Authorrahwasthoughts

Blacked Out

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“I am not tragically colored. There is no great sorrow dammed up in my soul, nor lurking behind my eyes. I do not mind at all. I do not belong to the sobbing school of Negrohood who hold that nature somehow has given them a lowdown dirty deal and whose feelings are all hurt about it.

Even in the helter-skelter skirmish that is my life, I have seen that the world is to the strong regardless of a little pigmentation more or less. No, I do not weep at the world—I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife.”

– Zora Neale Hurston

Principal Reed crashed class

Got everyone’s ears pinned back

He needs to talk to…

Me?

Says to bring my belongings

I pack them oooohs with me too

Head pulsin, chest puffin

Tryna roleplay alibis

For

What’s about to be swept out

Under the rug

 

I have visitors in his office

My favorite cousin and auntie

Greet me with

Stale eyes

Stapled smiles

Somethin’s

Very

Very

Wrong

The worst news

Be buried

Under unexpected hellos

 

I ask,

Is it my mom?

They say,

Let’s talk in the car

I squeeze extra steps through the hallway

Tryna stall time and truth

 

Auntie revs her engine and throat

Your mom’s been in a car accident

I’m tryna put pieces together

In a puzzle that don’t fit

Moms don’t drive

Auntie sounds like she chokin on chalk

She got hit while walking

 

Moms always been on the move

I can’t recognize her

In the hospital bed

Tied to all them wires and machines

(E)motionless

They found her in a ditch

Blacked out

The doctors say she got angels

Usually those that taste the earth

Never come up for air

 

Moms got hit on a stretch with no sidewalk

Only patches of wilted grass and forsaken road

The driver was an elderly man

Fussin over the radio

Sippin his tea

Testimony says

He didn’t see her

No remorse

Pointing fingers

Of responsibility

 

During the Holidays

Hearts soften

Somethin about the cold

Makes people warm up to one another

 

Word got around quick

School surpassed Santa

With the extravagant gifts

Brought in a tree

A real one

So fat

It couldn’t fit in the elevator

Had the whole stairwell

Smellin like pine

Moms put cotton balls in the tree

Supposed to look like snow

Hood ornaments

Are our tradition

 

For the first time

The bags sittin under the tree

Weren’t just for décor

Holiday meant more

Than moms clockin in

For triple the pay

Her feet are kicked up

Head supported by the neck brace

We watchin ABC Christmas specials

Reheatin Chinese leftovers

This season,

Gratitude carries more weight

Breath is the most intimate gift

 

When the new year came

New prerogatives followed

Libations and cheer

Replaced

By patience and prayer

The road to recovery

Spirals and winds

Compassion linearly reverts

To apathy

 

The kind gestures expire

Carpoolin isn’t offered no more

I’m missing days of school

Tryna balance caretaker and child

 

Moms still sleeps in late

I sneak out the creaky door

Start walkin down the hill

Towards the bus stop

Loopin DMX’s “X Gon’ Give It To Ya”

On my walkman

The driver pulls up

Asks me where moms is

I walk towards the back corner seat

Pretending not to hear

 

Two transfers

Two hours

Two stops away

Before my teacher rushes the bus

School called moms

Moms said I left home

So they tracked the buses

And found me

 

I’m back in Principal Reed’s office

He’s ramblin

Bout how 10 is too young

To catch 3 buses across town

Alone

I don’t get why

I’m getting punished

For wanting to go to school

 

I cross my fingers

Promise I won’t do it again

As a kid

You’re groomed

To be celebrated when seen

Only to realize

Threats lie in visibility

I call the school with Mom’s accent

Change the contact number

To my line

Can’t afford

The same mistake

Twice

 

Once spring came round

Moms started bloomin too

Healed up nice

No marks on her body

Bore witness

Lawyer said they reached a settlement

After all them fees

Moms was left with $3,000

Said it wasn’t enough for justice

But enough for just us

 

When Moms deposited the check

All I could think about

Was the damages

The driver got appraised

 

How a black car

Is worth more

Than

A black body.

 

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There’s Safety on the Shore

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A very religious man was once caught in rising floodwaters. He climbed onto the roof of his house and trusted God to rescue him. A neighbor came by in a canoe and said, “The waters will soon be above your house. Hop in and we’ll paddle to safety.”

“No thanks,” replied the religious man. “I’ve prayed to God and I’m sure he will save me.”

A short time later the police came by in a boat. “The waters will soon be above your house. Hop in and we’ll take you to safety.”

“No thanks,” replied the religious man. “I’ve prayed to God and I’m sure he will save me.”

A little time later a rescue services helicopter hovered overhead, let down a rope ladder and said, “The waters will soon be above your house. Climb the ladder and we’ll fly you to safety.”

“No thanks,” replied the religious man. “I’ve prayed to God and I’m sure he will save me.”

All this time the floodwaters continued to rise, until soon they reached above the roof and the man drowned. When he arrived at heaven he demanded an audience with God. Ushered into God’s throne room he said, “Lord, why am I here in heaven? I prayed for you to save me, I trusted you to save me from that flood.”

“Yes, you did my child,” replied the Lord. “I sent you a canoe, a boat and a helicopter. But you never got in.”

– Author Unknown “I Sent You A Rowboat”

The sea was never intended to be a graveyard, haunted by the ghosts of broken families and unrealized promise. The waves popcorn baskets of hope and cradles of death, and generation after generation, dreams succumb to chance. At water’s depths is Blackness – God’s eulogy for the fallen. I imagine them as His favorites, nestled in the belly of a whale. The loudest of His creations, they bellow a song so majestic that blues sway between hue and hymn bringing stillness to the turbulent souls of the Diaspora. My Mamaiay carved a knife into a silver spoon, she gifted me the water as my playground.

Sometimes, parents give birth to purpose instead of children.

My Mamaiay fed me to her curiosity and enrolled me in swim classes once I turned 5. I felt conflicting emotions of joy and guilt as I learned how to swim, knowing she could only participate in this experience knee-deep. As children, we dehumanize our parents by romanticizing them – I was slapped with the realization that my superhero had a limitation.

A dress rehearsal of what was to come, I became her extension of self.

How night shifts to day, how brick forms from clay…

I was her rebirth of possibility.

Since then, water has become home to my most cherished memories.

I can vividly recall the day I took a stroll along the beach and my Mamaiay encouraged me to explore the off-the-beaten-path. I walked to the farthest right section of the sanded portion and began to climb the rocks until I ventured out completely from any adult’s vantage point. A few other kids followed my lead, until they were dragged back to the common areas by their apprehensive parents. The other adults perceived my Mamaiay’s nonchalance as an act of neglect, but I framed it as an act of confidence. I bobbled my body in the water – this moment of solitude and unobstructed freedom brought me joy, and I wanted to share it. I ran back requesting that my Mamaiay join me. We made the trek together and perched ourselves on a large rock situated a few feet into the sound. I sat in front, and my Mamaiay wrapped her arms around me as the waves embraced us both. The greater the splashes, the greater the laughter. I realized, that although there’s safety on the shore and comfort with the crowd, nothing spectacular happens there.

