prince Will Come

Some day my prince will come. Someday I’ll find my love and how thrilling that moment will be when the prince of my dreams comes to me.

All my life these lyrics have served as my prayer. I recall the hours planning my wedding, with a white dress, hundreds of flowers, a line of bridesmaids and of course, a handsome prince. At forty-six, this fantasy of happily ever after remains the intractable pebble in my shoe.

My most recent “self-growth” jag has centered on being utterly honest with myself about my relationship with my ex-husband, with the goal of releasing any self-destructive behavior, no matter how subtle. After several conversations with a male friend who is committed to assisting me in this venture, I’ve finally caught my culprit. I chose a male friend because they seem to detect “Prince Charming Hunting” in a unique way that women sometimes miss. He helped me revisit the girl, within me. whose fairy-tale dreams provided an escape from her drug-using, hopeless, wayward parents, is still seeking her due. I know that the dream of being rescued by a dashing lover isn’t anyone’s reality, but there’s still a piece of me, even now as I out myself, that’s searching for this magical panacea. I want my fucking Prince Charming.

Many years ago I dated a very kind, gentle man who came from a wealthy family. He also was an accomplished attorney for a large firm where he was likely to become a partner. We were from completely different worlds—he was my Prince Charming. After we’d been dating for more than a year, he said to me, “Monique, you have to have your own life, and your own interests. I can’t save your life, you must do that for yourself.” He was the first person that pointed out to me the hole in my soul that I so desperately wanted him—or any other reasonable Prince Charming facsimile—to fill.

Ten years later I married, and during the ceremony I heard my soul say, “This is not that which you seek.” My deepest self knew that even as I vowed to turn myself over to Prince Charming, Prince Charming was not really the “cure” for my illness.

Very recently I’ve been working through issues I’ve unearthed as my ex-husband starts a new relationship. Even as I know I have no desire to be with him, something in me feels incomplete. When a friend asked me “Are you angry that you didn’t get the fantasy, and that this new woman just might get what you desired?”, I knew that she had nailed it. I was still hooked into the hope that someday my Prince will come.

What’s most difficult to accept is that beneath this desire for Prince Charming is a belief that I need to be rescued, that I can’t actually take care of myself. It’s a wicked, antiquated belief that has percolates along inside me, even as I prove it untrue every day. Okay, wait one minute. The last few sentences might not really be true. What I really believe, deep down, is that God owes me a Prince Charming for giving me such crappy parents and a pain filled chiildhood. How my young mind conjured up this bright idea is beyond my forty-six-year old logic, but it probably sprang from the messages I got about God, men, and the being rewarded for my goodness. If not Jesus, maybe Prince Charming would make good on the promise that I wouldn’t be abandoned by the world.

All this is pretty difficult to say out loud; I’m embarrassed to admit that the real reason I’ve been so upset with my ex-husband is that he didn’t fulfill my fantasy of Prince Charming. It’s knocked the wind out of me. But I see myself, and I accept myself. And how thrilling that moment will be when the prince of my dreams…is me!

Love From the Shadows

Romantic relationships have been the forum of my deepest pain and darkest shadows. Before my son was born over seven years ago, I had spent decades chasing love. I wanted to feel special, loved, and worthy, and that experience was only going to come from having a husband. One man after the next was my next possible prince. If I was not living in a constant state of chasing, longing, and self-wounding around love, I wasn’t myself.

Eventually, I was blessed  with a man who would one day become my husband and the father of my son. For years I raced after him as he went in and out of my life. I felt that we shared something exceptional— like me, he had a deep commitment to spiritual practice and growth. Like me, he’d been abandoned by his mother and raised by a grandparent. Like me, he had never felt valued or worthy of love, and had a deep sense of being rejected. And like me, he was a wounded child in an adult body. The stage was set, and the drama played out.

