The first thing I remember wanting to be, was white. Not because I was told my brown sugar wasn’t sweet but because bitterness was implied by subtle undertones and sideways glances-- rooted deep in the human psyche. There was a growing in my mind. That growing was rooted in lack. It chanted and chanted you are not enough, and I believed it.
My Mother left my Father after he told her he would kill her. She had stayed through the beatings to keep her family together. I’ve grown up rather numb to the extremes yet quite sensitive to small infractions. Like feeling nothing when called out of my name but crying uncontrollably when losing at a game of Chinese Checkers. What makes a man beat his wife in front of his children and then deny it?
When she left she didn’t take much just my sister, myself, and all that fit in the car. You never know all you have until you don’t have it anymore. Mommy drove from Wichita, Ks to Miami, Fl. The year was 95. We lived in a room at my uncle’s house until he told us we couldn’t stay with him anymore. Things were different between Kansas and Miami. I wasn’t sure whether I should say soda, pop, or soda pop. I settled on soda. My Mother was working, my sister was too young, and I was just drifting, drifting like a weed in the wind.
In school, the teasing was the worst. I wasn’t so sure what was different about me. I thought I looked the same, talked the same, was the same. I would let the alphas copy my work; they were nice to me when I let them copy my work. I would come to school the next day expecting us to still be friends but overnight things had changed. Until they needed to copy my work again, I, of course, obliged them.
My Father showed up January 1 of the new millennium, and said he wanted to take my sister and I to lunch. My sister went; I didn’t. I didn’t want to go. I didn’t trust him. We didn’t see her for six months after that. I don’t remember much from that time but the sadness in the house was palpable. Each breath thick with regret. I missed my sister. If only I had gone to that lunch, she would not have been taken.
I hated my life. More specifically, I hated me. Why hadn’t I been born someone else? Everyone on TV had a Dad. Everyone.
Lack heated to perfection begat envy. Like the way whatever you consume too much of comes out of your pores, envy was oozing out of mine. When I was old enough to work, I filled my life with all the things that would make me better: purses, clothing, shoes, jewelry.
More. More became the singular chanting of my American heart, American dream, Americanism. There was nothing I cared more for than love, money, and my love of the things money could buy. I prayed and asked God to give me the means to pursue myself.
I buried my Fathers rejection under things bought from a store, acquiesced to the flesh, and projected hallow sway.
I’d come so far only to find it was in the wrong direction.
In my teens I had no idea, and I believed my twenties would be filled with answers, but all I found were more questions.
Floating through life, waiting for that moment of understanding to come.
Does the Lord ever answer the why? Why is he always so quiet?
I wonder, what does God see when He looks at me? Does he smile? Does he frown? Or, does he just stare?
Who do I have to be to be loved? What do I have to do to be accepted? Where do I go to find myself?
I land on a piece of solid ground and decide to give up. I tried. I fought the fight I ran the race. I did all I knew how and did it some more. I climbed, I jumped, I bent, I skipped, I wrote, I begged, I fell, but in the end an illusion was all it was: Control.
I look at the life I have imagined for myself, black ink spilled on white paper. I crease the note and crease it again. I walk to my Father, standing on my knees and give it to him. He takes it, thanks me, kisses me on the forehead and tells me he has been waiting, he is happy I am here.
He holds out his hand for me to take, and I do. When I do, I feel it. The darkness, the burden, the deception being stripped away the responsibility of controlling my destiny, the encumbrance of dominion over myself.
I am free. That freedom I found in giving up.
I am who I am, and I am happy. I am not who I am not, and am still happy. – With apologies to Rupi Kaur