Lessons from Love

I’ve been seeing someone I’m quite fond of. He’s a big car guy. Loves all things four wheels from NASCAR to go-karting. Meanwhile, I only care that my car is functional and gets me from Point A to Point B. A few days ago, he came over to clean my windshield. I was beyond annoyed. My windshield wasn’t overtly dirty, only a little smudgy. I didn’t understand how or why my smudgy Kia was driving him crazy. My objections to his request were:

“I can see just fine out of it.”

“It’s not even dirty.”

“I’ve been driving this way for a long time.”

Regardless of my annoyance, he cleaned it anyway. On my way to work the following day, I fell in love with the crisp outlines of my scenic drive.

For some time, I’ve been taking Lexapro. I need Jesus, but I also need Lexapro. Those two can and do exist together. This past month I experienced myself without any medication.  Before ever taking medication, I could describe myself as being held underwater. Unable to see clearly or breathe smoothly. However, none of that is bothersome, because I’ve been like that for so long that I didn’t know I was being held under. Everything I saw, I believed to be true, not recognizing its distorting characteristics. Missing that aspect of a balanced being–breathing fresh air and seeing clearly–brings a whole new level of awareness that is torturous. I was fully aware that I was being held underwater. I was aware of object distortion, yet still completely unable to combat what I saw and felt. That was my hell–being without control and being aware of it.

However, my lovely boyfriend offered me clarity on the tiniest of scales. He offered something that I believed I didn’t need because my car (and me) had been this way for a long time. How many times had I previously gotten angry with someone or a situation because it brought me clarity I didn’t think I needed? How long was functional beating out safety? In my moments of being held under water, my boyfriend was the breath of fresh air I needed. He reminded me that I was still underwater, and I still needed help. And those two things were okay.

Isn’t that what love does? Love lets us know that we’re not seeing through clear eyes. Love removes the scales and lets us move confidently forward. With great persistence and without hesitation, love kindly corrects.

Today I hope…

…for continued goodness. It was only going to be goodness but continued is necessary. I hope for ruptures of laughter that cannot be contained, relationships to grow an ounce more, and the hope that I will still be part of this cosmic dance that exists beyond and within what looks like chaos. I hope for complexity and nuanced decisions. Mostly, I hope for bravery to be honest, to be loving, to be extraordinary. I hope whatever spark is produced today adds to tomorrow, where eventually, a fire will show. I hope for everlasting goodness.

Typewriter Confessions: Claim Yourself

Begin again. This time with feeling.

I let everything and everyone into my backyard. They brought with them chainsaws, sledgehammers, and their opinions. I thought if I was able to please everyone, that surely something great would happen. It didn’t. I pleased no one. No one won. Although no human being won the title to my life as The Ultimate Influence, I still greatly feel as if some unknown entity succeeded in throwing me off balance. I tried–because of my childhood to be–excuses are everywhere. I have a choice here. Become the woman with a pen or chase the woman I thought I should be.

I love God. Before I knew God, I loved her. It was when I began to know God through other people and institutions that I thought my knowing wasn’t enough. My knowing has carried me here. Here is a place that is uncertain yet good. Uncertainty at this point gives birth to exploration. I’m trying on pieces of myself in hopes that something sticks. However, I know explorations to true self-hood are always divine journeys. Always. Rarely do these journeys make sense or are clear, but they are divine and sacred nonetheless.

Where am I going now that so many things are done? Unfortunately, nowhere. Right now, I am cleaning up all the brush and debris, removing clumps of my hacked up trees, and chasing away any stragglers. Someday, there will be room for flowers, but you can’t put flowers in rotten soil. They won’t flourish, and them, like you, will question why you wanted to grow anything in the first place.

So, what does this mean for Elohim&Esh? It means that I include everything that is currently in my soil, in an effort to purify my life, my spirit, and my relationships.

