How are you coping?

My mind is racing. I can’t stop reading updates on Italy and Iran.

My heart is racing. I never knew my heart extended this far—to places and people I have yet to meet or visit.

I hate having to go to work every single day, and I’m scared.

But, do you know what I needed outside of the news, the rising death tolls, the social media updates, and the Rona jokes? I needed to be asked how I was coping because I realized I wasn’t.

So, I’m stopping. I’m crying out my frustration, and in fifteen minutes when I’m done, I’m gonna dance and sing and do yoga. Because, despite everything, I am still here. Right now, that is all I can do. I can be here.

I extend this same grace to you: How are you coping, my beloved?

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.

What do you do, even when you do not feel like it?

Breathe. Sometimes I get terribly overwhelmed by the offset intricacies of life that I hold my breath. I hold and ruminate and create infinite passageways down roads I will never see. I journey through fears that are only real to me. But, when I find myself being consumed by unforgiving, never-ending darkness, I remind myself that although I can’t see the Light, it is there. So I breathe anyway as an act of defiance against all my anxieties. I breathe.

Friday’s Thoughts

My mom has one way, or another gotten me to bend to her will. And in one way or another, I don’t think I really wanted what it was I thought I wanted. Regardless of how I feel about my relationship with my mother in our tough years, there is something innately positive that she knows. She knows me better than I know myself. I’m starting to believe that the knowledge she has is what makes for a great mother.

Recently, I clued her into the woes of my (non-existent) dating life. I introduced her to my online dating profile. I showed her how it worked. She asked, “What are you looking for in a man?” I said generic things: kindness, a sense of humor, independent, someone I didn’t have to raise. You know, the bare minimum. My mom has a superpower of being able to look at a picture of someone and completely nail down who they are right then as a person. It’s magical. It’s divine, and honestly, it’s one of the most celestial, spiritual practices I have ever seen. I scrolled through photos and one by one she said yay or nay. It was interesting inviting her into that part of my hope of dating. She chose people I wouldn’t and with each yes, said “Oh, he’s kind. He looks goofy.” She was looking for someone who could know me, protect me, but mostly, someone who would honor me. The joy of motherhood, I believe, is knowing the worth of your children and helping them meet that worth in every aspect of their lives. Sometimes, they can’t see why their moms demand more of them, but those mamas, they have a secret that those kiddos, particularly, those daughters, aren’t hip to yet.

My mom swiped right on a man named V. V has sat in my inbox for months on unread. Mainly because we were only an 82 or 83 percent match. It was either 90 percent or higher for me. I didn’t even read his profile until my mom decided he looked like a good one. My interest was piqued once I actually started reading his profile. He could read and write the English language. For the most part, he knew when to use a comma. He was passionate, knowledgeable about current political events, an avid reader, and a nature goer. Of course, I liked his words. My mom, though, liked his eyes. So, I swiped right and we began a conversation, which led to texting, which led to a Q + A phone call, which led to an awkward FaceTime encounter. But, I stuck it out.

V is honest. He told me a great deal about himself. He did mansplain a dog gate to me, though. I figure men gotta do it in at least one conversation. That annoyance, I gave to him for free. He has a dog. He did something that I’ll see if it holds any weight later. He asked me if I had been to the Georgia Aquarium. I’ve been many times. He was so excited and said that should be our first date.

I laughed, “Sure.”

He said, “What are you doing Sunday?”

I hesitated. Was he for real? All the excuses roaming through my head never came out my mouth. “Nothing. I’m not doing anything.”

“Great, we can go on Sunday and grab a bite to eat before or after. It doesn’t matter.” We talked about how he could purchase tickets. That was that.

Now, it’s Friday, so I’ll see if that talk has any legs. But at the end of the conversation he said, “I like you. You’re sweet, kind, beautiful, smart.” Things I know. For once, my head didn’t grow. I remember what my mom said: “It’s not hard for anyone to see you and fall in love with you. All these people aren’t worth your time, though, so don’t give it to them.”