Water keeps me centered. It makes me feel insignificant and in proximity to nothingness, I feel closer to God. It is then that I return to myself. Acclimating to DC has been difficult, it’s a city of cement with no pockets of nature to serve as a compass. I feel disconnected. I’ve been grappling with figuring how to rewire myself when familiar coping methods are no longer accessible and how to properly reset my soul. Lately, I’ve muffled my soul with distractions – chasing opportunities, knowledge, people, anything tangible that could scratch my itch of immediate gratification. I’ve spun up profitable side ventures, developed strong networks and got promoted at work. I’ve found myself sitting at tables I didn’t even know existed. Yet, none of this amounted to meaning or purpose, I habitually assumed fulfillment would follow my next big accomplishment.

When you ignore a whisper long enough it becomes a shout and when you ignore a whimper long enough it becomes a scream. When you’re not honoring your true self, life will evoke a situation to make you pay heed.

A few months ago, I felt like everything I had on my checklist was marked and that I could do anything I set my heart on. I was elated and sitting in my hotel room in Chicago reflecting on my monumental week that included attending a family wedding, meeting with mentors, and attending conferences. I was intellectually stimulated and had a strong support system. My daydreaming was interrupted by a call from an unknown number, which I auto rejected a few times. Whenever I get a call from Seattle, I immediately get anxious that something happened, I associate unexpected and unrecognizable calls with bad news. After the 5th attempt I picked up out of curiosity and braced myself for whatever lied on the other line. The first thing I hear is, “You have a call from an inmate…” My Mamaiay was in jail and her release got denied.

I spent the rest of the evening frantically coordinating between my Mamaiay, her lawyer and the bail bond agency. Having to explain to a Habesha mom how bail and the court process works is a top 5 most nuanced thing I’ve ever had to translate. All my recent accomplishments ceased to matter, adversity has a way of shifting perspective – it shows us how we project so much meaning onto something that’s an artificial and circumstantial source of joy and just how quickly it can all becoming worthless. I felt defeated. It seemed like no matter what I did right, no matter what playbook I followed there were curveballs that I would never be able to see coming or dodge. My largest stressor came from being unable to control the actions of another person, my Mamaiay,  and I struggled making peace with that.

I spent the entire night crying, I thought perhaps God has a crude sense of humor, that the body of water which I couldn’t find extrinsically He summoned within me. I distracted myself by focusing on other people and found myself scrolling on Instagram. I came across a post by my friend, Briaan, who wrote some words that were right on time,

“Strength keeps you standing, but agility keeps you moving.”

– Briaan Barron

It takes 54 muscles to go from a sitting to standing position, and it requires 200 muscles to take a single step forward. We often associate strength with standing tall, but often we get stuck and become paralyzed in a single place and state of processing. Strength lies in each step that we take, it’s the will to keep moving forward irrespective of time and distance. It took me a few days to snap out of the victim mindset, to accept that suffering is a choice. Clarity doesn’t always come in the form of sunshine, sometimes it’s the clean air that follows the rain.

As I waited for the storm to pass, I reflected on what truly mattered to me: relationships, service, experimentation and writing. I was unable to cultivate these interests as my focus shifted primarily towards work after I got promoted. I loved my industry and my role, but I wasn’t listening to my spirit as it tugged and tugged telling me it’s time to go. Instead, I gripped tighter to my safety net and crafted excuses as to why I shouldn’t leave. I frequently negotiated pay raises and scope to justify and quantify my rationale – but really, I was just buying time. I subconsciously wanted my employer to pay a premium for delaying my purpose, so I could lie to myself and say it was worth it.

“You might think you want more but excessiveness really doesn’t feel good. The only things you want more and more of are the things that aren’t actually satisfying you.”

– Intuitive Zen

It’s been 3 months since I’ve written, and I’ve missed it terribly. Writing is my lifeline, it’s my oxygen mask when I’m falling from the sky. I could say that I’ve been busy with family matters, social life, and work, to stroke the ego and shape a more positive narrative but that wouldn’t be true. I just wasn’t ready to write about this, and yet, I knew this had to be the next piece. I knew I’d have to come to terms that it’s time for my next chapter.

I’ve realized that when you get that urge to leave – it’s long been time to go. In the same manner as thirst signals dehydration, our desires and actions are often delayed responses to what our core craves. As a woman in her late 20’s there’s a lot of pressure now to settle down – buy a house, get married, start a family. A marketable one-size-fits-all type of life. But that’s never been my north star, the sequence in which we’re told to live life has never been appealing to me. Where do women like me fit? The ones whose heads are in the clouds and feet barely kiss the ground? Am I meant to plant roots or am I meant to grow branches? Am I an anchor or am I a sail?

“I know everybody on this island, seems so happy on this island
Everything is by design
I know everybody on this island has a role on this island
So maybe I can roll with mine
I can lead with pride, I can make us strong
I’ll be satisfied if I play along
But the voice inside sings a different song
What is wrong with me?

See the light as it shines on the sea? It’s blinding
But no one knows, how deep it goes
And it seems like it’s calling out to me, so come find me
And let me know, what’s beyond that line, will I cross that line?

The line where the sky meets the sea? It calls me
And no one knows, how far it goes
If the wind in my sail on the sea stays behind me
One day I’ll know, how far I’ll go”

– Auli’i Cravalho

In adulthood, we’re conditioned to curb our appetite for adventure for insatiable stability. Sometimes, that pursuit of stability turns into numbness, and we live our lives in autopilot. When you aren’t honoring your true self you experience anxiety, a form of restlessness. In this state, we focus more on speed than direction. We run after the lowest hanging fruit on the tree of gratification. We want a quick win, some metric we can point to that shows we’re on track to force our souls into submission. We tell ourselves, “this is normal; this is how it’s supposed to be” and depression becomes a frequent visitor. I’ve noticed a lot of people like this go nowhere…fast – practically going in circles. Many of us claim to be seeking advancement and forward momentum, when really we need alignment and direction. Nonetheless, we settle – better to be moving and a part of the circus than in isolation while soul-searching.

“People pray for cake…but when the almighty gives them eggs, oil, butter, batter, a pan & an oven they get frustrated & leave the kitchen.”

– Wesley Snipes

As humans, we’re flawed in wanting to have full control over the narratives of our lives. We ask for signs, yet, we’re unable to acknowledge them because it doesn’t come in the form we anticipated or are willing to accept. We become hyper-focused on the checkpoints instead of the actual destination. We have tunnel vision and ignore everything and everyone outside of this imagined utopia of how life is supposed to be. I’ve heard people justify their lackadaisical state by saying they just aren’t as fortunate as other people – when in actuality it’s not a matter of luck, but discernment. Opportunity is ubiquitous, we just detest its wrapping.

When I’m looking to unwind, I head over to Spa World, about a 90-minute commute from DC, and spend the day emerged in their various pools. The last time I went I unexpectedly found myself facing a test: The instructor? A 7-year old. The classroom? A 45-degree ice bath. At Spa World the pooled areas are separated by gender and you have to be fully naked – it’s a vulnerable environment. There was an ice bath I was determined to face that was too cold for me to make it past my ankles for more than a second the last time I attempted. I walked up to the ice bath, dipped my toe – walked away, came back – dipped my toe again – walked away again to no avail.

The third time I attempted there was this 7-year old girl who was encouraging me to come in, but I said it’s way too cold and that I was trying my hardest. She began splashing me with the cold water and was amused at my shrieking response. Her mother approached me apologizing for her daughter’s splashes and encouraged me to jump in with conviction. I still hesitated (for context: I shower with water on the hottest setting). The mother joined her daughter in the ice bath and they both extended one hand out to me to walk in waist deep. I accepted and took a few steps forward without thinking and grabbed onto their hands. Then they said, “on the count of three we’re going to dunk…one…two…three!” We submerged our entire bodies under the cold water, and I came back up feeling exhilarated and realizing it wasn’t as bad as I had imagined.