In an effort to be transparent, here’s five things about me:

  1. My name is Aisha. I believe in embodiment, especially when it comes to names. I am life. My name means beautiful. I believe that too.
  2. I believe that life is a cosmic dance. It will never make sense because we, as humans, don’t get the privilege of knowing every little detail of each others lives.
  3. I am a womanist, with no retractions to the original four part definition written by Alice Walker.
  4. I hate going to church, but I love taking communion.
  5. About a year ago I asked God to make me a tree. Since then, trees have become vastly more intricate. I don’t know how yet, but I definitely do find myself becoming more tree-like: Resilient.

Don’t Say Just

I believe language is everything. Words seep down into the crevices of the spine, and they grow. If they’re good, then the person will stand taller. They will radiate light. If those words come with judgment or hostility, a person might lose a few inches, stretching to find the light they once had. It’s a hard road when you’ve been knocked down a few inches, but I think eventually, the light finds you again.

When I left seminary, a few weeks ago, I had to meet with a professor to have a conversation about my decision to withdraw. I realized quickly it wasn’t a conversation but a pitch. It didn’t matter I was leaving because of personal reasons and mental health. She offered me in several different forms a reduced time in seminary for a different degree. “How about the M.A.C.M.? Two classes and CPE and you’ll be done? Have you thought about only taking a semester off?” When I explained to her the logistics of my time, CPE is 40 hours a week and I work nearly 40 hours a week, and that isn’t ideal, she let out an “Oh.” It was an oh I wish I caught on camera because as a pastoral worker, we are taught against every reaction she had in that 10 minute meeting. I digress. Before I left, she asked me what I would do since I wasn’t in seminary. Unfortunately, she did not word it like that. “So you’re just not going to finish? You’re just going to be a deputy clerk?” The just is where I am hung up on. Let me explain.

In undergrad, I had this amazingly wonderful professor, Dr. Martin, and he would make sure that in any of our responses–either verbal or written–we never used the word just. When we said it in class, he would interrupt us and say, “Don’t say just.” As annoying as I found his incessant interruptions, his words stuck with me. It wasn’t until I left undergrad, when I didn’t have Dr. Martin to call me out, that I understood why I shouldn’t say just. Just is a limitation imposed upon someone or something. When you say just, you are imposing your expectations upon them while limiting them to be something you find limiting for their potential. With just, they have no room to be anything else. I felt deduced to being only a deputy clerk. Her words were instantly frustrating. I responded back rather harshly and defensively. I started rattling off things I would be doing instead of being in seminary. If her question were worded differently, I wouldn’t have felt the need to defend myself against the limitations of just. I’ve had many people ask me what I was going to do post-seminary, and with some I was honest: “I am going to rest.”

Words matter and hers left a bitter taste in my mouth. Because this is such a fresh loss, when I think back on my time in seminary, I think back at the most recent things. My friend, who also left seminary earlier this year, said, “It’s like attending your own funeral.” And it really is. At the end, I could only see those who supported me, those who judged me, and those who only cared for me within an academic context. It was humbling and deeply saddening. So, today, I’m doing some processing of those feelings. I’m grateful for what the experience was. Despite the bitterness, I believe my time there was intentional both in my life and the lives of other people. I believe it mattered. I wish other people could see that too. Today, I am stretching to find the light I had and to believe in the great purposefulness of my journey.

Metamorphosis III

July 21, 2019

They lied to me. They said I would sprout and I would be aware of it. That didn’t happen. I felt a coldness under my shoulder blade. I felt a scratch from the inside out that I couldn’t reach, and I knew: It was time to fly. I did everything that came to mind consciously, continuously, and passionately. Every little detail I held dearly. Every decision I made rested well into my soul. Night after night I tossed and turned. Flying should never be this restless. It was worse than restlessness. It was falling knowing you were able to keep yourself up. It was Icarus. What is wrong? What is wrong? I asked myself. And what poured out were dreams deferred. Dreams that I had buried and held wonderful ceremonies for. With every decision being made firmly and no new whims, I was able to refocus on the reasons I began my shift in the first place. I recollected all the reasons why I wanted to be where I was at, and I remembered the goodness of those dreams. How me then thought that I wouldn’t get to where I’m at now, but knew I had to get there. I’m here now, and it was hard, but it was worth it. I’m doing internal and external work—spiritual and supernatural work—to be made whole in the image God has promised me. With each resurface of a dream, I cry. I cry for stagnation, frustration, uncertainty, unplanned resets, and children I wish I had. I wail for children I wish I were prepared for. Then I rest, and the scratching in my back has left. Wings don’t grow at the same length. They’re like wisdom teeth. One finally broke the skin, and I am able to get off the ground, but not for very long, and it cannot carry me. So, now I wait. I wait to see under what circumstances and when the other will break the skin. But they lied, they said I’d know my wings when I got them. I won’t, and you won’t either. I can’t be sure, but I do believe that no one’s wings grow in symmetrically perfect and full and lush. It takes determination and faith for them to sprout, and honesty and consistency to water them.