Today we are divorced and co-parenting a very beautiful boy together. Since our separation, I have made great strides in healing my chasing behavior (with him and any other men). After our split I set out to discover what is love and a loving relationship. From this curious position, I’ve learned to love myself unconditionally and to celebrate my beauty in ways that have nothing to do with conventional ideas. I’ve accepted that my idea and expression of love is not monogamous in the way our contemporary society defines it, and have come to revel in my need for freedom within love. I no longer have the desire to call someone “my one and only” love. I have no desire to have someone deny or hide parts of themselves to make me feel safe and secure. I only desire to be my full self in my relationships and to spend time with men who bring the same. I trust myself enough to grapple with whatever darkness may present itself within unscripted romance. I like my own company, and I’m no longer afraid of being alone. That said, there are still the ghosts that haunt me and remind me that I’m not at the finish line yet.

Recently my ex started a new relationship, and I find that I’m having conflicting feelings within myself. It’s as if I’ve grown and healed but didn’t’ think he’d experience his own level or healing. I’m watching myself as I experience feelings of “I don’t want him, but I don’t want him to have anyone else either”. I witness myself be pissed that he is doing inner work with his new partner that he wasn’t ready to do with me and my old demons are resurfacing with a vengeance. The obsession, self-loathing, suffering, jealousy, and judgment that I’ve “left behind” are again at my front door. Rather than do anything about it, I’m sitting in the stillness with my feelings. Beneath the chaos lies a deeper knowing of who I’ve become, the woman who’s emerged since our divorce and because of our marriage. I’m a woman who no longer relies on validation and love from others, exclusively and primarily. I love myself, and that includes the part that is disturbed by my ex engaging in a new relationship. I will admit it’s scary; and I’m wondering whether it’s how a recovering addict might feel as he’s tempted to drink or use again.

Yes, the wounded little girl inside wants some attention, but I won’t let her take over this time. I can only say I’m profoundly grateful to see myself so clearly, and to be able to fall into my commitment to healing and self-love. This is some of the most difficult inner work I’ve done; the desire to be the chosen one is so clever that it’s very challenging to identify. But today grace has allowed me to see more of myself, and I’ll take the gift. Today I chose myself just as I am.

A Hopeless Citizen

I was such an enthusiastic supporter of President Obama when he first ran for office and I’m so disappointed in his second term—the time he would be able to really put his ideals into practice! I rarely speak his name any longer. During his first campaign I held meeting in my home, canvassed the neighborhood, and raised hundreds of dollars. I also wrote a book inspired by the president, entitled Open Your American Heart: From Personal Responsibility to Collective Accountability. I honestly believed that is we each took responsibility for our nation as individuals we could make a collective difference. Now I delete the emails I receive from his administration, and although I’ve always been a political junkie, I’m now less interested than I’ve ever been. It scares me to be this apathetic. I know that as a citizen, it’s my job to hold our politicians accountable. But I’ve stopped watching any political shows, even the funny ones like Bill Maher’s. I just can’t stomach the conversations.

I’m probably so deeply disappointed and disheartened because I wanted the first black president to also be one badass, superfly president. I hoped he’d change the world like, Jesus Christ. I did. I have to admit it, I drank the entire bucket of Kool-Aide, and if Obama had the same agenda as Jim Jones, I’d be dead by now.

Don’t get me wrong, he has some accomplished some things that make me proud to be an American. The administration’s work on LBGT rights has changed the lives of millions, a few of whom are my friends and family. Obama is for the LGBT community what Johnson was for the African American community, and it gives me great joy to have a group that was once forced to hide themselves be welcomed to the table to share in the birthright of being fully human.

The passage of the Affordable Care Act, with all its flaws, is still a huge move in the direction of health care for all. It offers access to care to those once uninsurable, young adults, women, and Americans with preexisting conditions. He has made insurance attainable for millions who once lived in fear of getting sick because the cost of treatment was out of their reach. I applaud his efforts and benefit from them.