It’s comical how life lessons emerge from the least likely of people in the most unexpected places. The Spa World experience made me realize that we are conditioned to do things gradually as a way of maintaining control and managing our expectations. We don’t realize that causes us more pain than just diving right in. Ultimately, we lean on intellect rather than faith. Faith isn’t dipping your toes, it isn’t dragging your feet, it doesn’t come with negotiable terms and conditions – it’s just diving in and trusting everything will be okay,. Openness is a requisite for receptivity of purpose, it’s not coincidental the English language constantly affirms to keep our minds open, eyes open, heart opens, and hands open. Whether I’m being led by guardian angels, courage, or stupidity, I’m willing to take a leap of faith and say yes to unknown time and time again.

“The place in which I’ll fit won’t exist until I make it.”

– James Baldwin

I’m ready to close this chapter to give way to a new one.

There’s a question out there that I know I’m supposed to answer…

There’s something out there that I know I’m supposed to do…

Not in an ego-driven I’m meant to save the world type of way, but in the voices are getting louder and they won’t shut up type of way.

I bought a one-way ticket to Adi this January, and a lot of people think I’m crazy –

But, you can’t plan out fate, you can’t outline destiny – you simply choose to honor or delay your calling day by day.

I’d rather be a soul lost at sea,

Than a soul lost on shore.

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The Corporate Negro

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“Freedom in capitalist society always remains about the same as it was in ancient republics: Freedom for slave owners.”

– Vladimir Lenin

Blacked out faces

Going to work

Searching for a savior

Dressed for church

Ain’t no deliverance from this evil

Cuz you can cash out the sin

The wolf eats, the dog sleeps

Not everyone can win

 

Stuck on this merry go round

And it just won’t stop

Hypnotized as it spins

Ur freedom’s strapped to a clock

 

How much for your soul?

What’d you name your price?

Did you get your wish upon a star?

Did you get ur mom right?

 

Out here preaching how you made it out

Uncle Tom ass nigga

Was it worth the clout?

 

Poke ur chest back in

Employee of the month

Thinking you hit a goldmine

But you sittin in a dump

 

Nothing but a sheep

Playing in a lion’s den

You get checked, not respect

Different bars, same pen   –  itentiary

Living for ur resumé

And not ur obituary

 

Free your mind

Claim your time

You forget that you’re great?

Did you spit out your worth?

And swallow their hate?

 

The People need you

Are you gonn step up?

Is you a boss

Or a bitch

Ur act bout to blow up

 

Ain’t got nothing to show

But a tag on your shirt

Dream sweeper, grim reaper

Go back to the Earth

 

Poor little Tink Tink

Shackled in the slave’s rink

Don’t know who you are 9-5

5-9 got you hoodwinked

 

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My Daily Affirmations

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“It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.”

– Muhammad Ali

I’m working on being kinder to myself.

I start and end my days speaking these affirmations aloud:

  1. I am worthy of being seen and heard by anyone who is willing to listen.
  2. My heart is open, and I do not resist when it expands.
  3. I am untethered, I let my soul guide me and trust it knows the way.
  4. I choose to focus on life’s lessons and not its teachers.
  5. I accept myself, I love myself, as I am today; I release comparison and competition.
  6. I am always right on time to manifest what is meant for me.
  7. I am unconditionally beautiful; I attract that which seeps deeper than the flesh.
  8. I am resilient. My tenacity knows no bounds, I harbor within me all that I seek.
  9. I am filled to the brim with gratitude, my joy overflows and waters seeds of impact.
  10. I am present. I have purpose. I am powerful. I am at peace.

 

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[Sucka] Free: Static and Silence

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“You ask me how I became a madman. It happened thus: One day, long before many gods were born, I woke from a deep sleep and found all my masks were stolen, — the seven masks I have fashioned and worn in seven lives, — I ran maskless through the crowded streets shouting, “Thieves, thieves, the cursed thieves.”

Men and women laughed at me and some ran to their houses in fear of me.

And when I reached the market place, a youth standing on a house-top cried, “He is a madman.” I looked up to behold him; the sun kissed my own naked face for the first time. For the first time the sun kissed my own naked face and my soul was inflamed with love for the sun, and I wanted my masks no more. And as if in a trance I cried, “Blessed, blessed are the thieves who stole my masks.”

Thus I became a madman.

And I have found both freedom of loneliness and the safety from being understood, for those who understand us enslave something in us.

But let me not be too proud of my safety. Even a Thief in a jail is safe from another thief.

My friend, I am not what I seem. Seeming is but a garment I wear — a care-woven garment that protects me from thy questionings and thee from my negligence. The “I” in me, my friend, dwells in the house of silence, and therein it shall remain for ever more, unperceived, unapproachable.

I would not have you believe in what I say nor trust in what I do — for my words are naught but your own thoughts in sound and my deeds your own hopes in action.

When you say, “The wind blows eastward,” I say, “Yes, it does blow eastward”; for I would not have you know that my mind does not dwell upon the wind but upon the sea.

You cannot understand my seafaring thoughts, nor would I have you understand. I would be at sea alone.

When it is day with you, my friend, it is night with me; yet even then I speak of the noontide that dances upon the hills and of the purple shadow that steals its way across the valley; for you cannot hear the songs of my darkness nor see my wings beating against the stars — and I fain would not have you hear or see. I would be with night alone.

When you ascend to your Heaven I descend to my Hell — even then you call to me across the unbridgeable gulf, “My companion, my comrade,” and I call back to you, “My comrade, my companion” — for I would not have you see my Hell. The flame would burn your eyesight and the smoke would crowd your nostrils. And I love my Hell too well to have you visit it. I would be in Hell alone.

You love Truth and Beauty and Righteousness; and I for your sake say it is well and seemly to love these things. But in my heart I laugh at your love. Yet I would not have you see my laughter. I would laugh alone.

My friend, you are good and cautious and wise; no, you are perfect — and I, too, speak with you wisely and cautiously. And yet I am mad. But I mask my madness. I would be mad alone.

My friend, you are not my friend, but how shall I make you understand? My path is not your path, yet together we walk, hand in hand.”

-Khalil Gibran

Infanthood

I enjoy connecting with extended family and hearing their recounts of my childhood in Chicago. I’ve always taken my Mamaiay’s stories with a grain of salt, as parents tend to romanticize their children. I visited my Grandfather’s siblings and my Mamaiay’s cousins a few weeks ago and they shared nostalgic anecdotes as we sipped on tea and munched on cookies and fruits. They said they found me to be a peculiar baby, I didn’t fuss or cry much and found a way to always keep myself entertained. They said I was extremely introverted, yet also inclusive. I was kind and approachable, but not readily accessible. I was unbothered and always in my own world; whenever I would be asked what I was thinking about, I’d coyly reply nothing. I didn’t seek affection or attention from the elders or other children, I preferred to be left alone – yet, I was extremely happy.

