[The following text is what I needed to release in this moment. I wrote this for me. I finished it because I promised myself that I would. It is written for me as part of my healing process. The audience that it is intended for is me. I started writing this on March 6th, I completed it today, March 15th. I needed to get this out. This is just the beginning. I can no longer keep up the traditions, habits, and routines, of toxic silence. I can’t keep up the culture of secrecy that is responsible for binding me to the insinuated and implied contracts of my past. It is time for me to get up, to in fact “move on”, to “get over it”, and to “be strong”, for real. And I will not do that, I can not do that, in silence. I recognize that I thought that was the way for a very long time. I am an adult now and I know that I am not alone but for so many years I believed that no one understood my story, that no one knew what I was going through. And for so many years it seemed that I was correct. And that thinking, the way I handled things for that very long time was difficult and presented difficulties for any and everyone that dealt with me, especially myself. And I thought it mature and responsible to hold it in, to hold on, to hold it together. And well, I lost my way. I lost so much more than that. I am set to begin a new process and a new season, I have excelled in this one long enough. For whatever it’s purpose or power was, I am ready to use it as my experience and qualification for my next step. This next step is for me, it is for my son, it is for my family, it is for whatever my purpose or plan is here, on this earth. I have work to do. I am finding out that “saying something” is the work that I must do first.]
This is for Kaleb. Kaleb is 7 years old. Kaleb has cancer. Kaleb had to have one of his kidneys removed. Kaleb goes to chemo every other week for 3-5 days at The Children’s Hospital of Atlanta. Kaleb will soon be adding a radiation regimen to his treatment schedule as doctors attempt to aggressively fight the form of cancer that Kaleb has. Kaleb has to take all sorts of medicines and have needle injections, administered by his mother, at home. Kaleb has to be homeschooled because his treatment schedule and the requirements of his medicines won’t allow him much of a “normal” routine. Kaleb’s body clock is not on the average schedule, so Kaleb is usually up very late and he sleeps well into the afternoon. Kaleb is bald. Kaleb has no eyebrows. Kaleb has lost teeth. Kaleb is only 7 years old.
But Kaleb smiles. Kaleb smiles all the time. Kaleb laughs and makes jokes and gives hugs and handshakes. Kaleb plays his Xbox and his Wii and dances and darts around the room with the tenacity and fervor of any other child. Sometimes it seems like he has more energy than most children. Kaleb is polite and caring and sensitive. Kaleb loves his family. I watch Kaleb continuously hug and kiss his mom and his baby brother and his auntie. And Kaleb just keeps on living. As I sit here and watch Kaleb play or perform, Kaleb is always performing, I don’t see Kaleb wallowing in the state of his sickness. Kaleb doesn’t really sound sick. Even when he doesn’t feel good, Kaleb sounds optimistic. Kaleb sounds normal. Sometimes he sounds better than normal. And then it is time for Kaleb to get another shot and Kaleb readies himself. He props his leg up on his mom’s thigh, so that he can make it easier for her to access his thigh, and she sticks the needle in and Kaleb grunts. I can tell that it hurts. I can see that he grimaces in the pain of it. And as she presses the gauge to release the medicine into Kaleb, he just grunts. And then she is done and Kaleb grabs his thigh and begins bunny hopping around the kitchen. Kaleb is laughing now. Kaleb says, “It hurts, it hurts!” but Kaleb is laughing. Kaleb’s mom is laughing. I am smiling. Kaleb is what strong is. Kaleb is strong.
My best friends’ son has cancer. Two weeks ago I went to spend time with her and her family in Atlanta and I watched her and her son, Kaleb as they live with the reality, of a cancer diagnosis. I went there to get away from my life for a few days because I felt like I was losing it. I felt like I was falling apart. I was down. I was sad. My feelings were hurt. I went to Atlanta to visit some friends and family and to get some rest and perspective as I enter a new chapter and season of my life. I decided to go visit my friend and her family before I had planned on coming back to Chicago. I’ve known that Kaleb had cancer for some time now but I hadn’t been able to get available enough to go down and see him or his mom. And although I talk to her on a regular basis I hadn’t really been aware of the daily routine that is there for them. My friend has some health issues also. And as well as having a 7 year old child with cancer, she has a newborn son. Kaleb has a little brother that he is a very good big brother to. And there are doctor’s appointments and hospital visits and doctor’s appointments and life and obligations and responsibilities and life that has to go on. And I watched them for those two weeks, just go on.
There were 1,660,290 new cancer diagnoses in 2013. 580,350 people died. The average rate of cancer death is 1 in 4. One out of every four people with cancer dies. I never studied those numbers before. I never had much of a reason to. But I looked them up the other morning because I was curious. I wanted to know what the facts said about cancer. I wanted to know what the history said about cancer. I wanted to know what the experts said about cancer. I wanted to know all of that because I now know something different about cancer. Kaleb has shown me something much different about cancer and about life and about the things in life that become “cancers”, or cancerous.
I have referred to so many issues and people in my life, and my past, as cancers. So, I looked up the word…
~Cancer is a group of diseases characterized by uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells. If the spread is not con- trolled, it can result in death. Cancer is caused by both external factors (tobacco, infectious organisms, chemicals, and radiation) and internal factors (inherited mutations, hormones, immune conditions, and mutations that occur from metabolism). These causal factors may act together or in sequence to initiate or pro- mote the development of cancer. ~
Okay to apply that to my life, I’ll take the liberty of making a few adjustments to that definition…
~Cancer is a group of problems characterized by uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal issues. If the spread is not con- trolled, it can result in death. Cancer is caused by both external factors (people, places, systems, things, problems) and internal factors (fears, thoughts, ideas, habits, and traditions, generational issues [curses, inclinations, and pre-dispositions]). These causal factors may act together or in sequence to initiate or pro- mote the development of cancer. ~
Now before I go on, let me salute my hero, Kaleb.