Tell me Papa, tell me that it’s not wings.

Someone recently told me that I am one of few people she knows who she believes thinks things thoroughly through. Because she associates that with a connection with the Spirit. The Spirit of God that pulls these wings out of me. It was one of the kindest things anyone has ever told me. She may not know it, but her wings are growing in quite nicely too.

We don’t know it because we don’t remember, but we are angels entertaining one another. We are magically divine because the Source of the Spirit that we come from is the most of all magically divine creatures to exist. The Spirit without creation, without birth, birthed us into forgetfulness to encourage one another to believe that we are all divine.

My, Sundays are always whimsical.

Metamorphosis Part II

June 16, 2019

Think past all things. Think past all your wants, your jealousies, your desires, your ailments, and peek out into the unknown. Seek the intentionality of the universe and ask it, “Is it all on purpose?” Because I believe it is. I believe that the feathers that I am waiting for patiently to sprout out of my back are the same ones that a writer had in mind when s/he wrote them into The OA. I think it is not a coincidence I spoke of flying and feathers and this irresistible feeling to burst out of this exterior shell and then it appears in my life weeks later. I think the sky that is hanging on my walls and the women who embody it are all on purpose. I think this moment of pure ease and delight of the purposefulness of my life was always planned. I think it is here that my feathers begin to sprout. It is here that I learn to grow. It is here that I will begin to feel what it is I’ve always known.

Cause God, goodness God has never been a genie in the sky or a lion in the clouds. God has never been the voice of James Earl Jones, Morgan Freeman, or Howard. But God has always been the face that welcomes me into the tent, the face I cup in my hands, and the heart that beats slowly with mine. God has always been the rhythm of resets on Sunday afternoons and the glow of four-legged friends in the dark. God has always been impossibly large and steadily close. It is here, in this moment, that I recognize truly how close God has been. Because the God I cusp in the dark is the one that appears to me in the light. That God has consistently worked and appeared in all things. So here I am now, watching a video of captivity of myself, and trying to convince myself that I am not crazy. That the feathers are a coincidence. And maybe it is, but I can never be that person. I can never be the person who believes in incidentals because here I am dancing with That Which Has No Name and All Names. Some people, they pass the greatness of God and they say, “Blessed am I who has walked with the Lord.” And that is true, and they are. But oh, oh are the heartbreaking ones who spend this life and the next dancing with God for eternity.

Here I am, beginning to learn. By the end, I don’t think I’ll be the only one with wings. I hear You, God. I see You. And here I am, dancing with You.

“Would you still love me if I wasn’t a surgeon?”

I’m rewatching Grey’s Anatomy, and that is the question that has surfaced out of two different surgeons. Derek Shepherd asked Meredith after he botched a brain surgery that killed a new mother. Cristina Yang asked Owen after she repaired Derek’s heart when he was shot. Both asked after periods of trauma if it would be okay to be someone other than who they are.

My stint in seminary seems to only get longer. The papers are growing more in length and depth, but I cannot bring any motivation to care. The beginning of this semester has brought discomfort. I want so badly to say trauma, but I won’t. My mom has cancer. Her cancer has been out of remission until this year. I spent the weekend before school began in the hospital with her. She was getting her second surgery of the year. I could kill her doctor because when he came out, he said, “What we removed wasn’t malignant.” We’re just slicing folks up for fun these days, I guess. Weeks later, my mom told me that her cancer is in her voice box. I can’t imagine a world without my mom. I especially cannot imagine a world without her and her laugh.