Elementary School

The traits of keeping to myself and selective engagement followed me to Seattle. In elementary school, during recess I’d hide out in the corner of the playground behind the bushes and trees, but other kids insisted on intruding my alone time. I soon learned, that when kids got in trouble, they were enlisted in lunch duty and were banned from engaging with other kids. This “punishment” was my ideal – I’d try to blend in and wipe down the tables alongside these kids just to get a break from having anyone talk to me. The staff eventually caught on and redirected me to recess, so, I purposely started getting into trouble to get back on lunch duty. In class, when my peers would try to engage with me, and I was disinterested I’d play nice and opt into the conversation. Not having alone time led to my agitation and burn out – I just didn’t care anymore and spoke what was on my mind. I got consistently sent to the principal’s office for my quick-witted remarks which made kids cry. I felt like I was suffocating under wearing a mask, yet when I’d take it off everyone else would choke. I didn’t understand why I had to rely on punishment as a scapegoat for cultivating an environment of silence and solitude.

Middle School

The transition into Middle School was particularly challenging; I was introduced to the Socratic Method and Cold Calling. I was stripped of my autonomy on managing when I chose to engage and found myself at the mercy of the teacher. Middle school was also when the requirement to study a foreign language rolled out – I chose Latin and was scorned by my peer group for selecting a “dead” language. But I didn’t want to study a language to speak – I just wanted to understand the history of language and human thought. With the increasing ubiquity of cellphones, and my friends’ insistence on calling me back to back when I’d ignore their calls, I felt all forces were working against my desire to unplug. It was also during this time that social media and chatting platforms like Xanga, Tumblr, MySpace and AIM were taking off. I learned that in terms of communication, I thrived in the digital space – I was much more interested in reading and writing rather than communicating verbally. The digital realm was fascinating because I could engage or disconnect based entirely on my choosing, without guilt or a moment’s notice.

High School

As I developed a hypersensitivity to overstimulation and noise, I was met with the most resistance in High School. I had to bite my tongue and pinch my skin to keep myself from telling people to shut the fuck up. That just because your vocabulary has expanded, doesn’t necessarily mean you have more to say. I grew impatient with dragged out discourse and would tell my peers to “land the plane” aka get to the point. Inefficient communicators were my pet peeve- what the fuck are you exactly tryna say? During lunch, I’d sit on the floor of the elevator in the Art building. It was the only place I could be alone and escape small talk and meaningless interactions. The day a teacher opened the elevator doors and my hideout got discovered, I was sent to the counseling office. The counselor began probing me with questions regarding my “anti-social” behavior and said she wanted us to talk. I retorted, “Why does everyone always want to talk? I’m not “anti-social,” I’m selectively and intentionally social. Why can’t I just be?”

The more resistance I faced, the more sensitive I became to my environment. I couldn’t focus in class during exams because I was distracted by the tick of the clock, the click of the pen, the smacking of gum, the tapping of the foot, the scratching of a throat, the sniffling of the nose etc. I would turn in my assignments with a sheet of paper that had only my name and date scribbled at the top. My sensitivity to sound only worked in my favor during music class, I’d be able to recite notes from memory on the piano. My Mamaiay was called into a meeting with the school administrators about how they were concerned I might have an undiagnosed disability. She caused enough ruckus for them never to bring up the topic again – besides, insurance doesn’t cover cognitive testing anyways. The school ended up granting me accommodations – they’d place me in an empty classroom for important exams and assignments. It isolated me from external distractions and was also an opportunity for me to recharge. I excelled.

Undergrad

My Undergrad experience at the University of Washington was my peak of social engagement. I was so excited to be immersed in a new environment with people who hailed from all over. I was intrigued to see everything, try new things and make new friends. I was social in larger spurts but then I’d retreat into solitude. Living in a triple unit in McCarty dorms didn’t offer me personal space or quiet, so I was tasked with finding a new haven. On campus, I discovered there was a Disability Office/Lounge in the basement of Mary Gates Hall. It had nice couches, free food, and was conveniently empty. It became my second home. After my freshman year concluded, I traded the dorms for an apartment of my own close to campus. When my friends overstayed their welcome, I’d passively go to my room or take multiple showers just to dwell in peace and stillness. When things got overwhelming, I’d turn my phone off, and drive down to Portland for a solo trip for a few days. My friends didn’t quite understand why in large settings I’d become mute or catch an Uber and leave unannounced once gatherings got too big. Alcohol became my Duracell – it kept my social battery running, a coping mechanism of sorts. My friends would joke you could tell how drunk I was based on how many people I spoke to.

Amazon

By the time I began my career at Amazon, being an “introvert” was a buzzword and on trend. Amazon boasted that a significant number of its employees were introverted, yet they were celebrated only in theory and not in practice. The office was set up as an open floor plan, and in the CS Ops division my colleagues and I were literally talking all the time. Either to each other in person, or online during meetings with our virtual teams. There were a few small private offices that were being unused, so I retreated into one as a means of disconnecting – I produce the best work in solitude, not inches away from my colleagues all day. I got a performance write up for not “Earning Trust” because I preferred to work independently, and I opted out of attending social gatherings after work. I was burnt the fuck out, why would I want to continue talking to people if I’m not getting paid for it? Since my team of 8 managers and 200+ associates were all virtual, it was expected to put in additional effort to make a connection.

I struggled because I felt a lot of the communication in the space was ingenuine. It was fake and catty, mostly transactional, and people were obsessed with clout over actual impact. I realized people love hearing themselves talk and when other people hear them talk – it makes them feel important. But seldom, are they ever actually saying anything, they’re usually just rambling and filling dead air with noise. I was a fly on a wall who wanted no parts of performing in this shit-show. I just wanted to do right by my team, and then scurry home to take off my mask; it sucks that you don’t get any extra compensation for code-switching. Putting in my two weeks notice as an act of self-preservation was one of the most liberating acts of my life.

Masters

I decided to enroll in a MS in Entrepreneurship program at the University of Washington’s business school because I wanted to foster the ability to think differently. I wanted to learn how to identify opportunity in the overlooked. I wanted to learn how to further your purpose, communicate vision, and build you tribe – along with practical business skills. My cohort was made up of 24 students, all of whom were black sheep. We were the irrational optimists, perpetual dreamers, and exuded the oddest of quirks. This was the most dynamic setting of people I’ve ever interacted with, and we were tasked with being creatives. The whole concept of entrepreneurship is less talk, more action. I was elated to have finally found my tribe. I was able to show up fully each day as myself and not be asked to assimilate, it was during this program that I began to bloom. It gave me affirmation that just because I operated differently didn’t mean that there was nothing wrong with me. Rather, I needed to proactively seek out places and people that wouldn’t contain me, but rather water me to thrive.

Bittrex

During my Masters, I fell in love with finance and economics. I particularly fell down the rabbit hole of crypto. I wanted a front seat in the industry, and although there weren’t any job postings listed, I slid into the CEO’s DM on LinkedIn inquiring about future opportunities. Fast forward two weeks later and I landed a role as the company’s first PM hire. The first few weeks on the job I remember pinging my colleague “Good morning” and “Hey, how are you?” Which was customary at Amazon. He pinged me back saying the extra fluff was unnecessary and he’d rather I get to the point – “We’re here to build, not bullshit.” It was clear small and unproductive talk had no space here, and I immediately felt relieved and at home. My preference for minimal meetings and concise communication thrived in this environment, I became the lead to facilitate my department meetings and ensure we stayed on top of talking points.