I hope that one day you read this and you are able to look at my life and what I was able to accomplish and the things that I overcame and the strength that I exhibited and know that you inspired a great deal of it. Know that you have given me the perspective I needed to move on. Your grunt gave me the idea to grunt. That grunt let me know that you felt the shot and that it did in fact hurt. But you grunted and then you got over it. You got through it. You got past it! That was so healing for me. I was always taught to just get over stuff. I was taught to just move on. I was never allowed to express how I felt about things when I was younger and so I kept everything in. I carried all types of terrible things inside of me because I wasn’t allowed to “grunt”. I was told to be “strong” and “responsible” and be “a man”. That meant to be silent and to not show how I was feeling. Because that was weakness. I was taught that showing that you hurt was a weakness. And I wanted to be strong. I wanted people to believe that I was strong. I wanted my mother and my family to believe that I was strong. And so when anyone hurt me, I just kept quiet. And I kept going. Now I know that when your mom gave you that shot, you knew that she was not trying to hurt you but that she has to do what is necessary for her to do or everything that she can do to help or aid in what can help you. But it hurts. And I watched you tell her that it hurt. And then grunt. And then hop away.
Kaleb, thank you. You are my hero. I’ve never had a hero. I’ve never really looked up to anyone as an example. I’ve never had a mentor or a role model or a figure that I wanted to be like. I was so caught up in my own issues and problems and I never reached out to anyone or saw anyone who had a quality or character that I really wanted or that I was able to identify with beyond the severe trust issues that I had developed. So I prevented myself from allowing anyone “in” as a way to keep as much out or away as possible. And I thought that if I talked about my pain and problems then people would see me as weak and so I pretended to be very strong. And I kept quiet.
Before today I thought that my son was my hero because it was his birth, 9 years ago, that kind of gave me the urge to start this process and journey of healing that I am on. So I used him as an example of what I wanted to aspire to, by virtue of me wanting to leave him an example to follow. And he is definitely a great motivating factor. He is an inspiration. He is such a blessing to me. I will teach him what I have learned from you. Although I have known you since you were born, you have taught me a life’s worth of lessons in these last two weeks. I pray for your healing and cure. I pray for your recovery. I pray for your FULL RECOVERY! You are a fighter. You are a winner. You are an example. You are loved. You are cared about. You are cared for. You are a leader. You are courageous. You are strong. You are exceptionally strong. And I have every faith and belief that you will fight this cancer and that you will beat it. And I will fight with you. I am going to do whatever I can to help you and to fight for you. And the best thing that I can think to do is to emulate your actions. I’m going to go to a place that I know is about to cause me some pain. I’m going to ready myself. I’m going to grunt. And then I’m going to hop away. If I’m not able to laugh at first, like you, I’m going to smile, for you. I’m going to be and do like my hero. And I am going to fight my “cancers”.
By no means do I intend or propose to infer that my issues, my problems, or my challenges, are in any way or means lateral to a medical diagnosis of any cancer. I do not mean to suggest that what I am about to state and express is akin to the process and procedure of what a cancer patient has to deal with. I am well aware of the sensitivity and seriousness of such a disease. I’ve known people who have succumb to cancer before. I know some survivors. I know some people currently in treatment and others currently in remission. I have also had the opportunity, years ago, to volunteer in the oncology department of a children’s hospital in California, as well as in Illinois. I’ve seen the devastation before. I have witnessed the sadness and the grief. I have observed the cruel and punishing effects of this disease on the human body and its trickling effect on the lives that are affected in those moments by a cancer diagnosis. I have seen how bad cancer hurts. I’ve seen lots of funerals that were because of cancer. So it is with a great degree of caution and carefulness that I use “cancer” as the descriptive metaphor to aid me in this dialogue. The liberty and license that I use to redefine cancer for this text is based on me. I spent the past couple of weeks watching my friend and her son as they battle this disease. As I observed Kaleb and his energy, his attitude, and his “grunt”, I was urged to be affected in a way that I never would have imagined. But these words are my experience, written especially for me. If it serves any other person, well, by all means include yourself, be inspired, be encouraged, and be motivated. If it is preposterous, then please ignore.
My definition again:
Cancer is a group of problems characterized by uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal issues. If the spread is not con- trolled, it can result in death.
I’ve been dying. A group of problems that stemmed from abnormal issues had grown uncontrollably. And they spread. They spread into almost every area of my life. They developed into stresses and strains that in fact invaded my body. They invaded my mind. They invaded my relationships. They took over my attitude and my mentality and they influenced my behaviors. Many medical cancers are direct result of diet and I will admit that I have literally and figuratively fed off of some very unhealthy things and I believe that the toxicity of such proved acidic and convoluted my natural flows of being and ability. Some of the causal factors in my life were learned behaviors, some were reflex actions, and others were defense mechanisms. Some things were just my own independent doing, I will admit that. Whether they were my reaction or my response, they were my reality, and I accept that I did as I did. As I begin the process of aggressively fighting these dis-ease(s) I had to identify the unhealthy regimens and routines that are/were contributing factors, common denominators, and self-inflicted harms. And for me, all of that, all of those, all of what has come, came from one particular “growth”, a specific thing, the real catalyst, the true culprit of it all, SILENCE.
10 years ago I wrote a poem entitled “Somebody Say Something!” I wrote the poem initially for a performance that I had coming up at that time with the Cook County Correctional Facility. I was invited to do some poetry for some inmates who were getting out of jail and some who were just arriving at that time and the message that I had for them was to use their experiences and expressions to energize and evoke action and change of those to whom they could affect through effective communication. The poem has these words as a hook, or chorus, to it,
Before he walks out of that door
and before he tries a “joint”
Before he gets drunk for the very first time
Before he makes up his mind to make a point,
Before he loses his virginity
and before he gains a reputation
Before he is influenced by the world around him
Before he forgets his way, and finds himself waiting,
for a bus
that’ll take him where he has to be
rather than where he wants to go
Because no one ever paid attention to him
or what he was doing
so before we let him go,
Somebody Say Something…
I wrote that poem a year before my son was born and a couple of weeks after his birth I was performing the poem at an event and I stumbled on the words. I drew a blank. It wasn’t that I had forgotten the words; it was that I had heard the words, like truly heard them, the ones that I was saying and their meaning, for the first time. I was performing the poem and in that moment I realized that I had written it for me. I realized that it was my stance. It was my platform. I can’t really explain the feeling that came over me but in that moment I felt free. I felt identified. I felt comfortable. But I stepped off of the stage and I didn’t know what to do differently. So I kept doing as I was. The only things I knew.
