I think we at a all-time high
To get there, we run, we fly, we drive
Cause with my family we know we know where home is
And so instead of sendin' flowers, we the roses" - Kanye West
|Courtesy of Beauty Atlas Magazine http://www.beautyatlasmag.com/magazine/chicago|
I have never forgotten the events that took place on this night, four years ago. The memory hardly ever comes to me, except when I'm reminded of the anniversary or am in a situation that makes me paranoid. It was the only time in my life that anyone has pointed a gun at me and that I had to stare down the barrel of a gun.
It was just another hot, dark summer night on the southside of Houston, Texas. A dark tinted car drove towards a friend and I, as we talked by our cars, on the street outside of his house. As the car got closer, it slowed down and then stopped right in front of us. Since it was my friend’s neighborhood, he tried looking through the glass to see who it was. The rear passenger window rolled down and there was a guy in the backseat. He said “what's up” to my friend as if they’d known each other but my friend could not really make out who the guy was. In a matter of seconds, the guy pointed a gun at us. He pointed the gun towards my friend and told him to get on the ground, without any regards to me. My friend immediately dropped to the ground and I could see the fear in his eyes. He told the guy not to hurt him. The gunman told him to shut up and my friend obliged. He just laid on his belly with his hands raised, for what seemed like forever, but was probably only a few minutes. I just stood there. I was having an outer body experience and had no idea what to do. I was so shocked that we were in such a predicament. As I stood there frozen, the guys drove off. (At the time I did not know this but my friend, also in shock, just stayed on the ground.)
As best I could, I got into my car, that I had borrowed from a friend earlier that night. I closed the door, locked it, and attempted to stick the key into the ignition. Before I could do so, I looked up and the car that had driven away, was backing towards me. The gunman had gotten out of his car, ran towards my car, and looked on the ground frantically. (My friend at this point had hidden behind his truck, that was parked behind my car, once he saw them back up. So my assumption is that the gunman was looking for my friend. When he could not find him, he focused on me.) He pointed his gun towards me and demanded that I open the door. I calmly opened the door, the gunman shoved the gun right in face and demanded my purse. The gunman seemed more terrified than I did and in that moment I had just hoped that I would not startle him. So without hesitation, I reached down to the passenger side floor to grab my vintage Dooney & Bourke purse, with my wallet and new cellphone inside, and handed it to him. He took the purse, closed my door, and backed away to go back to his car, all while pointing his gun at me. At that point, I could not think of anything else, except the sense of relief that I felt that there was no longer a gun in my face. I sighed loudly with a sense of relief, but he came back. He opened my door, shoved the gun back into my face and demanded the keys to the car. After he took the keys, he closed my door, backed away to his car and they sped off into the night.
I stayed in the car for about ten minutes before I realized that my friend was trying to get my attention so that I could get out of the car. He tried to tell me that we needed to get back into the house before they came back. He thought that they would try to kidnap me. He felt like we should call the cops. All that he was saying to me literally went through one ear and out of the other. When I finally came to, about 10 minutes later, I went into panic mode. I had to figure out how to recover financially and how to break it to my friend, that had loaned me their car, that their key was stolen. I was so mentally undone.
The next morning, my numbness had worn off, so I had to deal with everything that I could not process just hours before. I had to deal with loved ones telling me what I should have done and what they would have done in my situation. (I tried to explain to them that I had never been prepared to be mugged nor did I think that something like that would ever happen to me.) I had to deal with being told that I was being way too emotional about what had happened to me. (I did not have the energy to explain to anyone that I had just experienced something very traumatic, so I did not try to explain it to them.) I had to deal with being told that I should not be weak in that moment and that I just needed to get past it. (Granted, I did have important things to take care of to get my life somewhat back on track but again, traumatic experience. And I was never a stranger to handling my business before the occurrence.) I had to deal with the emotions that I tried to bottle up, while I cried myself to sleep at night. I realized that more than anything, the experience left me hurt, confused, angry and vulnerable. I felt like I had lost the (little) control that I had over my life and my emotions.
