Shame & Gratitude

Shame is one of the most powerful weapons in this universe. It has the ability to shut people up, to close in on themselves, to fester in it, to think about those things over and over, and continue to feel that shame over and over again. After reading about the negative effects of shame in Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are,  I came to a sudden clarifying conclusion that quite honestly, overwhelmed me. Shame is something that controls many aspects of my life.

Shame thrives when it is not shared when it is hidden and closed off. There are a number things I can feel ashamed of, feel bad, but it is time that I take the first step to loving myself again, to sharing that shame so that it cannot survive. My actions and behavior have no doubt brought shame and guilt, but the power of forgiveness is infinite, and it takes courage to share that shame and ask for forgiveness. I will use this blog to continue to speak about the things in my life that I find gratitude in, but I will also share the things that keep me from getting out of bed, for fighting for things I believe him. This is not a how-to or a post that says “this is how I overcame it”. I am using this as a tool to resist, release, and transcend.

2016 has been a rough year. I have made more mistakes than I would care to count, I have hurt people unintentionally and well as intentionally. I have pushed down so much stress that it often feels like I am drowning, and it has caused me to direct my pain toward others who didn’t deserve it. This year has also brought pain, and injustice, in personal and societal ways that felt unfair. I often pray, but it felt like I was asking God “why?” rather than thanking them.

I try my best to be optimistic. But today, I cannot. Today, it feels impossible to look on the bright side. And, in remembering a book, called Just Mercy, I came across this quote:

“I am more than broken. In fact, there is a strength, a power even, in understanding brokenness, because embracing our brokenness creates a need and desire for mercy, and perhaps a corresponding need to show mercy”

Embracing my brokenness means that I am giving myself mercy, rather than continuing to punish. I cannot be good for others unless I am good to myself. I cannot heal unless I feel the pain associated. I cannot forgive myself until I acknowledge the mistakes I have made. I cannot stop being angry until I acknowledge that every person’s decision is not as a result of me.

Until then, embrace the brokenness.

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“You Are My Person”

It’s difficult to begin a blog post with Grey’s Anatomy, my least favorite show, but the quote, spoken by Christina Yang, is the greatest way to describe a particular person in only four words.

What does it mean to be someone’s person?

Steven Anthony Vigil-Roach and I have known each other for over 7 years at this point, and been friends for about 6 (he claims to have been friends with me before but I don’t recall), and my person before I was even aware of it.

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I am convinced that God has connected our souls. When he is upset, I feel it in my heart, even 1,000+ miles away. Even when we don’t talk for days, a text or a call from him brings me a sense of calm, a sense of peace, realization…I am often not aware that I needed to hear his voice before it happens. He is my piece of home, reminder of the things that bring me happiness, but also remind me that I am not missing much (family drama never truly disappears, even thousands of miles away).

He is the embodiment of strength, facing adversity in aspects I will never understand, and taught me the importance of allyship, of solidarity. It may not be the same struggle, but struggle nonetheless.

He is my anger when I feel calm, my calm when I feel anger. He understands, a trait that many believe they possess but are usually wrong. And when he doesn’t, he is honest, but ensures that he can learn to understand.

I could go on and on about Steven, but there is one instance I recall that consistently reminds me of the gratitude I feel knowing he is in my life. In my second semester of my first year of Loyola, I experienced many moments of trauma that I felt I could not heal from. I was ready to transfer, to drop out and “figure it all out later”.

I walked into my building, and there he was, standing there, his face asking “where have you been?” Every fear, every ounce of sadness, was drained in that very moment. Only God could interfere in an instance such as that. In a way, I should thank God too, for allowing us to be so aware of each other in a way I am with very, very few people.

Not often do we meet people whose mere presence is a comfort. His greatest sin is that he is too good of a listener. He has the ability to heal my emotional wounds that I thought could never heal, and remind me of the strength I possess to keep going, to keep trucking along.

Thanks for being my person. I can’t wait to grow old with you and bitch about our husbands over red wine.

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This post is not an act of gratitude. I am not feeling grateful, having trouble feeling a sense of gratefulness, a sense of pride for this country.