And years passed.
I didn’t do everything that I was supposed to.
I kept silent.
Things happened. Other things didn’t.
And well, life had gotten to where it did. And I had written other poems and done other things and tried to move on. And then the last couple of years of life happened which found me falling apart and feeling like I was losing my mind. And well, all of the things that I wanted to release and should have let out and were to be said, were not. And that silence (cancer) began to develop and it metastasized into other parts of my life. And I got physically sicker. I ended up having a heart attack in 2013 that the doctors said was caused by my stress. My internalization habits contributed significantly to my decline in attention and energy and effectiveness. I started to withdraw, to retreat, and to further distance myself. I had no energy for any part of my life so I started to lose interest in the idea of life, and before I knew it, at this point, I was my most miserable, my most invisible, my most alone and ashamed. And I had no energy for anything. And I couldn’t figure it out.
But then I started to write some of the things that I had held in and I started to feel different. I started to let it out. I wrote a couple of letters and blogs that were very cathartic and freeing in their context. And then I decided that it was time for me to quit my job and figure out what I really needed to do in order to “live”. Because I was dying. But I was afraid and it seems like the ball of mess that was my mess just kept growing and growing and I felt stuck. So I kept going to work because I felt that I had to, even though it grew increasingly painful to be there. And I started to feel more hopeless. And helpless. But then on January 26, 2014, I had enough. I couldn’t do it anymore. I walked away from my job and my only mean of income and one of the sure things that I had going, because it had become a nightmare itself. My nights had long been filled with nightmares and now my days had become them as well. So I grabbed my belongings and let everyone know that I was done. I wrote a letter to alert my clients and friends of the decision.
Another reason that I left is because there had been this overwhelming awareness of the impending arrival of March 26-28, 2014.
(The following is an excerpt from another blog post that I was working on that I believe will put that last sentence in a better context… I hadn’t posted this because I was afraid that it sounded repetitious or like a pity party of some kind and I didn’t want to sound sympathetic, or sorry, or weak. But I need to get this all out in order to do the things that are necessary for me to fully move forward. So I added it here. Also, this past Sunday I was afforded an opportunity to speak at an event and a young lady, “Me-Me” got up to do a poem and before she began to recite it she talked about how hiding the past hurt so badly. Some of the things that she said were the very things that I had written in this blog post. And I felt like a terrible example of the same thing that is the very thing that all of this is about. How dare I be silent? How dare I not have the audacity to be able to strong enough to speak my truth? To speak the facts. Why would I continue this process of hiding and shutting up, of shutting down? I came to a conclusion at that very moment that in order for me to get to where I want to go, I must always be bold enough to speak on where I’ve been. And I thanked “Me-Me” for her boldness. I told her that I was so proud of her courage.”)
Let YOUR past be YOUR past. (Written March 6, 2014)
No. Do not do that.
Okay so there are 20 days until the 20 year anniversary of my mother’s murder. I’ve been counting. I’m actually more so counting down to March 28th which will then be 20 years since the day that I discovered her body, but March 26th is actually the day that she was murdered. And today is 20 years from that day being 20 years away. Sounds kind of “stuck in the past-ish”, huh? Yea, it is. I have definitely been stuck in the past. For damn near 20 years I have been stuck in that past. It has been a proverbial “Groundhog Day” in my mind. Like the movie, I’ve awaken every day since that day reliving that terrible moment.
And I am so tired of it.
So I have been declaring and proclaiming and speaking that this, 20 years, was a “season”, a test, a moment that I had to endure, for the greater good of what will eventually be my destiny. It has been a long and devastating time. Most of it spent depressed and in isolation and in anger and frustration and silence and mediocrity and trouble, and repetition. What I have endured in these last 19 years 340 days, subtracting these final 20 and minus about 5 for leap years has been nothing short of catastrophic. I have no rational idea of how I held on. But I’m tired. I am so very tired. I’m out of breath. I can no longer run. I’m out of energy for hiding. I’m broken. I’m broke. I’m down.
And then I see another one of those posts/quotes today that I have been hearing for the last 20 years and NO, no more, THAT IS NOT THE TRUTH!
On Facebook today someone wrote, “Let the past be the past. Move on.”
Before I get into what is about to be an epic rant, I wonder how many of you ever saw that Cosby show episode where Theo is giving this sentimental, heartfelt speech to his dad about him, Theo, just being “normal” and maybe not meant to live up to the big shoes of his parents? The speech was so good that the audience certainly begins to feel Theo and side with him and you get the sense that what he is saying is so true and a brilliant revelation and to be considered. And then Cliff, his dad, remarks, “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard in my life!” And then proceeds to rip Theo a “new one”. Yea, well, here’s your “new one” Mr/Mrs Facebook post-er.
Let me tell you my past: Molestation, Abandonment, Secrecy, Poverty, Lies, Domestic Violence, Sexual Misinterpretation and Abuse, Alcohol Abuse, Insecurity, Neglect, Betrayal, Ignorance, Manipulation, Oppression, Suppression, Mental Health Issues, Physical Health Impairments, Lack, Denial, Gambling Addiction, Promiscuity, Brainwashing, Silence, Silence, Silence, Silence, Silence, Silence. I’m forgetting some things at the moment because I am thinking faster than I can type but “Silence” covers a broad spectrum of the other stuff. Because “what goes on in this house, stays in this house” was the culture and standard for the home(s) I was raised in, and I internalized everything. I kept everything in. I held onto my pains as well as my pleasures, in the same box of my own beliefs, influenced by the inscriptions and to the instruction of those who taught me these toxic formulas. And I have suffered greatly from them.