For a moment after the phone call, I was discouraged. Is this what my life has amounted to? Letting my mother make my decisions for me? I ran through everything. I went to college because my mom said I would either go to school or move out. I wasn’t ready to move out, so I chose a community college four hours away out of spite. I chose my transfer school because a friend went there and had so many wonderful things to say about the school and the community. I majored in English, not solely because of Dr. Perkins, my favorite English professor, but because English opened a world that I only experienced individually. When I joined this community of English lovers, I discovered that they created space to experience many literary worlds. I was apart of something in a community. Sadly, after undergrad, I spent a great deal of time regretting never majoring in Psychology. With those regrets, I transitioned into my first “real adult job.” Nepotism, and only nepotism, was the reason I got this job. I had a terrible attitude and it was no secret, yet I couldn’t be fired. Fast forward a lot to my house. My mom said no. My house in her eyes was a hard no. She said it needed too much work. It took her a while, six months or more, to finally see in it what I saw. Aisha: 1, Mom: 15. At least I had one.

The job I work now, I saw and decided for myself that there was no way they would hire me. One of my mom’s biggest sayings is, “Apply. Let them tell you no.” That way, I couldn’t say that I didn’t get it because I didn’t apply. I did my part by putting myself out there. My current position has allowed me to grow into a version of myself that is truer and more whole than when I began the year. I love this job so much that I dread someday outgrowing it. In this situation, my mom saw what I couldn’t.

So, should I feel some kind of way that my life has been led by suggestion or recommendation? Absolutely not. In some respect, I think a great majority of people live their lives like that. I’m sitting in my room, watching Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, and I’m a little less worried about my future than I was before. I can’t see all that my future holds, but I’m almost certain my mom can, and if she can then that means that other people can too. Life takes more patience than I was born with, but I am learning.

My pre-seminary theology was God had a plan. No matter what happened, God had a plan and every ebb and flow, heartache and brokenness was a part of that plan. I no longer ascribe to that theology. It does not factor in the suffering and evil of the world. It does not factor in the sudden traumas and unnecessary violence of the world.  I’ll be damned before I think of my suffering or anyone else’s as a divine plan of betterment. Now, how do I fit in the divine knowledge of  black mamas everywhere? Not sure. Maybe, it’s the hope for their children that helps them see things a bit clearer than their children can. Hope is a theology I can ascribe to. Things may not always look how I want them to look, but I can and will believe they can look better.

A Little Light

I’ve been looking for this book I read way back in the third grade. I could only remember that the main character was Indian, and she went into a tent and married a man and took a bath. I couldn’t remember the details except that I knew I loved the story. For months, I googled variations of the phrase “children’s book about an ugly girl going into a tent.” I looked on lists for children’s bestseller books, yet still got nothing. I couldn’t find anything that would jog my memory, so I let it go. No amount of googling was helping me and if anything I was only becoming more frustrated with the entire thing.

Today, I was in a fourth grade class, and as I was walking around checking out the books my kids were reading, I noticed the book I agonized over on a student’s desk. I lost my cool. I freaked out in front of twenty-something fourth graders over a book I read in the third grade. They asked me if I was going to read it right then, and I told them I was waiting.

I tried, for MONTHS, to find that book and had no success. It didn’t matter what I searched or how many websites I visited or links I clicked. I couldn’t find it on my own. What’s funny is this book was probably on a bestseller book list, but honestly, I didn’t know what I was looking for, so I could’ve been passing it up all that time.

I hear so many times from different people to let certain things go. I can’t control every outcome nor anticipate every variable, yet still I hold on. Why? Because I’m a control freak, but things are really that simple. Right now, I’m in a not-so-good situation, and it’s one of the hardest things I’ve had to endure in my adult life, and I’m clenching it tight to my chest. Why? Because if I forget about it then I might actually start enjoying my life again. I hold on to too many things, and I finally understand that I can’t if I want to live a joyous life. What is the point of holding on when you’re not getting the result you desire? That whole, “Let go and let God,” adage comes to mind.

That book finding me was the reminder I needed: Most times, life finds you exactly where you end, so I’m letting go of my problems in hopes that when the time is right, I’ll gain solutions I have yet to discover.

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.” Matthew 16:24-25 NLT

(For anyone wondering, the book is called The Rough-Faced Girl by Rafe Martin.)

Who Were You Before the Fall?

My word! I’ve been MIA for a long while.