That was actually the day that I began to gain control over my life and emotions. For so long before that moment, I did not know how to live. I was living out the plans that others had for me and four years ago I realized that I could have, in a major turn of events, lost my life or been seriously injured. From that moment on, I vowed to change. I wanted to leave behind a life that was all my own and not one that was “made” for me. I was done living a safe life. I wanted to take risks, make mistakes and learn from them. I no longer wanted to survive life but experience life. I forced myself, against my better judgement, to feel every single emotion that I tried to bottle up. I felt all of the emotions, uninhibited. The people around me could not understand but it was all apart of the process. I needed to feel the pain so that I could know how to contain it.
In the moment, I got myself into what seemed like could be bad situations. I found myself reconciling with people that I vowed to never speak to again. I had apologized for things that I did not really want to apologize for. It felt strange to be living in such a different space because I had since developed such a precious outlook on life. I know that I have done all that I could do to salvage those relationships that did not last. In other cases, it gave me the opportunity to cultivate relationships that could have just fallen by the wayside. I found myself forgiving people for things that I had previously not wanted to let go. I had found myself allowing people to be exactly who they were and not who I wanted them to be. I would no longer hold onto people that I knew I did not want around, because of our history. I wanted to grow past where I was and truly be the best version of myself and be able to require it from those around me.
I allowed myself from that moment on to fully experience life and all that it has to offer me. I vowed to live a life that I would be proud of. A life that I did not want to leave behind or better yet, a life that I would be proud to leave behind. I made myself go through the anger, I made myself go through the hurt, I made myself go through every bit of trauma that I did not really want to go through. It was the best thing that I could have ever done for myself. It started with small steps and led to bigger leaps. Before being mugged, I was afraid to get on a plane. I was afraid to make real moves. I stand before the world now a new person. I am a new and improved me.
Folks you'd better stop and think.
Everybody knows we're on the brink.
What will happen now that the King is dead? - Nina Simone, Why (The King of Love Is Dead)
It was the first day of Spring semester, and my first day of college. My 8am class had absolutely worn me out so I went back to my dorm to take a nap until my next class. Though I was the new girl on campus, I felt comfortable enough to leave my room unlocked, just as my roommate had. I had drifted into a nice slumber when the door flung open. I immediately jumped up and exchanged a confused stare with this guy, that I had never met before. Seconds later I broke the stare, and politely demanded an explanation. He revealed that he was looking for my roommate, and he made an awkward exit.
Later that night, while talking with my roommate, the same guy came back to formally introduce himself as Kenneth Love, but his friends called him Ahmad. He apologized to me for interrupting my nap and barging in on me. I had no hard feelings about it but I definitely questioned why my roommate was friends with him. I didn't understand the culture of those already in the dorm and certainly did not grasp who Ahmad was as a person yet. As he and I engaged in conversation that night, I became enveloped in his welcoming spirit. I was so comforted by his presence and his ability to make me feel like he and I had known each other since the beginning of time. That’s how everyone, I believed, found their way into Ahmad’s love.
One day while we were hanging out in my dorm room, he randomly expressed to me why he was apprehensive to develop a friendship with me when we first met. I thought that he was going to tell me that I looked crazy with a scarf on my head or that I looked like I hadn't slept all night. I was very unprepared when he revealed his disdain for seeing women in cornrows. I have never forgotten how much we laughed in that moment and how I could never find it in me to take offense. He had the innate ability to put anyone at ease with his authenticity of love. He understood how I could be insulted in that moment and when he saw the shock on my face, he tried to console me. It was shocking to me that he would say that because I had been wrestling inwardly with letting go of cornrows. I wasn't shocked by what he said, I was shocked that he said it. Though I appreciated his opinion, I didn't really care what he thought of my hairstyle choices. I valued his honesty and was overjoyed by the comfortability that he felt with me. In that moment, I knew that we would be great friends. Ahmad and I shared a lot of moments as friends and we shared a lot of love. Truthfully, he was the embodiment of love made in God's like image. He was like church because you could find solace in his arms. Ahmad was special. God spoke through him, as God did Martin Luther King, Jr. They were both sent to show us a new love and a new light. Their lights were dimmed far too soon, and we are left here amongst hate. We are left here to try as best we can, in our imperfection, to show that same love and provide that same light.