However, when it comes to foreign policy, I’m gravely disappointed. I hate that we send our children off to war for the sake of other nations, and I hate Obama’s use of drones in Pakistan. The thought of one innocent baby dying in the arms of its mother is unconscionable and inexcusable. I think Americans see the world through entitled lenses, happy so long as the people dying are “over there.” We all have blood on our hands.  Obama has not changed our policy on war and our engagement with nations at war in any way that makes me proud. He is more of the same, just slower to rouse. Lastly, it is seems liberals and progressives have just put their heads in the sand or decided to rally behind this new call for war. I heard a friend of mine suggest that the French striking means that this is really bad and that Obama has been really thoughtful. I disagree completely that Obama is thoughtful. Ask the mothers of innocent children harmed in drone strikes about his thoughtfulness. One friend praised him for being strategic in killing Osama. Blood for blood has become the battle war cry of people who once condemned George W. Bush for going into Iraq.

What frightens me the most is my former innocence; the idea that someone different will do something different in this highest office in the land. “Oh, the black man with all his wonderful words and elegant speeches will save us,” I thought. But he did not. “Surely Hillary will come and rescue us. A woman can bring the difference we desire and deserve!” is the new anthem I hear. But it seems the highest office in the land has a way of corrupting the seemingly incorruptible.

Yes, I’m pissed at myself for believing that Obama would be different. I projected all my dreams upon the great black hope, believing he truly was someone exceptional; he would fundamentally change the trajectory of the nation. As I write this piece, holding my head in between sentences, I feel guarded and weary about our political future as we enter into yet another war. These boys and their wars are completely out of hand, and I fear some part of me will drink another dose of Kool-Aide, believing Hillary Clinton’s womanhood might be the thing that makes the difference. But I doubt it. This current disappointment sits so deeply I think it’s smothered my innocence for good.

There’s a Lump on My Breast

Around a year ago I found a lump on my breast. I’d had a clean mammogram a year earlier, but of course I needed to get it checked out asap. After another mammogram and ultrasound, it was determined to be a cyst that needed to be examined every six months. Half a year later at my next visit, the doctors recommended a biopsy, and those results landed me in a surgeon’s office, where I was being put on the fast track for the removal of a noncancerous lesion (atypical Ductal Hyperplasia, to be precise.) I sat in the surgeon’s office dressed in one of those gowns listening as he used big words like hyperplasia and scary ones like cancer. “Once we remove the lump and test it, we might find that you have cancer and will need further treatment,” he said. I listened from a place of deep stillness and silence within me. I opened my mouth to say, “You’re draining the energy from me; I can feel myself getting tired just being here.” He looked stunned and unaware of how he should respond. “This is the first time I’m hearing any of this,” I continued. “Not one doctor has mentioned anything close to what you are saying.” “You seem, well, overwhelmed might not be the right word, but something close to that” he responded.  “Yes, exactly, so will you please start again so I can now hear what you are saying?” He said it all again, and I asked a couple of questions about the unknown possibility of cancer, to which he assured me he could not know or answer until after the surgery. Finally, he told me that the surgery wasn’t urgent and that because I don’t have a history of cancer in my family, I really didn’t need to worry. He left for his next appointment, and the nurse handed me the post-visit paperwork. I couldn’t identify any of the big and scary terms on the papers, and I asked her to bring him back. “I’ll wait,” I said. Five minutes later he returned and I asked him to write down the terms he’d used. He then sat down, stating, “It’s good you have questions, and will go do research on your own. Please call me with questions.”

Now, let me say that I’m not a fan of our current medical system. I hate all the fucking drug commercials and side effects that we see on TV daily. I hate that this doctor didn’t suggest any alternatives to being cut, ask about my diet or lifestyle choices. And I hate that going to the doctor can feel so impersonal, like I’m being sold a car. I left there feeling angry and clear that I wanted to spit in this man’s face. Because so many doctors feel like they’re in the business of making profit (rather than building relationships and creating health), as a patient it’s important that I know myself and stay in my power. “The doctor” may be the authority figure in our traditional way of thinking,  but I’m not willing to hand myself over to someone who uses big scary words with a medical degree.

Since that appointment I have decided to learn my options, get a second opinion, and check with a homeopath/naturopathic practitioner before I move forward. I’ve also decided to up-level my clean living by removing any processed foods, meat, dairy, and sugar from my diet. This, along with health-centered meditation and eastern practices might work just as well as the suggested surgery. No, it’s not as fast a fix as cutting it out, but I believe that illness has root causes that need to be addressed. If we don’t do so, they’ll just resurface another time.