In a little under two days, I watched a statistic become a physical entity. On average, a Black man is murdered every 28 hours. In a little under two days, I was forced to watch Alton Sterling and Philando Castile die on a computer screen. I watched them be murdered by the very people I have grown up believing they would protect me. In cold blood. Like a circus act, or a scene out of the Hunger Games. I stared at post after post of videos of men face down and face up, blood drenching their shirts, eyes blank, with captions like “so horrible” and “#AltonSterling”. And in Alton Sterling, I saw Romell. I saw my Dad, my cousins, my uncles, friends. And I felt confused. How am I not safe? How is my family not safe?

Black and Brown bodies. Their deaths on display because Americans love a good shock. Executions used as supplementary evidence on CNN, displayed over and over. Americans stare blankly, mumble “that is so horrible” or “well he DID have a gun”, and flip the channel to Modern Family.

I wish I could say that these deaths make me want to fight back, but I can’t grieve fast enough to make a plan of action. I can’t attend a protest for Philando Castile if I am still in utter shock over Alton Sterling. I’m forced to read their last words next to a hashtag, another name to put on a shirt, but it doesn’t matter how much I shout and scream #BlackLivesMatter, they will keep killing us.

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I feel tired. I’m tired of feeling like a trending topic. I’m tired of allies, both White AND Non-Black, comment on how “terrible” this situation is. I’m tired of hearing from friends and colleagues who mention angrily that there is still someone in their lives who shouts #AllLivesMatter. I’m tired of feeling frightened every time my partner glares at police officers because they could take it the wrong way and he will be next. I’m tired of waiting for the next hashtag so people can ask, “oh, BLM movement is still happening?” I’m tired, and my heart hurts.

And with that exhaustion comes shame. The “allies” that I critique share the same characteristics as me. I am not vocal for those in Iraq, Syria, Medina. My Facebook shares are my only acts of resistance. We all are guilty of purposefully reducing human dignity and human life to a photo share. Trending topics don’t stop ISIS from bombing the 2nd holiest site to Muslims and don’t stop the media from calling it Radical Islam. I still can’t breathe. I can no longer keep my hands up. When will our world be given time to heal? Will we always be subjected to this violence?

My action will be self-care. Prayer. I cannot advocate for myself if I am surrounded by the very images drowning me. I must surround myself with people who care for me, support me, and remind me that the world is not filled with people who believe they have the power to determine who can stay and live on this Earth. I will ignore those that tell me “not all cops are bad” and “not all White people are racist”. I will heal from these public executions, because my life depends on it.

See below for ways you can participate in self-care during this time:

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Challenging Love

There is not much I can say about Romell that won’t seem super cheesy, as well as extremely personal, and I usually strive to keep my relationship private,  but this post serves as a platform for all the things I say in my journal but hardly to you, Romell, and I admit, I should say them more.

I often joke with Romell that the Universe was trying to tell us something when he put us both on the trajectory to meet each other. We are completely opposite people with completely different paths, so I can only thank the universe for deciding that we needed to be in each others’ lives in some way. We both have some of the strongest personalities that are often hard to miss. We come from different backgrounds. We don’t even like the same foods. Our first interaction wasn’t smooth; I yelled at him over politics and vowed never to speak to him again. And here we are, just over two years later…I never thought that I would ever get here, and yet I now can’t imagine my life without you in it, Ro.

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Romell, you are the most selfless person I’ve met. You’d give your shoes to a stranger if they needed them. And you have used that selflessness on me and on our relationship. Even when I felt like I didn’t deserve it, you made sure that I knew I was worth it, deserving of that love and generosity (and let’s be honest, sometimes I really don’t deserve it). You never stop pushing me, and I will never stop pushing you. You are so hard-working — one of the hardest working people I know, and your determination to fulfill each and every one of your goals, as well as the patience to fully achieve those goals is inspiring. That commitment is in yourself, but in our relationship too. You possess the potential to become an even greater version of yourself, and it has been a gift to watch you discover it, as well as begin to embrace it. Even in those moments of insecurity, of uncertainty, I see a light in you that has been present since I met you, and serves as a reminder of why I love you.

As my partner, you are my #1 support. You have an innate ability to make me feel like the most treasured person on this Earth, whether that is rubbing my back when I’m sick to making me laugh uncontrollably when I am feeling sad. Even when you don’t have the right words to say, you make me feel better in other ways, in ways I never thought would work. You challenge me to understand love not as self-sacrificing, but as a team effort. You taught me compromise, and patience, and you taught me how to not only understand those who think differently than me, but to accept it. You are a physical depiction of my opposite, and that is what makes us so strong. You challenge me physically, emotionally, and mentally, questioning my every belief, my every habit. That cannot be replaced.