After one year, I transitioned into a process-improvement oriented role that I developed for myself. I was tasked with identifying our bottlenecks and which parts of our process are redundant and minimal value add. My job was to remove “fluff” that kept us from scaling. Humans are extremely inefficient with information delivery, so I initially focused on automating the data reporting that was discussed during bi-weekly meetings. In essence, I was building infrastructure to allow us to talk less and do more. I became known as the person who “gets shit done.” What I was most appreciative of was that my individuality and autonomy was respected. I wasn’t reprimanded when I declined to speak, or didn’t show up to the office. When my former boss shared with our team that she was leaving the company, I was dialed in via Skype. My colleagues asked follow up questions and sent their well wishes, and then it was my turn to speak. When my boss asked me for my thoughts, and I retorted “I think it’s better if I stay on mute,” and my response, although brazen, was left alone.

Present

Moving to DC gave me additional fortitude when it came to establishing boundaries. In an entirely new environment, I was free from most social obligations that I was tied to in Seattle. I no longer was attending events or interacting with others for the sake of social cohesion, or “history.” I now prioritize what makes me feel happy and comfortable. I choose to put myself first. I still find myself clashing occasionally with my peers who still grapple with understanding my desire for solitude, some take offense to it. It’s interesting to note how some people measure their worth based on external desirability. I’ve had to quiet their insecurities and tell them they are loved, that this is just a function of me. It’s also stirred interesting conversations about the ego – I’ve inquired why some feel entitled to my time, space and energy. I’ve asked why they can’t love me the way that I am, instead of trying to mold me into who they want me to be? I don’t place them on trial to justify wanting to hang around people, so why can’t they extend that same grace towards me when I want to be alone? Why does me not wanting to be in their presence for an extended period of time bother them? Why do they equate time with value, when often it is filled with waste?

I’ve had to find this balance between staying true to myself while being empathetic and considerate of those I love. I’m learning that I don’t have to compromise myself, but if I proactively communicate my thoughts and needs it makes those around me comfortable. People don’t like being left in the dark, nobody likes to feel ghosted and not valued, so I try to give a heads up now before I dip back into silence and/or solitude. Two phrases that have helped me significantly are: “I’d like to spend time with you, but can you give me some time to recharge?” and  “I don’t feel I have much to contribute to this conversation, but I’m listening.” A gentler way of me communicating, “leave me the fuck alone” or “I don’t want to fuckin talk.” I can admit as a friend, family member, and lover I’m not readily accessible, but I am reliable. There isn’t one person who can say I didn’t come through when they needed me most. I truly believe that time and communication are just tools, they can only build a lasting connection if there’s a person with intentionality behind it. I will always choose quality over quantity when it comes to my interactions with others.

I want to iterate – I’m far from perfect and am still a work in progress when it comes to navigating the grey area of solitude and life overall. However, I can appreciate that I am honest with who I am, and I’m not going to fold to fit anyone’s desires. Honesty is the highest form of respect, and by communicating my boundaries and expectations I give those around me the freedom to choose what they’d like to do with that information. They can choose to continue to rock with me heavy, or we can love each other from a distance, or not mess with each other all – that is entirely up to them.

I remember leaning up against the bar the first time I heard “Leave Me Alone” played by Flipp Dinero, when a friend was visiting from out of town. Another friend of mine approached me excitingly and said, “Whoa this is so your song.” I’m the awkward turtle, the wallflower, the attention(averse)-whore. I’m the girl who watches TV only with subtitles on, who reads lyrics before I listen to songs, who keeps the phone on Do Not Disturb, who stares out the window silent during car rides, and who takes hours to get ready only to leave and come home early.  My loved ones understand and tease me about my quirks now, and it makes me feel seen and at peace.

Takeaway

I write and publish most of my blogs between the hours of 1am and 4am. I work best when most of the world is asleep, no distractions, no sounds. People often mistake silence and solitude to be absence – but I think it exemplifies presence; it’s channeling hyperawareness of your senses. If you’re intaking information all the time without ceasing, you lose the ability to think and produce for yourself. – You’ve become a sponge that cannot rinse out the gunk. I wrote this piece for myself, first and foremost. It was a testimony of the process it took to grow into my own skin and embrace not fitting into the Western and Habesha norms of communication and socialization. I hope that maybe by sharing my story, whoever reads this – no matter what stage you’re in – feels more empowered to tear down their own facades. Perhaps, by being more honest about ourselves to each other, we can begin creating safe spaces where people of all capabilities are able to thrive.

I passionately believe that if you’re doubting yourself or trying to change the core of who you are, you’re not in the right environment. You’re not in alignment, nor are you making the most out of your gifts. The feeling of being “lost” is really the need to come home to yourself. If you don’t know who you are, and what you stand for, you’ll forever live in the shadows of the perceptions bestowed upon you by others. You will lose agency over your own life. So, hey! *Wave* my name is Rahwa and I’m an awkward black girl who doesn’t really fit in anywhere, but I’ve learned that what’s accepted and dismissed is subjective, and trends evolve over time. Sometimes, I’ll be in season, other times I’ll be out – but I’m prepared to handle both waves. I love who I am today and choose to remain true to myself, no matter how painful the process. Growth means you lose a lot, but you gain much more; being true to yourself pays off, always. The best part? You don’t have to code switch, if you choose to build your own path.

 

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Not Your Cookie-Cutter Christian

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“I can’t stand moral absolutism. You know, there’s always that guy who wants to point out that Martin Luther King cheated on his wife– as if he obviously couldn’t have been a great person if he did something like that. Or someone will bring out an inspirational quote, and get you to agree, and then inform you that Hitler said it. As if a good thought couldn’t come from Hitler. Moral absolutism keeps us from learning from the past. It’s easy to say: ‘Hitler was a demon. Nazis were all bad seeds.’ That’s simple. It’s much harder to say: ‘Is that humanity? Is that me?’”

-Humans of New York

One of the worst, and ironically, one of the most impactful movies I’ve ever seen was an animation called “Sausage Party.” I watched it in theaters and 30-minutes into the movie I had to restrain myself from going back to the Ticket Office and requesting a refund. (Fun Fact: up to an hour into a movie you can get a full refund if you don’t like it – the shit you learn working at a movie theater in high school). I challenged myself to be more open-minded, so for the duration of film I stuffed my mouth alternating between the popcorn and Icee to keep myself engaged. The film brought all items in the grocery store to life – as in Toy Story. These grocery store items desired to be hand selected by humans and placed in their carts to be taken to the “Great Beyond,” which represented the pinnacle of happiness. Some items primed themselves to increase their chances of being selected. Whereas, other items conducted themselves based off desire regardless of the consequences. In the final scene of the film, the main characters are finally selected – they’re elated as they pursue their journey to the “Great Beyond.” Once brought to the home of different humans, they quickly realize that this euphoric destination is nothing but a façade. The grocery items were being cut, boiled, blended, etc – where they expected to meet elation, they found excruciating pain.

I walked out the film flabbergasted at the unconventional method to spark a parallel discussion of: What if heaven is a hoax? I was fascinated by how such a heavy topic was guised in a youthful medium of a cartoon, in the genre of comedy and in the most mundane of environments: the grocery store. To this day, I find myself revisiting the motifs of this film. Specifically, what are the perils of deferring joy – the notion of sacrificing self in the present, for a greater reward in an unwitnessed realm in the future? How does the human psyche interact with immediate gratification if fulfillment is marketed as not being attainable in this physical dimension? Is religion a form of organized escapism, to rationalize individualized hollowness and collective disconnectedness and/or disarray?