The beginning of the semester was about mourning. It was about me processing this level of grief and comprehending my mom’s desire for treatment, which is not to have anymore surgery. I can’t do anything but respect that, so I grieve very privately while still finding the willpower to go to work and do homework and practice yoga.

Now, I’m at the end of the semester, and I am asking, “Would you still love me if I didn’t go to school? Would you still love me if I didn’t teach? Would you still love me if I took a break from becoming who I am supposed to be?” I’ve tried having this conversation with my therapist and close friends, but honestly, I’m not desiring their opinion. I’m desiring God’s.

Even in my grief and growth, I feel a drop of disappointment within my spirit. That drop is rippling out into frustration, which has led me to where I am now. Will the paper I’m writing about matter in three weeks? Three months? Three years? Is this academia for academia’s sake? Because if it is, I cannot exist like this any longer. So, I’m asking God, but I’m also asking me: “Would you still love me if I didn’t teach?”

Metamorphosis Part I

June 9, 2019

With every admission of guilt, fear, or regret a new seedling finds itself blooming inside my chest. I can feel them sway and hit the inside of my rib cage, begging to be let out through my back. But what they tell me, and what I know, is that they are not the little green seedlings of new plant life but baby feathers. They are accompanied with many mature ones that live inside my chest cavity. I feel them balled up and waiting to explode out of my back so that one day I may be able to fly. All of this energy that is stored up, all of the goodness, all of the praise, and all of the recognition, all of the talks with the Mystery that has no name has created a release of growth inside my chest. I cross the threshold now, of this world and the next, hoping and begging for God to cut my back open so that they may have the room they need to grow, and I might have the tool to fly. I wait as all of the Spirit welcomes me in my home and greets me into time with the Mystery.

“Tell me I’m lying. Tell me that everything I feel is wrong. Tell me we aren’t the angels entertaining one another. Tell me that it is not us circling your head marveling at every glimpse of You that is revealed. Please, tell me I’m wrong. Tell me that I can’t fly. Tell me that they aren’t wings. Tell me that this energy coursing through my veins can be released under my control. Tell me that when it does explode, everything else around me will still be intact. Tell me that I am wrong.”

Silence. Overwhelming silence and that surge of power of the Spirit that cannot be explained. It is like wrapping your arms around a lover—being both familial and erotic without ever being sexual. It is a feeling that is pure and raw and forever guarded and untouched.

“Tell me it is not God I embrace. Tell me it is not You that I will one day see. Tell me I haven’t crossed over. Tell me that it is impossible to live the way I live in here out there where they cannot see.”

“Because I feel You hovering over my day. I feel You always. It is Genesis every single day. I don’t care if You’re God the Mother or God the Father. You are this intangible existence that I lay no claim to. You are what You are, and You are perfect. You are what is and what was and what is to come, and I lay no claim to You now or otherwise.”

“You are an experience I am never ready for, and I am terrified to even ask. But, I want to experience more than holes in my hands. I want to experience the explosion being stored in my body and the curls of feathers tempted to rupture my chest. I want to be let out. I want to fly.”

“I’d carve my chest open and the only things they’d see are a heart and lungs and possibly a loose kidney. They wouldn’t see it, and they’d think of me crazy for believing it. So, tell me, God. Tell me I’m wrong. Tell me this fire is wrong and the energy pounding in my chest is nonexistent. Tell me You’re tame. Tell me I’m all crazy for being equal parts excited to live and to die…just to see if I was right. Tell me You fit perfectly in the Holy book I pedaled around. Tell me that You’re neat and exactly as they see You.”

“Why would you, though? I still wouldn’t believe You. There is more than what we can see. There is more than what we believe. There is more than what I was prepared to give credit to. But, in order to know there is more, I must believe I am more too. So, I’m starting there. I won’t order, but I will ask. God the God that is, will You teach me how to fly?”