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In a way, love can be selfish, and this letter of gratitude has definitely proved it: The things that you do for me and the way that you have affected me are significant. However, what has been most surprising, and yet challenging, is my growing ability to be selfless for you. You have made me a kinder, softer person. You have made me realize that I don’t have to do everything by myself, that it is okay to ask for help, to ask for time to take self-care. You remind me that having fun is OKAY, that I don’t always have to take life so seriously and work all the time. You have challenged my concept of love and what that means for you. You challenge me. And I will forever be thankful for that.

There is so much more I have to be grateful for when it comes to you, but I’ll keep this short. I love you so much Romell and can’t wait to see where our next journey takes us (Loyola!). I am so grateful to be your crazy partner in this crazy world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5,280 feet

Day 2! This day serves as a letter to my beautiful home, Denver, Colorado.

Dear Colorado,

You may seem like a strange place to represent, but I am forever grateful to call Denver, Colorado my home. When I tell people of you, they often mention skiing, or legalizing weed, but there is so much more to you. I think of our small, but high skyline that seems to touch the always blue sky, or the beautiful, dense, Rocky Mountains, which hide away memories of my childhood.

Every happy memory that has kept me focused and grounded in the beautiful state of Illinois is a product of Colorado living. Chicago is a bustling, diverse city, with unlimited amounts of things to do on any given day. But nothing beats you, Colorado, with miles of lush, green forest, and high, rushing rivers with children diving headfirst. In many ways, Colorado is a branch of a simpler life. As a child, it pushed me to look for “bigger” things, but it now serves as a reminder of balance: I can seek ambition while also focus on my self-care and happiness. Colorado is a consistent reminder of that. And, as cliché as it might sound, I have never felt more of God’s presence than when I am overlooking what seems like thousands of miles of country, so high that one step will send you crashing back to Earth. You lift your arms and feel like you can squeeze a cloud, feel the heat of the sun. I’ve never been anywhere else that evokes the same feeling.

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La Loma, one of my favorite restaurants.

And for anyone who knows me, they know that food is a prominent facet of my life and is a true representation of my mood and my personality. No one can do Mexican food like Colorado. It’s spicy, flavorful, and the restaurants have been around for ages. Waiters and owners remember my face from when I was a baby. From the chilaquiles to the enchiladas with mounds of cheese and chili…sorry Chicago. No one does Mexican food like Colorado.

Colorado has gifted me with people I treasure most in this world. Though I have made great memories and friends here in Chicago, nothing replaces the people back at home. They are there for late-night phone calls, for every cry of homesickness, and as a reminder that they will all be there when I get back. Most of my family is there as well, and knowing that I always have a place to go is a comforting reminder.

Shout out to the 303!

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Featured Photo Courtesy of http://www.socialventurepartners.org/denver/

30 Days of Gratitude

For the month of July, I will be challenged. I honestly have trouble being grateful for the simple things in my life. I often stress and worry without thinking about the things I do have. While some of my daily struggles are justified, I really want to add more positivity in my life.

DAY 1. First day goes out to the OG. Mama.

My mom is quite literally, the strongest, most humble, most giving human I may know. One of them, at least. From giving me life, to giving me knowledge, she has always been my guardian angel, whether I knew it or not. These are the reasons why I love her:

  • She educates me.

For years, my mom sent my sister and I volumes of books that I had no interest in reading. From Borderlands to Life of a Slave Girlshe was determined to make sure I was as educated as possible, and not through the lessons taught in school, but in the lessons I would never hear about: slavery, systematic oppression, colorism, police brutality. Before I had a name for these issues, I had an awareness for them, and I can only thank my mom for that.

In my mom’s house, she has a book for every thought I have ever had. Whether I have wondered about spirituality in business, or Sikh women and relationships…there is a book, and she has read it. Every statement I make is a learning tool for my mom, a way to challenge me, to think critically, to understand the deeper meaning behind each of my actions and the power behind each of my words. No other woman has done that for me.

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  • She taught me forgiveness.