I never quite understood why people hold on so tightly to their dogmas when their first interaction with religion is purely happenstance. At the roll of a dice, we are born into a particular era, region, and family; our belief system is entirely circumstantial and crafted by our environment. Yet, our belief systems get drilled so deeply into our conscious we mistake it for our own. We inherit beliefs and are deterred from questioning it as an act of existential obedience yielding the “limitations of the human wit” to a higher power. I never quite fit in the system of organized religion – my earliest recollection of church was being sent to sit in the back of Sunday School for being disruptive. Sister Elizabeth was quizzing us on individuals and their stories in the Bible and I kept answering each question as “God did that” to her discontent. She was searching for a more specific answer like “Abraham” or “Joshua,” but I refuted her expectations. I didn’t understand why the church insisted on convoluting who God was and diluting the message through the parables of humans. Why overcomplicate the simple? Why must we romanticize the created to distill its creator? My Mamaiay kindled my natural curiosity; to seek out answers that questioned what was accepted as common knowledge. In the church, I enjoyed testing the limits of wit and dogma. Religion is the most antiquated institution in the world and its proponents, like Sister Elizabeth, dispelled anything that threatened its sanctity.

My Mamaiay’s relationship with the church is atypical for Habesha women who are traditionally devout believers. When I was eight, I remember neighbors coming to our apartment to deliver the bad news that my Mamaiay had lost four siblings and her mother in one car accident. Two months later, her father also passed away. My Mamaiay’s heart hardened and she proclaimed there was no God – and if there was that he wasn’t just. She ceased going to church and observing any Orthodox practices for years. I’m not sure what, or who, reintroduced my Mamaiay to church but she didn’t last very long. She disliked how Habesha churches felt like more of a recreational center than a center of worship. She felt that when you’re burdened by the judgement of your peers, you’re unable to truly focus on God. As an unfamiliar face to the church she was constantly met with “where are you from?” As an Eritrean by blood, having grown up in Mekele, and having lived in Addis – this was a loaded question to answer. Whenever she would answer this question, she’d constantly be questioned as to why she didn’t go to the Habesha church that served the Tigray, or Eritrean demographic – she had to justify her presence in a church because the identity of the constituents varied from her. Religion amongst Habesha churches in Seattle were heavily politicized, and she wanted no parts of it.

In my teenage years, I watched my Mamaiay steer away entirely from traditional and institutionalized religion and develop her own path with how she sought out and interacted with God. I would accompany her during her trips to Chinatown as she delved into Eastern practices and began accruing incense, crystals and herbs. She was an avid reader, and hoarded books on spirituality. She practiced mindfulness, breathing exercises, and meditated on a daily cadence. I didn’t grow up seeing or hearing my Mamaiay pray, although, she did talk about God a lot. She didn’t fast during tsom, but fasted on her own schedule and when I’d ask, she retort, “Why focus on the rules, rather than the heart?” She had zero tolerance when it came to the social cohesion and performative components of religion.

In hindsight, I’ve realized that my first bout with religion was a force of escapism. During the adversity I faced during my childhood, I held onto this notion that God would deliver me from all pain and suffering with a death grip. That whatever I lacked today; I would have in surplus tomorrow.  I didn’t quite know God, nor did I understand him, but I figured if God could get me out of a bad situation, I’d be on his team – it was the only thing that kept me sane. Romans 8:18 was a mantra of mine, “I consider our present sufferings not to be worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed to us.” My relationship, admittingly, was transactional and rooted in futuristic outcomes. I wasn’t seeking God; I was seeking relief. As I got older, my relationship with God and my overall views on religion went through multiple renditions through observation and practice. My extended family reflected diverse religious backgrounds – you had the Orthodox Christians, the Pentes, the Jehovah Witnesses and the Bahais. My Mamaiay and I were the Black Sheep – who refused to ingest what God looks like to others, in exchange, to pursue what God looks like to ourselves.

The friends I met through Sunday School spoke of God as a disciplinarian than a counselor. They shoved the ever-approaching date of Judgement Day down my throat and demanded that I repent for my sins lest I perish. Fear-based coercion doesn’t work for me, and I struggled justifying loving someone that demanded my love in exchange for everlasting life. This narrative seemed toxic. I wanted to walk towards and build my relationship with God out of autonomy and love, not out of haste and fear. The fable, “The North Wind and The Sun,” captures my sentiment best:

The North Wind boasted of great strength. The Sun argued that there was great power in gentleness.

“We shall have a contest,” said the Sun.

Far below, a man traveled a winding road. He was wearing a warm winter coat.

“As a test of strength,” said the Sun, “Let us see which of us can take the coat off of that man.”

“It will be quite simple for me to force him to remove his coat,” bragged the Wind.

The Wind blew so hard, the birds clung to the trees. The world was filled with dust and leaves. But the harder the wind blew down the road, the tighter the shivering man clung to his coat.

Then, the Sun came out from behind a cloud. Sun warmed the air and the frosty ground. The man on the road unbuttoned his coat.

The sun grew slowly brighter and brighter.

Soon the man felt so hot, he took off his coat and sat down in a shady spot.

“How did you do that?” said the Wind.

“It was easy,” said the Sun, “I lit the day. Through gentleness I got my way.”

I’ve always been fascinated by the performance of religion, and how we as humans use religious texts as a means of placing bumpers along the lanes of our life to keep us safe and on track. It’s somewhat of a lazy opt-out for day to day life operations. If you allow religion to develop values and a life roadmap for you, you rely less on your own mind to craft these existential systems for itself. This is where groupthink flourishes, and when good intentions of the church can morph into destructive execution. As humans, our minds are programmed to compartmentalize so we can optimize our brain usage and detect any threats. Religious institutions exacerbate the compartmentalization of good vs bad, safety vs danger. I’ve found irony in when Pastors preach about Christ’s crucification without any acknowledgement of the crucification church members bestow upon one another. Why is the collective religious body invested in what a member wears to church, how much they donate, their significant other, their night out etc? It felt that the “come as you are” messaging was nothing more than a corporate slogan, church was the grounds for gossip rather than God. The lack of compassion and inclusivity amongst religious entities deters individuals from exploring and cultivating their Faith, arguably, what could be a greater sin than to taint one’s perception and steer them away from God? Why don’t the constituents treat each other in the same manner that a teacher encourages a student who is struggling to sit at the front of the class, rather than defame them? Because of ego and self-righteousness. Judgment that brews within the church is an extension of human ego – of a future life! I’d watch Christians essentially transcending their ability to pass judgement to that of a higher power by saying God will reward or smite you in the next life based on your actions. I distanced myself from the church because I wanted to fully connect to God in my way, than partially as part of a collective.

I had a friend inquire about my “life of duality.” He didn’t understand how I would talk about God yet act in a manner that conflicts with God’s teachings. I drink, I cuss, I play secular music, I love BDSM sex, I’m pro-gay marriage, and I’m pro-choice. He was essentially asking me; How can you be all of these things yet still worship God? It’s interesting how as humans we try to polarize good from the bad, right from the wrong and project these perceptions onto others. It’s not my job to decipher what’s right or wrong. It’s not my scope to pass on judgement. I’ve always viewed the path to God, similarly to the path to success – everyone paves their own way, it’s not a copy and paste feat. If you allow people to be who they are in the present, they’ll be able to develop an honest relationship with God. As humans, we’ve become so acclimated to transactional love that we struggle with the realization that we cannot earn God’s love. Nor, can we lose it. God’s love was merely given to us, unconditionally. For that reason, I don’t scrutinize my actions or that of others and try to play God. I just meet God where I am, and I meet others where they are. I’m not mandated to fit this ideal of a Christian to be worthy of reaching out God. Perfection isn’t a prerequisite, receptivity is.

