gifts are nurtured when they’re indulged, enjoyed, shared, sometimes
sometimes they fade, no love shown
Gifts are meant to be enjoyed
gifts are nurtured when they’re indulged, enjoyed, shared, sometimes
sometimes they fade, no love shown
Gifts are meant to be enjoyed
Writing isn’t this fairytale, La-La Land, hobby it’s made out to be, sometime. Not if it’s what you do to survive and stay in-tune with your inner voice. There are levels to this! There are those times, no matter how good of a writer you are, that you’ll doubt yourself. Replace doubt with determination.
I’m just letting you in my head for a minute. Cool?
I say none of this to you without saying it to myself, first.
You’ll probably think I’m bat-shit-crazy for sharing that I’m paranoid you’ll think I’m bat-shit-crazy.
Which makes me not-so-crazy after all, essentially.
I just want to get on with the writing, but I’m in my head, and look, you are too!
I’m not in the business of giving advice, but a considerable number of folks have approached me, in what I think to be a weak point in my life, to gain insight about their lives and thought processes. I don’t take it lightly and quite frankly, I’m still trekking the gradient of my own uphill adventure called Life. One thing I’ve started doing that I haven’t done in my adult life up to now is ask, “Why?”. Why am I a source of enlightenment? What do others see in me that I refuse to accept about myself? What have my experiences taught me about my strengths and weaknesses that I haven’t weighed or balanced out? Maybe perfectionism isn’t so distinct.
I never considered myself a perfectionist. I always thought that perfectionists were people who didn’t fail and had their affairs in order, never falling prey to circumstance. So, I’d dropped and withdrawn a few classes, stayed in Community College for four years, still not-quite-decided if I want to teach English in Indonesia, write for HuffingtonPost or shoot vignettes about Black artists, all of which I’d jump at in a heartbeat, lost hundreds of thousands in real estate, haven’t finished college, disappointed a friend, my house doesn’t stay tidy for more than four days, there’s always laundry to do, there’s always a past due bill, there’s always that long, awaiting oil change, there’s always diapers to toss, there’s always posts to write, pictures to take, hair to twist, car lanes to switch out of, there’s always that exit all the way to the left when you’re in the right -in less than 300 feet, dropped collect calls, forgotten pads, toothpaste, body wash, Heaven-forbid, bar soap… That deodorant on your favorite black shirt, that cracked ceramic mug your mom gave you that you can’t replace because you can’t ask her where she bought it, because, well because…
There’s always tears, even when not shed.
There’s always an ear, even when you’re silent.
There’s always a shoulder, even when your back is bent.
That sweet, sour word echoing in your thoughts
Laughter, Life’s tonic for resilience
Shock is a theory, always will be
Thank those that share their thoughts
They’re expanding your life
With you having done nothing but listen.
Looking through the eyes of a soul in need of healing
Not the Judge
Not the Person
Looking at Kamila
Philadelphia filmmaker Eboni Zamani shares a conversation she recently had with her maternal grandfather. Citing the importance of knowing oneself to realize your highest potential, she says she decided to “make it my business to research my family’s history”.
Talking to My Mother’s Father
Last year I decided to get serious about tracing my family’s roots. I have been speaking to my grandparents and my great grandmother about their lives. I’ve mostly talked to my mother’s father. He is eager to tell me about his childhood, Philly back in the day, his time in Vietnam and his affinity for the finer things.
Dennis is the name his adopted mother gave him when he was a few months old. He prefers to be called by his Muslim name, Sabir. His biological mother’s name is Rusha. She went to prison for killing his stepfather after enduring years of his abuse. All nine of her children were split up and placed into foster care. The woman he came to know as mother is one of Rusha’s friends.
He grew up in North Philly, in and around Francisville, where he met my grandmother. He fathered a son when he was 16. The girl was sent down South by her parents and he never heard from her again. He was 18 and 20 when my mother and aunt were born. During this time he was drafted into the Vietnam War.
He was looking through records at Ben Franklin High one day and discovered that his birth name was John. He confronted his mother about it and she gave him his birth sister’s info. He met two of his sisters the day before he left for Vietnam. They talked for hours. One of them had his birth certificate. By the time he returned from the war, they had moved. He never saw them again.