Rest is Holy

It’s so funny. I had big plans for this summer. I had all of these cities and landmarks I was going to visit, but none of it happened. It’s funny and relieving. I don’t deny that oftentimes traveling can be highly therapeutic, but that is not what I needed this summer. I needed rest.

My second semester of seminary was exhausting in a way that was completely new to me. I was spent emotionally, mentally, and physically. On top of school was life–family happenings, adjusting to the demands of a new job, and recognizing I was on a steady ground financially. My second semester, which began in January, contained a lot of resets. Last semester was one of the first semesters I pursued healing more than I did anything else, school included. My anxiety was through the roof. I was a mess, but I persisted. It was worth it. My grades turned out exceptional. My family life was whole, more so than it has been in years. The newness of balancing work and school was wearing off and becoming normal. And one more highlight…I paid my mortgage on time every month. Bonkers.

When the semester ended, I checked in with my therapist. I am that person that will freak out for weeks on end, then when it’s all said and done go, “Wow. That was fine. I’m fine,” when really I’m not fine. Therapists are lovely, and mine is quite great. She pointed out how emotionally difficult my semester was. She ran through every event of the semester, yet I still could not accept those experiences as highly impacting. I told her very quietly, “I just think that if it isn’t something that can be seen then I should be fine. If no one is dying, if nothing drastic is happening, then I’m okay.” It wasn’t until I said that out loud how invalidating I realized that was to myself. So, that led me to make a list of places I wanted to go and sights I wanted to see.

I rearranged my schedule so I only worked three days out of the week, with Wednesday being my Friday. When it came time to buying that first plane ticket, I accepted that I didn’t want to go anywhere. I wanted to enjoy the tiniest of pleasures like sleeping in, cooking breakfast, strolling in the grocery store, coloring, going to a park, or doing absolutely nothing. For two days out of the week, I had no goals. I did what I felt, and do you know that I completed more work this summer than I ever have in a semester? I read more books. I wrote more stories. I opened up more to people, processes, and opportunities. Because I allowed myself moments of nothingness, sometimes just sitting outside for hours because I could and the weather was nice, I felt accomplished. If all I did was get up and breathe, then that day was enough.

This summer I thought a lot about Elijah. I usually relate to the “What are you doing here?” part of his story, but not this time. I think about him being spent, asking for death, then sleeping. Although our stories are a wee bit different, the outcome is the same:

Elijah Runs Away from Ahab and Jezebel

19 Ahab told his wife Jezebel what Elijah had done and that he had killed the prophets. She sent a message to Elijah: “You killed my prophets. Now I’m going to kill you! I pray that the gods will punish me even more severely if I don’t do it by this time tomorrow.”

Elijah was afraid when he got her message, and he ran to the town of Beersheba in Judah. He left his servant there, then walked another whole day into the desert. Finally, he came to a large bush and sat down in its shade. He begged the Lord, “I’ve had enough. Just let me die! I’m no better off than my ancestors.” Then he lay down in the shade and fell asleep.

Suddenly an angel woke him up and said, “Get up and eat.” Elijah looked around, and by his head was a jar of water and some baked bread. He sat up, ate and drank, then lay down and went back to sleep.

Soon the Lord’s angel woke him again and said, “Get up and eat, or else you’ll get too tired to travel.” So Elijah sat up and ate and drank.

The food and water made him strong enough to walk forty more days. At last, he reached Mount Sinai,[a] the mountain of God, and he spent the night there in a cave.

So often I think we forget that the best things we can do for ourselves are rooted in getting our most basic needs met. We need adequate rest. Our society is heavily built around the (now crumbling) idea that if you are not constantly working, hustling, producing something then you are failing at life. That’s not true. Being overworked, emotionally drained, and constantly on the go are not life giving. There is nothing beautiful about breaking down.

This summer has been a summer of healing. I have given away all my burdens, processed emotional scars, and became more vocal in the process. I trust my instincts the first time around and listen more to myself and other people. I am connecting with myself emotionally, which is helping me experience this world and the Spirit in ways can only be described as divinely magical.