You know what “letting that be that” got me? More of that. Because letting the past be the past allowed for certain behaviors and habits and inclinations to be perpetuated. It was how things went so it was how I thought things were supposed to go. And no one, in my family particularly, talks about the issues and that silence and secrecy becomes tradition and routine. It had become how I functioned. It had been my way of life these last 30 plus years. It was what I had experienced and thus what I was sure to expect. You know how they say violence begets violence? Well substitute the word violence with any of those things I mentioned a paragraph ago, and yea, the past just passed it on.
At this very moment, as I type these words, I am so tired. I am so weak. I am so done. My brain and wherewithal to complete any thought ending in rational suggestion are naught. I’m so empty. I have talked to people and read up on certain behaviors and psychological conditions to no end. I’m at zero. I’m at the “rock bottom” of whatever my life is to amount to eventually. And as I sit here wanting to explain a lifetime of excuse and reason, justification or juxtapose, I’m so over it. I have beaten myself up until I am impervious to such pain. There is nothing that you can say that will hurt more than what I’ve told myself. There is nothing you can do that will devastate me as I have destroyed myself. You cannot deny me as I have denied myself, of life, of love, of living.
Since I was a young adult I have been saying this quote, “If your conscious does not convict you, then nor will I.” At one point I used to reference it as words from God that I had got from the bible or something. I’ve said it so many times that I believed that I had gotten it from the bible. And then the other day I realized that I had made it up. I had made it up to rationalize why I couldn’t be angry at the people and systems that had hurt me. Because at some point I had realized that if someone hurts you but they don’t know that they are hurting you, in an empathetic sense, then they are prone to and most probably will, hurt you again. That “again” would be subject to their level of consciousness that the action that produced the hurt was based in or on. It’s where we get the idea that “hurt people hurt people” from. And well I was hurt, very early on, and I proceeded, these past 20 years to do just that.
Yesterday I was watching an episode of the TV show, “Criminal Minds” and as it was about to end they said a quote that I just found phenomenal! So I googled what I thought I heard until I had found the quote online. And I did,
“There is no witness so dreadful, no accuser so terrible as the conscience that dwells in the heart of every man.”
Greek historian (205 BC – 118 BC)
This quote is a perfect explanation of my current state. The truth is that no matter what anyone says or does, to or about me, it is almost impossible to do unto me as I have done to myself. My conscious has “eaten me alive” over these past 20 years. I’ve beaten myself up almost religiously and continuously as a result of feeling guilt and shame and covering those demons in the silence that I knew so well. As I heard the words from Polybius I started to remember the quote that I have been saying since I was a kid about not being convicted by my conscious. Well it is convicted now. I feel it. And I am ready to be released.
So, here is my rant. Here is my release. I will no longer just let “the past be the past”. No, I am going to address the past. By addressing the past I will identify and acknowledge my role and responsibility and as well I will realize where I was able to do nothing but experience. And of those things I will give such responsibility to whom it is due. When you let the “past be the past”, sometimes you leave yourself or a sense or part of who you are in that very past and the best that you are able to accomplish outside of that past is by catapulting yourself into a future much farther from where you are in your present. And life, life is about being present. Present in the now of your moment. And aware. Present and aware. I guess if anything can be said about what is different about me today or in this “season” that is unlike any days of my past, is that I am, present and aware, in this moment. I am neither “behind” or “before me”, as a matter of perspective. I am right here. It is March 6, 2014 and I am here on this date in this date. I am not remembering the issues of my October of 1985, or 1987, or August of 1993, or March of 1994, or April of 1994, or 1996, or 1998, or October of 2000, or 2001, or 2003, or so on and so on. Neither am I trying to hope and wish that a day, hopefully not far from now, in my future, would come and rescue me, and vindicate me, and free me, and allow me rest, and allow me the chance to let go, and give me the strength to cry, and bring my family back together, and make peace with those with whom I am in friction with, and gives me the resources to pay the debts and that I owe, and allows me to finally have my own, and to give and do as I have always prayed and hoped to. Nope, I am in neither of those places. I am not in front of myself or behind myself. I am in myself. And in myself, I realize that, “It is what it is” or I change it.
What I have always been told is to “move past it”, to “get over it”, that “you are so strong”, and in reference to the questions that I had/have, “leave it alone”. I was never allowed to deal with things the way that they should have been dealt with because so early on I was subjected to the secretive and silent methods of addressing life concerns and issues. And that proved a bad way of handling it all.
So the fact is that the anniversary of my mother’s murder had begun to come upon me. I had entered this year 2014, which is 20 years from that dreadful 1994, and I somehow felt it. I don’t know what it is specifically but it feels different now. As I have stated, I’m tired now. I’m exhausted. I’m empty. But there is something on the horizon because I can feel it. Even though I have no idea where my breakthrough or release or peace will come from, I can feel it.
Let me tie this all together…
The day after I left my job, I wrote and sent out a letter explaining to people why I had abruptly left. Although some people know that my dream and passion is writing and performing, most people only knew me as a barber. Most of the people who I interact with on a regular basis haven’t the slightest idea that I have or had gone through what I had gone through, what my “story” is, nor despite any and all of it, what I have been able to accomplish in spite of it. And that’s because I was silent. Well, the morning after I quit, as I was sitting down wondering what I had done and trying to figure how God was going to reveal Himself in this, my phone started ringing. And I got a lot of calls and text of support and questions from people who had read what I had sent out. Most people just wanted to know what I was going to do if I didn’t cut hair anymore. But I got two phone calls about opportunities that I want to mention. The first one was from a client of the barbershop who wanted to have me come do some poetry at her 50th birthday party. She called to tell me that she was so inspired by hearing me do the poem “Somebody Say Something” and had some people that she wanted to come and hear me and introduce my talent to because they might have connections or networks for me to use my talent, my story. That call made me feel better. Then I got another phone call from a lady who had met me a few months prior and she wanted to talk about an upcoming project that she was working on which would be launched in the city of Chicago but would ultimately be carried nationally as a public service announcement for violence prevention. We had a few discussions about the project and my material that her and her associates had gone over. But they had found a particular piece of mine that she thought would be instrumental in being able to not just spark a positive discussion towards the solution that is needed but some words that would speak to the heart of the matter. At first she asked if I could write something new for their project and I agreed and submitted a script to her. She said that it was okay. She liked it but she had some other words of mine in mind for the project. She then asked if it would be okay if they used “Somebody Say Something” as the theme and base for the PSA. She explained how the poem embodied everything that their initiative stood for and was designed to represent. She started to express how the poem had touched her after hearing it and how she is sure that the world would benefit greatly from it. I immediately said of course and then I explained how much it meant to hear her say those things about that poem in particular. I told her how I had written it more than 10 years ago and that I was ready for the world to hear it. And I told her how important it was that I believed that in this specific moment, at this specific time, it, the poem, was necessary. I had been going through some things and I believe that the poem held my answer. Because I need to “say something”.
