Today I had the foundation rocked from underneath me. I thought I knew and was comfortable with who I am as a writer. I thought I had this all worked out. But a chance conversation (and you know I don’t believe in chance meetings, everything has a purpose in our lives) led to an approximate two-hour conversation that covered so much different ground while staying in the same neighborhood. In the course of that conversation, I learned that I haven’t even scratched the surface of who I am as a writer.
I was late for work today because my car wouldn’t start. And when I made it to work, the teacher in the class next to me had pulled all my homeroom students over to her class. As soon as I arrived at school, I went over to grab my students and thank her. After I had my class settled, I felt compelled to go over and express my gratitude again. Before I could make it there, one of the officers assigned to our school, Officer Smith, stopped me and asked a question. The question led to a conversation that left me feeling unmoored.
We discussed our kids (the younger generation of children coming up today), we discussed the lack of black men in households today and how it appears to be a repetition of patterns that began in slavery, we discussed personal/shared experiences, realizing we had an awful lot in common…as I said, we discussed a lot. The thing that left me feeling shaken was when I was talking to her about some of the things I have endured during my life and was telling her how once I let go of all those pre-conceived notions of how I thought my life was supposed to be, I ended up on this path where I was allowed to walk away from hell and into a place of peace. I knew, too, that I was on the right path because once I walked away, doors were opened for me. I entered places that were not supposed to be available to me. From working as a reporter to being a teacher today. I never wanted to be a teacher. It was the result of a seed that was placed in my soul and once it took root, doors opened easily for me to place me where I was supposed to be. I have a firm belief that I was supposed to teach in order to become a more skilled writer and in order to have a positive impact on the lives of kids in my community.
As I was speaking with Officer Smith about my past experiences, her eyes began to water. She asked me, “Why haven’t you written about this?”
Guess what, I was speechless. I had attempted to write about my experiences many years ago, to provide a glimpse into the world of an abused woman, but the project floundered. I never thought of taking it up again until today. Because I made it. I have made some very bad decisions in my life because there were things and people I thought I wanted in my life. Walking away was hard, even when I hated so much the way things were. I did walk away though. And, once I did, I found a sense of peace I’d never before known. I went from sleeping with a knife under my pillow every night and dreading going home every evening to being able to view my home as a place where I could relax, relate, release and be made whole. If you haven’t been there, you might have difficulty understanding just how big that is.
Because of the conversation today, I have decided to write about what I experienced: from the first beating at 14 to the last one before I finally took my children and walked away. I have decided to write about how those bad decisions to stay in relationships that broke me down and made me feel miserable about myself serve as my motivation to live differently today. I’m not broken because of all I went through. I live purposely because of all I went through. And I thank Officer Smith from the bottom of my heart for showing me what was right in front of my face all along, but still was difficult for me to see.
You know, I’ve said before, that if you wake up out of your sleep to write something, it’s bound to be something special. This is a poem that I woke from my sleep and wrote. I’m thinking of using it as the foreward to the book I’m planning to write about all those things that were supposed to break me down. I’m hoping my story will serve as inspiration to those who may be still stuck in their situations. I’m excited and nervous all at the same time because, as I told the officer today, to tell that story I’m going to have to go back and re-live some of that stuff I lived before. In order for me to present an honest look at those events, I’ve got to venture over to the other side of the wall that I’d put up in order to maintain my sanity.
Excuse the rambling post, but I’m learning some things about myself as a writer today. And I’m a bit all over the place, trying to understand how to make this happen.
Anywho, here’s the poem,
Pieces of You
You took out a knife and sliced
off a piece of your pinkie finger and
handed it to me, the only part you
could offer of yourself to me
‘cuz there was just no way you’d
offer your whole self to me. So, I
settled for the pieces given to me.
Pieces of you have floated into my
life, settled into my space like remnants
of food that slowly drop down to
the bottom of your glass of red Kool-aid.
And nothing can make those unsightly
particles attractive anymore. Once
they break away, become pieces, it’s
not even fit for consumption anymore.
What once was whole is now pulled
in a million directions, trying to maintain
a balance of imperfection – the imperfect
union of molecules that abrade one another
and yet the crumbling pieces sparkle like gold as
they fall to the floor and suddenly the
pieces are being grasped for with both hands.
There was a time when I thought I
could help put those pieces of you back
together, but now I know better. Now
I know that only you can reassemble
the pieces of you and bring your crumbling
self back to a sense of completion.
For now you offer pieces, a scattering of
convenient portions of time and self,
‘cuz change is hard and so is facing your
fears. That’s why I continue to
find myself being placed on a shelf,
believing those sweet lies meant for me
and no one else, while you drape yourself
in futility, offering up the best of you
to anyone but me, sometimes to those
who desire to keep you in pieces
because a presentation of the whole you
is not attractive to the one who
only desires to feast on your bones.
Peace & Love,