One of my greatest fears in life is death because of the unknown of what happens after. Is it heaven? Do we return to ash? Is there an in-between dimension? I really grapple with this concept of “nothingness” because it threatens my ego. How can I be here today, and completely cease to exist tomorrow? Why do I find solace in Heaven? As a child, I thought Heaven was whatever you wanted it to be. So, if you were a hooper it’d be nonstop scrimmages. Then, someone else told me Heaven is where you pray all day. Okay, that’s cool but not as fun, queue Biggie, “It don’t make sense going to heaven with the goodie goodies.” I’m trying to avoid living in a futuristic state, I don’t want Heaven to be my North Star, because I want to seek fulfillment right here in the present. I won’t let “my treasure is in Heaven” antics cloud my relationship with life. Tomorrow isn’t promised, and Heaven, like the “Great Beyond” may too be a facade.

I begin and end each day with complete silence in my room, and spend a few minutes talking to God. I’m working hard at eliminating transactional elements of our relationship by ultimately, mastering my ego. I am nobody. I have nothing. I am going nowhere. This allows me to truly seek God and not his gifts. I now find myself speaking more words of gratitude than expectation. I feel closest to God when I’m in utter isolation and immersed in nature. I’ve become significantly less materialistic and more agile with how I interact with the world. I’ve realized that joy isn’t an additive substance, but rather joy emerges when you remove the unnecessary. As I evolve, so will my relationship with God and I’m grateful for the heave-ho of growth. God planted in me, a seed of curiosity – and I plan to nurture that until my mind caves and my body wilts. I unapologetically, would rather have a mind opened by wonder, than closed by belief. I’ve been lucky too many times to just believe in luck, although I’m done deliberating the intentions of God from the receiving end. I don’t know what happens next. I don’t know what “nothing” is. I don’t know what it means to truly exist. I don’t know where the lines of the body, mind and soul intersect. What I do know, is that you enjoy the ride more in the passenger than the driver’s seat – so I choose to be open to what comes, or what doesn’t, in this life and the next.

Faith to me? Isn’t in hoping for the best, it’s in not minding what happens.

 

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Sunshine and Shade: Summer In Chicago

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Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.

-Antoine de Saint-Exupery

 

In the summertime, when the sun wakes up – so do all us brown kids.

I love early mornings – feels like a fresh page:

Another chance at “once upon a time.”

But Mamaiay? Not so much.

She always huffin’ and hustlin’

Talkin’ bout she runnin’ late for work…

Like she don’t hit snooze five times when the alarm rings every day.

She says all I got is one job:

Stay out the way and get ready as fast as possible.

I wash the crust out my eyes and brush my teeth.

While my Mamaiay oils down the frizz between my braids,

I plan out which socks I want to wear –

You can’t wear shoes at the Ali’s, so the socks gotta match.

They have one of them fancy rugs –

You know, the type that feel like pillows for your toes.

Say they brought it all the way from Iran,

Couldn’t bear to leave all of home behind.

Mamaiay takes so long to get ready,

I dunno why cuz she always look the same.

I mind my business,

Focus on eating my Honey Nut Cheerios.

Ugh – Mamaiay stays yappin’ bout me not chewing enough and swallowin’ too fast.

She don’t understand –

I’m not tryna break the Cheerio family up – they all gotta go out quick together

Like –

How you gonn’ buy cereal that helps the heart

N then get mad when I use it?

 

The Ali’s live in the same building as us,

But you’d never think it.

The higher up you go; the nicer things get.

All us poor kids,

We live on the first few floors.

We could kiss the concrete,

The Ali’s could lift the sky.

The worst days were when the elevator broke:

Mamaiay and I trekkin’ up more stories than I can count.

She says, “the way up isn’t always easy,”

Always tryna turn everything into a lesson.

I loved being at the Ali’s,

With all them other kids who were too wild be to left home alone

And whose parents couldn’t afford daycare.

The Ali’s were our parents’ alternative

To letting us roam into the devil’s arms.

The Ali’s got windows instead of walls,

When my Mamaiay drops me off I run –

Press my nose against the glass.

The world looks different when you lookin’ down,

As a kid, you always lookin’ up.

The air tastes sweeter up here.

 

Mama Ali says taking care of her family is her job,

Baba Ali’s job is to pay all the bills.

Having two parents feels greedy, when there are kids with none.

How you gonn’ grab seconds,

When there’s someone that doesn’t have one?

When it’s lunch time Mama Ali makes us set the table,

Says it’ll teach us to serve others before ourselves.

All us kids –

Sitting around a table,

With parents who’re digging for gold in the same mine.

Singing out each other’s names like melodies,

Names most others would choke on.

The first generation of the American Dream,

Feasting on curry thicker than the melting pot.

I ask for seconds –

I learn Halal isn’t a seasoning or sauce.

 

Mama Ali don’t let us out much – says it’s not safe.

Our playgrounds are our imaginations.

One day Mama Ali shows us a gift from Baba,

It was my first time seein’ a computer.

She says it’s the future,

I reach towards it…

Mama Ali swats my wrist – You can’t touch it!

Baba Ali is alright,

On good days,

He likes to teach us Farsi:

Yek

Do

Sei

Says learning numbers will help us count our blessings.

But,

On bad days –

He grumbles:

Peresooktay

Curses us back into the earth.

Baba Ali can get too friendly,

Mama Ali pretends not to see –

We pretend to play dumb.

Not havin’ a dad,

Don’t seem so bad after all.

 

Mama Ali always talkin’ –

Bout someone named Shaytan.

I don’t understand why she lets ‘em control her life.

During nap time,

I pry one eye open and

Watch her as she prays.

I wonder who she prays to

What she prays for

Who she asked first

And whom didn’t give her an answer.

 

Saturdays are filled with Saturday morning cartoons,

I plant myself in front of Doug, Recess, and Hey Arnold.

Mamaiay sleeps in past lunch time –

Two doses of sleep for working two jobs.

Mama Ali got a good life,

Maybe her Shaytan is kinder.

I go into my Mamaiay’s room and drape myself in her netsela.

I grab a rug from the bathroom,

Lay it flat facing the window.

I fall to my knees,

Raise my hands,

Bend my body over,

Kiss the ground.

I rise and repeat,

My throat runs dry

From humming.

I feel my mom’s piercing glare:

“Rahweetay, enti ti gebri aleki?”

Mamaiay, shhh I’m praying.

 

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I’m Sad At You: When Your Tongue Is The Trigger

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Anger is grief left untreated.

Values are much easier to uphold in theory than in practice. Freedom has always been my North Star, yet I struggle with the hypocrisy of honoring the autonomy of others when I become emotionally invested. I love hard, but not smart. My emotions often conflict with logic, and my communication skills shut down. This past weekend was really overwhelming for me, and I’m extremely disappointed in myself. It’s a bit discouraging to take a few steps forward with your growth only to take multiple ones back. I felt like over the past few months I was taking EQ classes but when the moment came to put my beliefs in practice, I ultimately failed the final exam.