In the weeks following these conversations and after walking away from the barbershop, the world around and inside of me had begun to go through serious transition. I can’t even explain it to an extent that would make it clear but I just felt like I was nothing. The prospect of the projects and the fact that now I was able to go out and speak and write full time was an amazing idea and I looked forward to being able to, but the reality is that I was broke, and broken, and tired. I didn’t have a plan. I just had a feeling. I had an urge. And every day I seemed to be reminded that March 26-28th was approaching. And I had pronounced that I would suffer no more, as I had been, after that time comes.
About 4 or 5 weeks had passed and I had found myself at a new low, even with the things that were being discussed, proposed, or hoped for. And so then I decided to take the trip to Atlanta a couple weeks ago. And there is where I got to spend the time with Kaleb and his family. And that is where I believe the final pieces of this puzzle came together at. And that brings me here. To fighting my fight. To saying something. To my grunt.
(I have been writing this particular blog post, off and on, for about 20 days. Every time I start writing it I had to stop for feeling that it was too much or that it didn’t make sense or that it was rambling or that it was confusing or that it was weak. And so I have paused repeatedly but with no adrenaline or energy towards any thought but this one. And so I haven’t been able to write anything else. I haven’t put up any new “Today’s -see” quotes or affirmations, and I haven’t been uploading anything of my own to social media. I haven’t been communicating with many people. I haven’t been doing much of anything but allowing this thought to consume me. And consume it has. It has been pulling at me and eating away at me and holding me in some kind of manner. I have likened it to a birth, I believe I am in the stages right before life is born and this is the final dark stage, the toughest pain, the loudest scream. This is the moment before the new thing breaks through. Or this is the moment I walk through a new door and I shut it behind me, leaving behind what should be left behind. This is the final moment of a particular place, before I go to the next one. I believe this wholeheartedly. I expect to prove this with a life that is able to example and examine this process for the benefit of helping others. Because I want my life back. I want my joy back. I want love back. I want my family back. I am ready to live. I know that God is allowing this process for me so that I will. And I get me back. Another of the reasons that I hesitated to finish this as well is because I felt like maybe this should just be a conversation that I was to have with myself and was not meant for a blog or for a Facebook. Maybe I was supposed to go through this phase or stage alone and then be revealed on the other side to others. And then I realized that that was the routine and tradition of issue that got me here. That was the silence. That was the problem. That was the cancer. And I won’t do that anymore. SOMEBODY (ME) has to SAY SOMETHING!)
And as I was flipping through the channels today, trying to finish anything or do everything but this, I catch the end of another episode of the show Criminal Minds and I hear this quote:
Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.”
[The New Statesman, February 25, 1933]
So, I sat up, turned the TV off, and proceeded to finish this.
I have spent 20 years trying to correct the “effect”. Trying to fix the problem(s). Trying to figure and fix what is/was wrong. I have spent 20 years circling the wagons, pissing in the wind, repeating the nonsense, carrying on the mess, doing the same thing. I have spent 20 years now dealing with depression and anxiety and guilt and shame. I have spent 20 years with questions and concerns that were far beyond my scope of giving answer and solution to. But I tried to figure them. I tried to rationalize them. I tried to figure a way to overcome them. I have spent 20 years running and hiding and distrusting and manipulating and not participating in my present for that reason. I’ve spent 20 years in silence. I have spent 20 years mad. I have spent 20 years angry. I tried to forgive. I tried to forget. I tried to run away from it all, in order to forget. I tried to hide. I tried to make myself the problem so that I would have someone to give the blame to. I tried to “understand” or consider everyone else’s feelings and situations and what could be their reason(ing) that led up to me being treated a certain way. I felt like I was the bad guy and at times I did things to make myself the bad guy because I felt like I must be the bad guy. I spent 20 years feeling responsible and trying to take responsibility for everything. I wanted to be held accountable. I believed that if I could do that then I could understand and if I could understand then maybe someone would see that I was trying and maybe they would help me understand and finally get through it. And it went on like that for at least the last 20 years. It is hard to fathom that it has been that long. I remember the bad things like they just happened yesterday.
But in the midst of it all, I, well my breathing life, has been spared. When I look back over my 35 years and the things that I have made it through and the events and occurrences that were no doubt intervened and intertwined by the divine power and presence of God, I just sit here and sigh. With all of the problems and disasters and trouble and loss, I’m still here. There was an agenda and seemingly obvious motive to destroy, destruct, and delay me, but I’m still here. And I have a bonafied testimony and story to tell. I have an example to show. I have some reasons to give. And I am grateful for the presence of mind, in this moment, as I stand here present and aware, to tell it. Even with the problems, even with the issues, even with the reality as the reality is. I get to do something different. I get to say something different. I get to SAY SOMETHING!