I mentioned in a previous post that I quit my job. I mentioned how okay I was with whatever direction my life took. That was true then, but the longer I stayed unemployed, I realized how not okay I was.

I ended up getting a job working 3rd shift at a homeless shelter that was only willing to work me as a volunteer until they wanted to finally pay me. After a couple of times of being duped, I quit. Things taken out of desperation rarely work out.

Then, I was hired as a substitute for the county I live in. Great! I get to work with kids, stretch my legs as a teacher. All good in theory, but children in real life are crafty. I will admit I lost my way (and my nerve) the first week, but by the second week I was prepared. I got really good at it and was recommended often. I enjoyed it and the kids enjoyed me, but I couldn’t afford to pay every single thing that I was responsible for, so yet again I went looking for something else to satisfy my financial needs.

Now, I work as a debt collector or “professional negotiator.” Either way, it’s about collecting money from people who are probably gonna use their credit card to avoid bad credit. Oh, the irony. I digress. All of this moving and shaking sounds like what? I’ll give you a hint. It starts with an O and ends with compensating.

Since October, I have been overcompensating with everything in my life. I’ve overcompensated with jobs, with church, with my finances, with family obligations all to cover up the fact that I was freaking out about a decision I made which seemed irreversible.

Admittedly, in my self-denial and self-pity, I became self-consumed. I checked out of the blog. I checked out of my friendships. I checked out mentally because why hold a conversation when it wasn’t about me? Consciously, that wasn’t my thought process, but it might as well have been. We all have our own stories. Some stories have a lot of highs and little lows. Other stories start out dipping low and maybe a few times get high. Most stories, I like to believe, fall somewhere in the middle. Whatever the case, I lost sight of the bigger picture. I lost sight of everything that once made me love my life.

Fortunately, Christ is real. The hole that took me years (this extends way before me leaving my job in October…more like when I accepted the position) to dig, will take some time to climb out of, but it’s not impossible. Brick by brick I am being pieced back together because Christ is the Redeemer. He is the Ultimate Fixer. I’ve been trying to do things how I want to do them because I thought I had the “best possible outcome.” That’s not true when you’re walking with God. He creates the best possible outcome. He determines my destiny.

My level of transparency in this post is intentional. I do myself, this blog, and my walk with God a great injustice if I don’t paint the entire picture. Life ain’t all rainbows, sunshine, and good feels. Sometimes it’s walking through the valley and keeping a brave face. Currently, I find myself actively battling my indifference towards every situation in my life.

So, where am I now? I’m sitting in my car reciting a question prompted by my manager this morning: “What made you successful in the beginning before a slump happened?” Truthfully, I have no freaking idea. I’m on a road to finding this vocation that everyone seems to think I have, and I’ll tell you what, I think I’m not where I’m supposed to be, and that truth makes me uncomfortable enough to move in the right direction.

I sat under the moon tonight…

…and I was reminded of Someone bigger than myself. 

I have this problem (well, not really a problem, more like an opportunity). So, I have this opportunity that I find myself knocking on the door of, and I am terrified. I knocked on this same door in January, and to my surprise, it was locked. I honestly didn’t expect the person on the other side to refuse me entry into a place I knew I belonged. I said nothing, and I stopped moving. I gave up so easily at one silent no. The plan I thought I heard from God was gone. 

I briefly mentioned in one of my previous posts that I was reading Love Does by Bob Goff. In it, Goff mentions how sometimes God is waiting on us to not just knock on our doors but to kick them down. I agree with that. I think we, myself included, lay down in defeat too easily. We hear a no and allow that no to stop us dead in our tracks. We plan and plan and rework those current plans in hopes to not make the same mistakes again. The idea I believe we don’t entertain enough is that we didn’t make a mistake. We didn’t miss our opportunity. We just didn’t knock hard enough or long enough. People have the power to change someone’s life, and Goff talks about that too. I think when we remind someone that they have that power, they want to use it for good. 

For the last couple of weeks I’ve found myself too scared to knock on the same door because I didn’t want to make any noise! How courteous of me. Now is not the time for manners. Now is the time to do. So, right now, I’m sitting under the moon, but tomorrow—tomorrow I’m wearing my combat boots. I’m reminding myself why I’m doing this, and I’m going to remind the person on the other side of that door why they should let me in.