When it comes to people, I am extremely territorial – this applies to friends, family and lovers. No, I will not put you on with my friend. Don’t talk about my family. Don’t be too comfortable around my man. I’m so protective of people that bring me joy that I immediately stir conflict when I perceive there to be a threat. I realize I’m still grappling with “owning” people, and the irony in having the desire for myself to roam freely. How irrational is it to expect people to be tied down to you, but you’re not tethered to them? I was up all night trying to understand this behavior and the root of it. I watched a Ted Talk a few months ago that talked about how humans should do more fear-based thinking to conquer our deepest fears. The speaker stated that we are often so debilitated by our fears we don’t dive deeper into what exactly makes us scared. The exercise the speaker asked the audience to do was to think about their biggest fear, then ask themselves why they’re scared of it, and then to ask themselves why they’re scared of that a few times over. Eventually you’ll realize the root of what it is you fear. e.g. often people fear not being successful when really their fear is not being able to be a good parent to their child.

I used this fear-based thinking framework to analyze my toxic behavior. What triggers my defense mechanism? What is my deepest fear? So, at first, I thought my biggest fear was being alone in the world, non-controlled or consensual isolation terrifies me. Then I peeled back another layer – So why do I fear being alone? Because it means nobody loves me enough to be present. Ok, so my fear is in not being loved. – So why do I fear not being loved? Because to me it means I am not valued, I am only convenient. – So why do I fear not being valued? Because I fear being forgotten, like my existence didn’t mean anything to anyone. Now, where do all these fears stem from? Seeing my Mamaiay struggle with mental illness and the debilitating impact being ostracized from the Habesha community had on her wellness. Should I see the day my Mamaiay passes, I’ll literally be all alone. I have no siblings, no partner, no kids, no close relatives, and my best friends are starting new chapters across the globe. I will no longer play a main role in anyone’s life, just a substitute. My trigger is feeling disposable, and my response is either over giving or overreacting. What I find upsetting about this realization is that it’s heavily rooted in ego. How dare I feel entitled to take up space when I am no longer present? – I am nothing but a visitor in the lives of others, and overall, I am but a visitor in this world. This feeling is as illogical as a guest coming into your home and requesting they leave their car parked in your garage indefinitely after they leave. Everything, and everyone has an expiration date. Impermanence is the only constant, and I’m grappling with that.

Nobody can get me upset, unless I love them. When I enter drama queen mode it’s stemming from “Hey, I really love you, but this happened that hurt me.” I’m working on my emotional maturity to be able to communicate this rather than lashing out. I’m triggered because I’m having trouble connecting with you. So, as cliché as it sounds I’m pushing you away when in reality I want to be pulled closer. I need help processing my feelings and communicating it – but it’s not a burden to place on anyone but myself. My tone and language come off as angry because it’s an easier emotion to convey and deal with, but really I’m just uncomfortable and upset.

This past weekend I was in ultimate beef mode for nooo reason. First, I misplaced my Passport the night a whole bunch of people were visiting from Seattle. I was distraught trying to find it but what made me the most upset was that I wanted to be included, and to kick it and make memories with these people. Not being able to locate my Passport pretty much threatened that experience for the whole weekend. In addition, I was losing shit all week so this was the cherry on top – like where the fuck is my self-awareness? When I was *drunk* processing my feelings I felt that nobody cared that I couldn’t participate in the club hopping (which wasn’t true) – it was that trigger of being forgotten or disposable. I realized my feelings were irrational and so I just locked myself in my room for the night and waited for the storm to pass. But I could not gather the words to properly communicate that in a manner that didn’t come off as abrasive. I process my thoughts better in writing than aloud.

My second happenstance was probably one of the top embarrassing moments of 2019. I picked a fight with my cousin because I felt she was too close to my guy-crush, who is her long-time friend (the audacity of me, I know). Drunk and toxic me are bffs. I literally felt myself burning up and I tried to calm myself down. I knew what I was feeling and thinking was completely irrational but I just can’t keep things in that bother me. I was upset that I was even upset because I knew there was nothing to be upset about in the first place. I’m not the most apt at communicating when I drink, I’m very brazen, and all that came out was “I’m beefin’ with you.” My emotions, logic and communication were all in conflict. When you’re not intentional with your communication you end up hurting others. I looked crazy and insecure, and made two friends feel uncomfortable. Losses all around. We had (drunk recollection) a conversation on entitlement and control and how my behavior was unacceptable. I agreed – I know I wasn’t right (logic) but I know how I feel (emotion) and I primarily act on my emotions. I was being irrationally territorial over a nigga that isn’t even mine, and I was perpetuating a sense of ownership in relationships I’ve been in and seen around me which is toxic.  The older I get, the more I reveal who I am to myself. I believe X but I’m acting like Y. Like how the fuck do you morph beliefs into behavior?

So, how do I process irrational feelings without obstructing everything and leaving a trail of destruction? I go home and think about it. I legit need 100% solitude and silence to fully analyze what I’m thinking and how I feel. Sometimes to the people around me it comes off as me throwing a tantrum but really, I’m just trying to think and reset. The process of being better, recognizing and undoing patterns is hard as fuck. Cheers to those that stick around during the process and hold you accountable along the way. Anyhow, I spent the remainder of the weekend apologizing profusely. One thing I do like about myself is that I’m not the prideful type that can’t admit when I’m wrong. I do, however, want to get to the point where I’m able to avoid reoccurring situations where I’m having to apologize in the first place. One of the double-edged swords about my personality is that I’m incredibly raw and I don’t operate within the walls of social cohesion. I’m not performative, you’ll see me in all my stages, good and bad. I just want to be more mindful of the bad stages, so I don’t cut those I love with my jagged edges. I wonder if this wisdom shit ever begins to kick in, because I feel like I’m only getting more foolish with time. Or, maybe, perhaps, self-awareness of one’s shortcomings is wisdom in itself.

Here are some affirmations I had to say to myself to realign:

  1. Nobody is responsible for my happiness – that is a duty only I can fulfill.
  2. I am not entitled to anyone’s attention, affection or time – I am grateful for those that choose to share these with me.
  3. Nothing lasts forever – including my presence, impact or memory.
  4. People are meant to be free – if they want to go, thank them for visiting and wish them well when they leave.

Note to Self: The sturdiest of elements take the longest to set. It takes concrete 28 days to fully cure; it takes 30 days to kiss or nick a habit. Who you’re striving to be, transcends the metaphysical and you might never achieve that in this lifetime and dimension. But, continue to build a better you – day by day, brick by brick.

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Treading Carefully

T

to-drown-in-hell-robert-margetts

66% of witness accounts state that when someone drowns, they were a strong swimmer.

 

When you’ve conquered the tide enough times

Nobody keeps a look out for you

Because you’ve already surpassed

What most could fathom

People seem to think courage, infallibility, and indestructibility are synonymous

But all it takes is one sweep of an unsuspecting wave

To pull you under.

 

Sometimes, I get tired of treadin’

My limbs go numb

I gasp for air

I lose sight of the shore

I fight myself:

Should I call out for a name?

Or just say a prayer?

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Safe

S

safe

After a long day of fighting the world,

I scurry home to:

Retract my claws

Shed my camouflage

File my teeth

Brush back my horns

Kick off my hooves

Recoil my tongue

Remove my shell.

I desire nothing but,

To be:

Naked

and

Defenseless

In your arms.

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