What I realize in this moment about the danger in letting the “past be the past” or “leaving the past behind” or “moving on” or even “letting go”, is this: all of those things have to do with the “cause”. And although we are taught and told to put things behind us and that it is necessary to move past what “happens” or what “happened”, we must, at some point, acknowledge whatever or whoever it is or was that was the inception or genesis of the particular thing that resulted in the results of our current or present state. YOU HAVE TO RECOGNIZE, IDENTIFY, and ADDRESS, the cause. I spent all of these 20 years attempting to deal with the “effects” of (in no particular order) being exposed to sex way too early, being abandoned, being alienated, being ignored, being ashamed, feeling guilty, being told I couldn’t, being told I wouldn’t, being told that I shouldn’t, being accused, being assumed of/to have/about, being manipulated, being exposed to, my mother being murdered, discovering my mother’s body, family walking away, friends walking away, the church walking away, the lack of support, the absence of support, the absence of counseling or appropriate services, the absence of therapy, the absence of resolution, the absence of closure, the burden of having facts and truths being met with bureaucracy and red tape and politics and denial and circumstantial justifications, being sick, being lied to, being lied on, being misunderstood, being misled, always having to be explained, being the odd man out, being the outcast, being the issue. By the time I was 18 years old I was so angry and bitter and depressed but I was too afraid to speak about it. And by that time I didn’t trust a soul. I was paranoid and thought that everyone was out to hurt me. The only time I found a sense of safety, security, or significance was when I ran away and no one knew me. But eventually some “trigger” would appear and I’d shut down terribly. In the middle of whatever was going on, I’d shut down. I’d run back home. I’d make pleas and proclamations that it was time to fix or deal with whatever was going on. I’d try to speak up. I’d try to reach out. But the culture of silence that I’ve long known to be that of which I was from, would rear its ugliness and I would be stuck. And desperate. And in those moments I really did some terrible things. My actions were cries for help, screams for attention. They should have gotten attention, they didn’t even get my attention, and I didn’t even know what I was doing. And I just kept on going like that, to that effect. But I was silent on/to/with the cause.
And I never knew or fully understood that the “cause” was the real problem. That the “cause” was wrong. That how I had learned and been taught to handle and deal with issues was why I was completely inept at dealing with issues. I didn’t understand why I was unable to handle my business or face my demons because I didn’t realize that I had been shown to avoid confrontation and to be silent and keep secrets and to have the impression that authority and justice were jokes, lies, falsehoods, and no help at all. And that those things that were of importance to me were somehow “none of my business”. It was a trap that was set before me and I was snared into it and I remained inside of its grip for all this time. And it kept going. And it got worse. I have spent the last 4 years on this search for peace of mind and for closure and for forgiveness. I made a lot of mistakes and I know that I completely destroyed the trust and lives of people who have loved and cared for and about me. And I tried my damnedest to try to fix it but all I did was repeat the behaviors and stay the courses and revert back to who and how I was. And it hurt. I hurt. And I hurt others. I didn’t realize what I was doing. I saw the effects and I was trying to correct them. I just didn’t realize that the effects were going to continue to be as they were and I would handle or not handle them as I was doing because the cause was unresolved. Because the cause was still secret and silent and stored in the “past” that I was continually told to get over!
I learned about the concept of “triggers” about five years ago. I was watching an episode of Law and Order and a psychiatrist was describing the effects of traumatic experience on children and its devastating effects in and on their subsequent lives. The doctor started talking about how “triggers” (words, events, places) all had the ability to force a person to run or rebel as a reaction to whatever event that the specific trigger was able to connect and convince the brain or reflexes to react to. Once I finished watching the episode I began to research the concept and more dialogue on “triggers”. One of the things that I learned was how subtle the trigger could be yet how gigantic the effect of it might become. Around this time I had experienced the loss of a really good friend and I started noticing things that I was doing at the time that I had done before when I was faced with events like a death or such. I realized that losing someone special to me caused me to extremely internalize and in those moments, certain words or feelings arose that were triggers for me to shoot into the downward spirals that had caused some of my most deviant and destructive patterns and behaviors. And it was never immediately following the loss but rather this period, 12-18 months afterwards, that I experienced these periods. I should have sought out medical professionals to help me at that very moment but the truth is that my foundation had been rooted in keeping my business to myself, the “what goes on in this house stays in this house” theory, and that’s what I did. I didn’t deal with my friends death properly either and it really hurt me. She was one of the first people since my mom had passed away that had refused to give up on me. She was an advocate and avid supporter. She had promised me that she would refuse to allow me to fail and so whatever she had to do she was willing. Even though she could see how hurt and how cold I was. Talent and gifts aside, she recognized my pains, and she promised to help me through. She was the first person to help me identify that I absolutely had no trust in anyone. That I had no “roots” and so I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere or around anyone. She could see how bad I wanted to change but she acknowledged that she could see that I didn’t know how. But she was going to help me. And I had shut her out to, like I had everyone else but she told me that she would not let me run or hide from her. Her and her husband had decided that they would mentor me. I had been in this “rut” for a very long time by the time I had met her in 2005 and by 2009 I thought that I was just going to fall or fail totally. On April 8, 2009 I had sent out an email forward with an attached note from me talking about my feelings of remorse for the troubles that I had caused and the issue that I felt I was. Delisia, my friend, responded with this:
Beautiful! In Jersey this week but I see a young man who is growing each year who God is shining on!
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T
That response was Wednesday, April 8, 2009. On Easter Sunday, April 12, 2009, Delisia, her husband Robert, her daughter Kayla, and their newborn son, Ethan Blake, were all killed in a tragic car accident coming home from church in Atlanta. The day that she was killed I saw the accident on the news as I was preparing to leave out of Atlanta to go to Chicago to visit my son. The report only described the carnage. They hadn’t yet identified the bodies. In addition to the 4 killed in one car, a 6 year old girl was killed in another car. I was standing in a barbershop as I watched the news story. We were all speaking to how terrible of a tragedy that it was for those people and how much their families would be affected. At the time there was a search for a third car which had caused the accident but had left the scene. That part of the story had us talking more than those that had died did. We were all talking about what we would do if we found that person or if we were that person and that conversation evolved into a conversation on getting away with crimes, like murder, and how that affects people. I, of course, put in my opinion because I always have an opinion on that subject. My mother’s murderer has long evaded being charged and convicted. We talked about that stuff for about 2 hours. Then I got on the road to Chicago. It would be 4 days later when I received an email for “Carter family funeral arrangements” that I would discover that I did know who was in that car. Someone really special to me was in that car. And that was the trigger. That was another trigger.