I’m reading Beloved by Toni Morrison, and I’ve been holding on to this line: “Anything dead coming back to life hurts.” I feel as if I’ve been a zombie all this time. Coming back to life, healing from the tomb I was in, is exhausting. But, I am here. It took me resting to appreciate where I am.

Rest is holy. Get some.

Remember Why You Began

I think it’s appropriate that it’s almost been a year since I’ve made a post on here. I stopped for so many reasons. I was transitioning out of a bad situation into a good one. I was nervous about life. I didn’t think what I had to say mattered too much anymore. I felt weird about where I was in life and who I knew, that I removed myself from anything that provided any amount of comfort. I removed myself from my daily reminder that the little things matter.

So, let me give some updates, in bullet point fashion.

  • Last August I started attending seminary, and incidentally, stopped going to church. Seminary has been a collection of experiences, some of which remind me how celestial we truly are, while others scream, “We are dangerously human!” The fragile state of human existence is rather beautiful, intricate, and complicated.
  • This year I started working steadily in a courthouse. It’s humbling and high-stress work, but I’d be lying if  I said I hate it. It brings me some odd satisfaction.
  • I started going to therapy in December. I’m sure I’ll write so many more posts about how therapy is a sacred space, and everyone should have a therapist. Right now, I will say that it is amazing what I can do when I feel understood.
  • I was honest about my job hopping, but I’m not sure if I was honest about my home. Last year, I almost lost my home to foreclosure. I’m absolutely grateful I didn’t. To be very honest, I’m not sure how it is possible that I’m still in my home. In the twelve months, I think I made four or five payments. Any other time, I would’ve said God wanted me to have my house. However, since beginning seminary, I’ve learned that it’s important what I’m saying and what I’m not saying. If I said God wanted me to have my home, then what am I saying to those who have lost their homes? Working in a court system, I meet hundreds of people who have been evicted due to nonpayment, and it’s humbling every time. Never would I stand before them and say, “Well, God just wanted you out.” I’ve learned not to speak for God. I’ve learned that there are no tiny graces. I hurt for those people who have lost their homes. I mourn for them picking up the broken pieces. I don’t have the words for what I feel, but I am grateful that I was able to stay in my house.
  • I stopped going to my heavily Pentecostal non-denominational church (that I love and miss) and floated around in my seminary education. Sometime in November I read about Pauli Murray. In the book, All Out of Faith, I read her essay “Full Circle.” I still am unable to describe what it is I felt after reading. The closest thing that comes to mind is overwhelmed. I took in a glimpse of her story and fell in love with her, with God, with how our lives unapologetically come full circle into reconciliation. That reconciliation with ourselves, our families, and our current societal positions looks so different than what we could have ever expected. Rev. Murray was the first African American woman to become an Episcopal priest. Her story inspired me to visit an Episcopal church. I was a nervous wreck. I didn’t know the hymns, when to stand or kneel, but I did know the Nicene Creed (courtesy of my Church History professor), and I knew how to receive communion. There was something completely different about communion at that church than anywhere else. The experience was golden. It was fulfilling. There is something passionately intimate about being in silence, kneeling at the altar, and receiving the blood and the body of Christ. It was holy.

There’s so much more I could list, but that would take the fun out of all future posts.

Over the course of a month or so, I received notifications that multiple someones had liked a post from over a year ago. I would read what they liked, and remembered how I believed. How and who I believed God to be a year ago is drastically different from where I am now.  I began this blog because I wanted to further the idea that we are so much more than what we believe ourselves to be. We are magical and celestial and greatly heard. Since those notifications started popping up, those are things that I felt like the Spirit is trying to remind me of. All week, I have heard a whisper, “Remember why you began, Aisha. Remember why you began.” Those notifications and the feeling of freedom I have typing this is why I began. I believed this to be a space of transparency and freedom for myself and for others. So, I am beginning again on the same blog (instead of cutting and running like I would’ve before) and hoping that my life encourages someone else’s.