He reminisces about his glory days, before the war. He learned about the revolution in high school. He tells me that Mumia influenced all of them. Mumia’s words as well as the entrepreneurial spirit and discipline of other young brothers in bow ties peaked his interest in Islam. He became a member of the Nation of Islam and he’s been Muslim ever since.
He speaks eloquently about the various problems that face the Black community. He said, “these young men don’t have any heroes.” The Black Panthers and other Black revolutionaries stopped gang wars in Philly. He said, “You know, we used to wear African clothes and garb and they started talking bad about it, talking down and saying ‘oh Armani, oh Chanel’. All of that was the shit. When you start dressing like a European, you start acting like one.”
He gave me several books to read, a DVD, some writings and posters. He also made me promise him that I’d stay away from drugs. He fell victim to substance abuse while in Vietnam. He returned home a broken man. He, like many veterans, couldn’t keep those horrific memories away. It sometimes made him absent in the lives of his children. He’s been a great grandfather to me over the years. He’s supported me at all stages of my development.
He says he’s proud to see me become a young, Black revolutionary. “Ha! Me?”, I think. He reminds me that he and my grandmother were revolutionaries at one point and that they lived a very Afrocentric life. He’s proud of me because he’s “always been a proud Black man.” He offers his own solutions to “Black people’s problems”, that I won’t disclose.
He’s sick now. He goes to dialysis regularly and endures a lot of physical pain due to various ailments. He’s very emotional and at times he’s impatient. It doesn’t upset me, though. I feel like after living 60 plus years as a Black man in America, he’s earned (that right). So when he talks, I just nod and listen, laugh, when appropriate, and absorb his lessons.
Eboni Zamani is a Pace University graduate and proud native of North Philadelphia.
Follow her on twitter @EboniZ
I am back to being self-employed now and can’t stress enough how liberating it is to wake up each morning and fully decide what I want to do with my day, again. Gosh, it was that easy! Of course, it came with sacrifice. The same thrilling factor of being able to decide what to do with my day is the same one that plagues me when I have a “stack-spree” and step out on faith to build my revenue. Thankfully, it hasn’t been hard. I’m smelling the trees and I can fully appreciate the benefits of being a self-employed, ambitious mother of three. Life couldn’t be better. As I sit here, having downed my second Mimosa of the morning, reflecting on last week; how I can render more assets out of the ones I have, I am thankful. I am thankful I don’t have to clock in, regulate my own thoughts and desires to fit the constraints of someone else’s dream. I did this for three months and was miserable. I was constantly living in the afterthought. “After work I’ll go and hang out to let off some steam. I can’t wait until Friday.” It was sad and I couldn’t deal. I took a gamble and headed for the sunrise. Maybe the sun would shine on me. Maybe it wouldn’t. I just knew I was made for the autonomous life.
Why was I working a full-time, underpaying job?
I convinced myself I had to, out of guilt. NEVER DO ANYTHING BECAUSE YOU FEEL YOU HAVE TO. Screw that. You will not magically be vindicated in your mind. It will only serve to diminish your self-esteem. I wasn’t honest with myself. I was desperate and made myself miserable by taking on someone else’s dream. Of course I don’t have to tell you that it didn’t serve me or them. Ah well, life is about learning. 2014 has been a very introspective year. I appreciate all the ups and downs, respectively. As I sit here, planning my next adventure up the highway, I am
thankful. Thankful to be allowed by the ethers to live the life I fought myself to live.
“We say we’ll drink more water, but we don’t. We say we’ll get up and go running, but we don’t. We’ll bend over backward to keep our word to a lover, a friend, an employer, even a stranger. But we let ourselves down.” –Carolyn Myss
We’ve all had this same conversation; with ourselves, friends, family, lovers… The importance of self-preservation hasn’t been more relevant or profound for us in any other time than now. We’re all witnessing a shift in the world, for the better. In the face of oppression and genocide, there’s a light that can’t be dimmed emerging from all the pain and sorrow. This light is brightest when seen from within. Removing ourselves from standards imposed from external, foreign sources is key to discovering and expanding that light.