I shut down after that. And these last 5 years have been that shutdown. I left Atlanta a few months after that. It wasn’t until recently that I realized why. It wasn’t until recently that I admitted to myself why. It wasn’t until recently that I admitted how much I miss them. I met Delisia at an audition for a reality TV series in 2005. We both had auditioned and at that audition, among the hundreds that showed up, 7 of us formed a friendship and alliance that eventually became the founding members of an organization called The Eagle Connection. At the audition someone declared that one of the people in our circle would make it onto the show. We were all excited and had aspirations of making it “big” by showcasing our talents. The Eagle Connection was founded to bring together “eagles”, people who had stories and testimonies and gifts that were rooted in Kingdom principles and dedicated for and to the service of mankind. We wanted to help. None more than Delisia. She took the reins of the organization and built it into a real thing very quickly. She purchased a website and started to pool resources. She started having meetings and events and had begun to evolve our chance meeting into a real and viable platform in a matter of days. I ended up getting a callback from the producers of that show and eventually I went on to be a cast member of “The Messengers” reality series. When I was first chosen I kept it to myself. It wasn’t until an Eagle Connection meeting that I revealed that one of us had in fact been chosen. The show was an amazing opportunity and could have been an amazing launching pad for my career but the truth is that I was so depressed and angry during that time period. I did the show. I did a pretty good job on the show. I made it to the finals. But after it wrapped production I didn’t go out and get an agent or a manager or try to capitalize on what could have been impending success. I left California, where the show was filmed and where I had been living at that time, to return to Chicago. And I hid. I didn’t feel that I deserved “success”. The show had conjured up some feelings and thoughts in me and I realized that I had a lot of “open wounds”. I wasn’t ready for the light to be cast on those wounds. I ended up changing my phone number and trying to fade away.
I don’t know how Delisia got the phone number that she used to reach me but she did. I remember the conversation vividly. Delisia gave me this speech about how she knew that I was in pain and she could sense that I was hurt. Delisia told me that one of my major issues was that I had no “roots”. I was not anchored in anyone or to anything and so I was just going about in the wind or way that I was pushed or pulled. She told me that she would not let me go another day without knowing that I was cared about and cared for. She promised to stick by me as I figured it out. Although she had things going on in her own life that were not perfect or peachy, she was intent on giving me what she felt I needed, an advocate, an ally, a supporter who was willing to understand but at the same time willing to expect of me certain things. That’s the day that our friendship really began. I moved back to Atlanta not long after that and things were changing. I was doing a lot better. I had begun to let my guard down and trust Delisia. I loved her and I believed her. By the time 2009 had come around, Delisia had begun to do some phenomenal things with the Eagle Connection. Her personal life was going so well. She had met and married Robert, the man of her dreams. They welcomed a new baby, Ethan Blake. Her daughter, Kayla, was growing up to be the beautiful young lady that Delisia hoped that she would. Things were going very well for them. She was so happy and in her greatest moments, she remembered me. She called and invited me to everything. Every opportunity she could find to refer my name to someone for advancing my platform, she would. At the time I had a girlfriend and I wanted to get married, Delisia and Robert had decided to mentor us. To help us. The last conversation that I had with Delisia on the phone was about that. She was out of town and called to tell me that when she got back that we would have dinner to start setting up a plan and some goals for my future, for our future. We had a discussion about forgiveness. That discussion is what had led me to sending out that forward that I had sent out in which Delisia responded to the Wednesday before they died. I have not talked about this until right now. I kept it in. I kept it silent. There are so many times that I pick up my phone wanting to call Delisia and tell her to help me. I actually get that thought out sometimes before I realize that she’s not here. I just deleted her contact info and picture from my phone a year ago. I don’t know why I kept it in there for so long after. I guess I’m acknowledging that I cared. I’m acknowledging that I cared. I cared. And I didn’t grieve the loss either. Just as I’ve never grieved any other loss. I’ve kept it all in. Everything that was the “past”, I tried to let be the past. And now all these years have passed.
I took the bus to Atlanta. I made it there in about 16 hours via greyhound. Not much ado in regards to the trip down. I was actually only there, or planning to be, for about 8 or 9 days. I had only planned to be there for that amount of time. I had intended to get back to Chicago in order to begin work on figuring out my next chapter, or thing, or move. I hadn’t wanted to return to Chicago yet, I was enjoying the Atlanta temperatures. I love the city. I lived there for years and I still love being there. And something in me was telling me to stay. But I ignored that feeling and planned my trip back. I had gotten a bus ticket via Megabus to return on March 3rd. And I left that afternoon. The trip was going according to plan. And then we had a layover in Memphis, Tennessee. The layover was supposed to be for 2 1/2 hours. At about the 2 hour mark all of the passengers that were awaiting the Megabus towards Chicago were all told to leave the inside of the MATA bus terminal, which is a Memphis city bus station that only as a courtesy allows Megabus riders to wait for their buses there. They close at 11 and we were told to wait outside, from that point, for our bus that was supposed to arrive in 30 minutes. An ice and snow storm had hit that area that day and we were smack dab in the middle of it that night. It was frigidly cold. Our wait, outside, in the dangerous cold, went from 2 hours to 3 hours to 4 hours to 5 hours. We were given messages through contact with the corporation that a bus was delayed but in route. Traffic and transportation had been snarled and halted across the country, especially in those areas not equipped or accustomed to those conditions. I was freezing and impatient. I had not wanted to really leave Atlanta that day but I didn’t have a plan there. I didn’t have anything setup. And while I was standing outside, on that Memphis street that night, I was definitely regretting what I decided was a choice made in haste. By the time 2am came around, I was almost frostbitten and frustrated. And I couldn’t afford to go and get a hotel room in Memphis to wait it out. The crowd had grown extremely restless and some of the people were long past angry. The police were called but all they could do was inform us that there was nothing that they could do. They did offer up Megabus horror stories, as if those were supposed to make us feel that our experience wasn’t so bad. A few minutes after 2 o’clock a bus pulled up that was going to Atlanta. I asked the driver if I could get on it and try to figure out what my next move would be when I got there. She acquiesced. She offered the same to everyone else outside. To my knowledge, no one took the offer but me. The other passengers were intent on waiting for the Chicago bus that by this time was about 3 hours late. I snapped a picture and some video of all of the people standing out there in that weather. I wondered how long it would take for their bus to finally get there. I got my answer around the time that I was arriving back in Atlanta. Megabus sent us an email saying that the trip was canceled. No bus had made it to those people. I was in Atlanta. I called Kaleb’s mom to come and get me. I begin this post about Kaleb. The first week that I was in Atlanta was not spent with my friend and her family. I had only visited them. I hadn’t spent the night at their home. I hadn’t really spent much time with Kaleb. I hadn’t seen him get his shots.