In the meantime, I spend several moments each day touching my right breast and sending light and love to the specific area.  At the end of the day, I will be the one who decides what I need and what’s the best plan of action for my body and health. And while looking outside the allopathic path may be considered a bold thing to do, it feels much less toxic than the fear that pervades our current medical culture. If I have to resort to plan B, so be it, but for now, I’ll take the power and the peace that comes with healing from within.

The Darkest Night

The past year, a dark cloud of depression rolled in and stationed itself right above me. And even though I’ve always felt that I was coming undone just a little, over the past months I felt myself coming undone in ways I wasn’t accustomed to.

It feels like I spent the better part of this year either 1) on my sofa sleeping, or 2) at my altar praying. I’d rise from my sofa to meditate and recite a chant or mantra that could fill the negative space in my mind until I needed to do it again. On the days my son was home, for the most part I found the strength to be present with him. There were even days when I’d venture out to my local Peet’s Coffee & Tea and connect with people in my community. But even when I was laughing a hard belly laugh about something, I could always sense that dark energy lurking, waiting for me to be alone, sitting heavily on my heart, and filling my thoughts with worry about my son, money, the future, or work.

Sitting here now, looking back on this experience from a space of clarity, I would call it depression or a dark night of the soul, but I dismissed the suggestions of my closest friends— “Monique, you’re not yourself, maybe you should consider seeing a doctor or getting some medication.” It wasn’t until I heard myself telling a very good friend that I wasn’t strong enough emotionally to process a disagreement we’d had that I came to grips with my reality. I felt too weak and empty to even think about our encounter in a way that would help us move forward. Yes, my friends were right, I was not myself.

Just as it had arrived, slowly and without warning, it moved. One day I could feel myself come from underground. I could sense light coming into my energy field. I had just reached out to a girlfriend who recently started taking medication for depression. She had described herself as living in winter each and every day. She wanted a new season in her life, and after years of self-analysis and therapy she’d come to accept that she needed help from modern medicine. After starting the meds, she was lighter, clearer, and happier than she’d been in all the years I’d known her. Having watched me sink into a winter of my own, she said she felt that my depression was being imposed by circumstances, it wasn’t an inner state of being unrelated to what was going on in my life. She suggested that I consider other options before altering my chemistry with medication. Taking her advice, I continued to meditate and introduced a morning visioning practice, setting the intention of starting my day on a positive note.

I also reflected on the outside circumstance that I’d been “blaming” for my state of mind—I saw clearly that my fear of not having the money I desire was wreaking havoc on my emotions, creating waves of worry and fear about being homeless and not being able to provide for my son and myself. I was desperate for feeling of security. The facts that my clients and freelance gigs were drying up, that I was behind on my rent: it felt like a tornado in my life.

But although my money situation hadn’t really taken a turn for the better, I started to feel the sun breaking through. The lights were still on, I still had a home, my car was running, and choices were presenting themselves regarding work. New clients started coming, and I’m writing daily.

I have to confess, I’d love to share the profound revelation that pulled me out of this dark time, but I have none. The shift was all very slow and gradual. I will say that I started telling myself the things I needed to hear and feel daily. I repeated mantras such as “I love myself,” “I’m beautiful,” “I love my body,” “I love my life and everything about it,” and “I am enough now, nothing I do from this point forward can add to or take away from how magnificent I am.” That’s it. I started to feel the light coming in when I realized that I really do believe these words. Also, I spent time with a witch, received a reading and had a cleansing done also. It was wild, amazing and worthy of an entire story on its own.

In many ways, the darkest season I’ve experienced as an adult turned out to be one of the most beneficial. Now I know I can’t afford to lose a day judging myself or in a negative tailspin about something. I choose to be very deliberate about what I think. Why, because I control the season in my reality. Too much—or even any—worry, and I’ll take myself to some deep and dark wintery kingdom where worriers are being served for dinner. Thank goodness I’ve seen the light.

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