It’s been six years since my mother passed away unexpectedly and I am still awakening parts of myself that I haven’t felt since 2008. I wouldn’t peg the experience to be either good or bad, I’m just grateful ‘It’ is happening. Wandering around in existential limbo has been the most unnerving and calming experience yet. Being emotionally unstable was once something I was ashamed of. I kept quiet a lot. A lot. I’d shut my feelings down and try to exude a polished surface, afraid that I’d either make someone uncomfortable or embarrass myself, which would almost immediately backfire in my face. There was so much rage and pain circling around in my core that I’d combusted and burnt out internally. I was raw and charred inside and as blind as a bat on the outside. After a longstanding friendship suffered, partly at my hands, I decided enough was enough. I had to get a grip on the grief or it would destroy me.
I was suffering and because of that I was ashamed. Guilty of circumstances. I hated myself and everything about me. Running from my grief had only led me to more, pain I’d exacted upon myself and others that I loved. I was surrounded by help and didn’t want to see it. I transferred all of the guilt and shame I felt for my mother’s sudden death to all other facets of my life. I’d recovered in my mind. I was just having some mental and emotional hiccups. Besides, no one was worry-free, and to share my plight would be selfish, oppressive, insensitive. I was at fault anyway. There was nothing or no one that could save me from myself.
I contemplated God for a long time. Now that I look back, maybe longer than I wanted, but I had to be sure. Would The All want me to perish in my own despair? Were my feelings of shame and guilt valid? Was the shame and guilt a scapegoat for the actual pain and anger? I’d learned that I was displacing my valid grief and anguish with senseless self-deprecation to more easily dismiss the pain and grief. I’d studied just about every advanced-level psychology course in community college to gain a better understanding for my how my own mind worked. And the very conditions I studied were playing out in my head; Survivor’s Guilt, Suppression, Repression, Grief, PTSD, Manic Depression, Bipolar (Disorder), etc.
My father came to mind when I started dissecting my mind. Although he was never a physical constant in my life, we kept in touch through letters and occasional pictures throughout my adolescence. I got to know his mind, how he processed information and experiences, his dreams and pains, between 7 and 18. He’d been incarcerated 95% of my life. I met him in prison when I was seven years old and we established a pen pal relationship thereafter. One of the main themes in our communication was depression; how he’d gauged, battled and defeated it through meditation and Buddhist teachings, its triggers and how knowing that would affect me and my process.
I had an answer! I texted my Dad the other day and asked him if we could talk. He lives almost 1,000 miles away and has established his own life; girlfriend, career, hobbies, turning 50, you know… But the one thing he can’t seem to shake is his guilt. The guilt of not being a constant in my life. Reaching out to him is healing for both of us as he gains a sense of redemption by being a part of my life, as a pen pal, and I gain a better understanding of one half of the duo I hail from. But for some of us, healing is a scary thing. It often requires us to break the mold we’ve shaped out of our lives, lies included. My dad would like to believe there’s no chance to regain my confidence in him. He opts for defeat when communicating with me, afraid I will reject him if I learn too much about him.
I am more determined than ever to reach him and build a platform for healing by breaking that mold we’ve both shaped. He hails my mother as a saint, someone he could never outdo or even match up to. Abandoning her when she birthed and raised me is also something he has yet to forgive himself for. I can’t tell him enough how much she forgave and upheld a dignified view of him in his absence, throughout my life. It just isn’t enough. Rational as it may be, my words of truth fall on deaf, defeated ears. They are seen as consolations, not affirmations. I get it. I can’t count how many times loved ones have tried to remind me of the good I possess. I only heard their words as consolation. I was a failure and there was nothing that could change that, not even the good in me. With this understanding, I changed the whole course of contact with my dad. I’d try a different approach to assessing his half of myself.
Instead of reaching out to my dad about my lowly feelings, I asked him about his biological family. He grew up a foster child, in and out of homes, displaced most of his life. I wondered if that had any affect on his lack of presence in my life. I learned that I have several aunts and uncles and that my grandparents’ names were Bubbles and Alfonso Thomas. Two aunts are identical twins living in rural Florida. The need to know them has never been stronger. Understanding the people my dad comes from will help both of our perspectives and bring much needed healing to our family.
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