But now I was back there and I did see all of that. And for whatever reason that I was unable to make it back to Chicago on the day I tried to get back, and aside of the horrible Megabus experience, there was a reason for me to be back. I realized it as Kaleb grunted. His grunt broke my silence.
I am about to end this post. Today is March 14th. I started writing it on March 6th. I begin it as a response to me trying to figure out how I should/could/would get over my past. I’ve started and stopped it many times since the day I began writing it. I didn’t know how long it would be or what I was writing it for but I knew that I had something that I had to get out. There is a passage in the bible about Jacob and his encounter with the angel. In the account it states that Jacob wrestled with the angel and refused to let go, even after the angel had dislocated Jacob’s hip, until the angel blessed him. Jacob then asks the angel his name and the angel inquires as to why Jacob wanted to know his name. Then it says that the angel blessed him. He also changed Jacobs name to Israel, which means to struggle with God, and men, and prevail. When I quit my job about two months ago that was the scripture I referenced to myself and to some of my friends. I said that I was going to face God, and whatever man, and that I was not going to move until He blessed me. Even though I haven’t been the best or done the most good, or been the most consistent, or the most “right”. I am quite imperfect and terribly flawed and I’ve done so much wrong. With all of the excuses or justifications or reasons that I can come up with, it was still me. I did it. I may not have known “better” or what to do different, but I have to stand up and say that it was me. The season that I’ve spoken of is nearing its end. It will have been 20 years in 14 days that I discovered my mother’s body in her bedroom. In 12 days it will have been 20 years since she was murdered. A lot of this has been about my mom and how I never grieved or dealt with that loss. The secrecy and silence that came from that. The secrecy and silence were methods I learned long before her death. I learned them from her. I learned to hide what was going on and within “this house” from her. I learned to put up the “good face” and to smile from her. She forced me to think that I needed to be strong. I wanted to make her happy. She held me responsible for so many things and I didn’t want to disappoint her. There were so many things that went on in my childhood that I was never able to talk to my mom about. Had some of the issues that were going on inside of our home been discussed or known outside of our home, I believe she would be here today. I felt guilty about that for all this time. The last thing she ever said to me was, “Corey, stay home with me this weekend.” I didn’t stay. I held myself responsible for not staying. And when everything around that time happened, I was the only one who knew so many of the secrets and problems because she confided in me. But no one else knew. And she had kept up such a good facade that no one even believed that it could be what it really was. And I kept silent, because that was what I had been taught. And that became the environment and experience that became the “group of problems characterized by uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal issues”. That became the “cancer”. And I didn’t fight it. And it was killing me for all this time.
I started writing this on a couch in Atlanta while visiting Kaleb and his family a couple of weeks ago. I had just watched Kaleb get one of those shots in his leg and I had turned my head because I wasn’t “strong” enough to look at something I perceived to be so painful. At that very moment I asked myself how dare I have the audacity to complain about life or my issues as I watched this 7 year old face this dis-ease with his chin up and his shoulders fixed straight. I looked into his mother’s eyes and saw a mothers love and determined resolve to do whatever it takes to help her baby survive this thing. I started to get jealous of that bond and what I remember of it, between my mom and me. I started to think about everything that I have gone through, and how far behind I am, and how much of a mess I have made. And then I started to think about the silence. I started to get frustrated by the silence and how dangerous it is. I had closed my eyes by this time and soon I was self-inflicted harm unto myself with the battery of criticism and critique on how much I have done wrong. But then I heard Kaleb grunt. And I turned around to look. The next day I watched the entire process and again he grunted. If I were to equate my life to his and symbolize my plight in some way reflective of what he is going through, I must say that I realized in that moment what I had long missed. My sickness had been diagnosed. Treatment has been available. I just hadn’t brought myself to where the help was. And I hadn’t spoken up. I hadn’t let my feelings, thoughts, or truths, be told. I didn’t “grunt”. I was afraid to “say something”. I was afraid of being seen as weak. I was afraid that if I couldn’t fix the problems on my own then that meant that I was not responsible. And being irresponsible was a disappointment. I didn’t want to be a disappointment. I didn’t want to let my mother down. All of these years were about trying to not let her down. I had successfully martyred her life inside of my imagination and distanced any responsibility of my wrongs or plights from her legacy. I had made her out to be an angel and without flaw and with that I had buried the foundation, or the “cause” of the terrible habits and traditions that I learned directly from her. It hurt to remember so I tried to forget. I tried to just operate in the effect. That is where I began to internalize. That is where I began to run. That is where I began to lose. And that cycle has gone on for these last 20 years.
In the last few months I’ve begun to write about my life. I’ve always written about the life I wanted to live or that I saw as an alternative to mine but I rarely wrote about me. I definitely did not put much of my “business” out. I kept that stuff “in house”. That was a mistake. Because it left me vulnerable to the hypocrisy of not being my authentic self and not giving myself the chance to live. To be free. It kept in the secrets and the silence that should have long been out of my head and into the possession of the people or properties that they belonged to. I don’t have anything but my truth at this moment. I’ve given up the energy to run or hide from myself. I’m ready to breathe. I’m tired of the way that things have been for all these years. I’m tired of the “who” I have been, knowing who I could and want to be. I honestly tried to fix it, so many times over. I just repeated it. Repeated the problems. I repeated the behaviors, lessons, and examples, which I learned. Even when I wrote letters or things like this, it was much of the same; it was for naught because I had not identified the “causal factors”. Well, I know what caused all of this. And it’s time to “Say Something”.