Since I began to live with my maternal grandparents at age 5, I have always battled with severe abandonment issues and anger issues, wondering why my mom and dad did the things they did. It took me years to understand and truly come to terms with those circumstances, and my mom continued to love me unconditionally despite every dramatic moment of angst. She never retaliated when I said mean things, when I told her she was not my mother…not once. She continued to state her love for me even when I was sure it did not exist. That moment alone made me realize that forgiveness is not about the other person…but for yourself. And forgiving my Mom for things she could not control was the greatest thing I could do for myself.

  • She gave me great genes.

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All seriousness aside, HOW HOT IS MY MOM?

  • She taught me the importance of knowing where I came from.

My Mom practices Yoruba, a following of faith that ties back to Africa prior to the slave trade in the 1700s. When first hearing about this years ago, I really thought my mom was crazy. But learning about these things through her eyes has helped me understand that while I may not practice Yoruba, it is important to know where I came from in order to determine my future. My surname is Honor, a name an ancestor took after slavery that exemplified their hard work and resilience. The name fits well with the family. I come from a long line of strong, independent, and resilient women who have sacrificed their lives for their family, their partners, and their Earth, to be better and so others could have better lives. That sacrifice lives within me. I would not be the same without it.

  • She keeps me grounded.

This woman knows every spell in the book when it comes to feeding the mind, body, and spirit. She makes the greatest food, that practically steams with love and affection. She knows every elixir (no matter how gross) that will nourish my body ravaging after a sickness. She has used an avocado to make my hair feel like a baby’s bottom. She fills my head with the women of my past, present, and future, to inspire me, to challenge me, and to allow me to reflect on my purpose here in life.

Thank you, Mama, for all that you have given and continue to give me.

Toni Morrison & Colorism

Have you listened to the most recent interview with Toni Morrison on NPR? If not, PLEASE look. The link is at the bottom of this post.

Toni Morrison is one of my favorite authors, and I’ve only read one novel of hers, Beloved. She is a woman that is EXTREMELY important, not only in literature, but for African-American women everywhere. Her new book, God Help the Child, is a topic that I have only recently delved into but has left me drowning.

Growing up, I lived with my grandparents, my sister, and my dog, in Conifer, Colorado, a small little town up in the mountains. I later moved to Lakewood, a larger suburb about 15 minutes from Denver. My grandmother is mixed, and my grandpa (not biologically), is white.

We are a happy little mixed family, and just like Toni Morrison, I felt like the whole world was like my world: a world where race didn’t seem to matter, everyone was nice, and all families were as diverse as mine. My great grandmother made greens and enchiladas for every holiday; we had cookouts with ribs and bbq.

The Fam (minus my sister)

 

Sure, I had some race encounters in high school, but they were easily squashed by my grandma’s kind words and my grandpa’s defiant tone, telling me that those people never mattered in the first place if they feel the need to comment on who you are.

When I arrived at Loyola University Chicago in the fall of 2013, I was so excited to sign up for our Black Cultural Center (our student union) and meet other African-Americans who shared the same passion as I did. The first day, after speaking my mind at a meeting (about something that felt so insignificant), a person turned to me and said, “You are so lightskinned.”

I can honestly say that I had no clue what they were talking about. I had never been called “light-skinned” in my life, but I had heard the term before: my grandma would often tell my sister and I stories of not feeling black or white enough for any aspect of society, and the lack of acceptance she often felt. She strived to remove any feeling of that sort in my childhood.

After the meeting, I remember calling my grandma crying, not understanding why I didn’t fit in with a group of students I identified with. As a kid, I wasn’t black enough – I didn’t know stereotypical racist elements like gang signs, the newest rap music –  and now I’m too light-skinned, not light enough, talk white.

And though I felt objectified for the color of my skin, I know that this is a rare moment, that most often, the target of abuse is directed toward my beautiful, darker-skinned sisters. My mixed-race identity has given me an automatic pass in life at times: I am immediately considered attractive, exotic, etc. As a kid, I had family members that were darker and lighter, and I admired the beauty in every single one of them. But, as in the case with most things, society does not see them in that way.

Colorism is a problem in our society that is often never mentioned. Racism is discussed in the traditional sense, but the nuances are not there to tell the real story.

Toni Morrison’s new book provides a deep reflection of what it means to be ostracized because you are darker. It provides another layer to the problem of being black itself, and it is a continual problem that we must address.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Links:

http://www.npr.org/2015/04/20/400394947/i-regret-everything-toni-morrison-looks-back-on-her-personal-life?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=20150420