I had never experienced the impact of grief caused by the death of a close friend, so I had no idea what to expect when I lost Ahmad. No idea that I would have to deal with emotions that I'd likely have no control over. No idea that my memories of love lost would keep me up at night. No idea that nothing could prepare me for the emptiness and longing for one last time, for one last goodbye. No idea that murder left no room for closure but only room for speculation and recollection. The only thing I still carried was the knowledge that Ahmad was made in God's like image and carried church in the solace of his arms.
"What will happen now that the King is dead?"
A warning could not have prepared my heart for its ache. I didn’t know to look to Nina Simone for the answers. She had tried to give comfort in her song speaking of Martin Luther King Jr.’s plight, but I still had no knowledge of the responsibility that I'd be given to tell the story of love, so that the legacy lives on. I imagine in the wake of Martin Luther King Jr.'s untimely murder, the responsibility she'd felt to aid in reminding the world of what he'd left behind. I imagine Nina, a woman much like myself, not akin to loving in a way that made all feel deserving of it, feeling lost in wanting to fight fire with fire, hate with more hate. I imagine the world's feelings of defeat because a man that preached the value of loving one's neighbor, had succumbed to death by the hands of hatred, through a neighbor. I imagine their feelings of sorrow, hurt, anger and obligation to press through, because the world needed to see the value of a man sent to earth to love. I have felt all of those feelings as I have recalled the king that I had the pleasure of knowing. Ahmad was my King of Love and his legacy is not one unlike Martin Luther King Jr’s. He is most known for his ability to show unconditional love, especially in times where it seemed most unwarranted. It saddens me most to think that the same reason that I valued him, and most valued MLK, could be the same reason that others hated them.
In the wake of remembering Ahmad, I am forced to dig past the sorrow. I am forced to see past the violence that forcefully took his life. I have, for my own heart's sake, decided that I am not in need of closure. All I know of Ahmad’s death is that his life was taken in the heat of an argument. I know that there have been many speculations as to why his life was taken but none would ease my pain. Maybe years from now the truth will surface, as did in Martin Luther King's death. Until then, I am forced to move past the noise and recall the times that he made me forget my many problems. His love was just so overbearing that if ever he was around, there was no room for sadness or grief. If he ever sensed it from me, he would grab me and hug me back to happy. I imagined one of those hugs followed by his big, sloppy kisses on the cheek. He always had the ability to talk to me in a way that calmed me down and I appreciated his empathetic nature. I imagined the comfort that he'd try to offer to me in that moment, so I tried to extend the same to other friends that were mourning his death. I felt honored to honor him and fought my need to be angry. There were only a couple of times that I can recall being completely inconsolable and immune to Ahmad’s bear hugs. Those moments came about because there has always been a part of me that hated that he continued to love people that tried to humiliate and hurt him. I wanted so much for him to react or retaliate but he never did. I remember one day asking him why he felt the need to do so and I can not recall his exact words but I do remember that he had felt like it was his job to love them, so he could never stop. In that moment of recollection, I was reminded that Love was not only his name but who he was. I could not allow myself to be angry but I did wonder:
What will happen now that the King of Love is dead?
I, like Nina, know the answer to that question. Love lives on because the spirit of love can never die. The world will remember what the Kings taught us and try to follow in their footsteps. Knowing the answer to that question does not make the loss easier to deal with, it makes it harder. In a world where hate reigns supreme, it is hard for some individuals to recognize a being that embodies love and accept them. Some of us recognize and value that love so we hold it close, in hopes of it never leaving. As I walk through the earth, I will have to find Ahmad in what is still here. A fragrance may remind me of his hugs. A photograph may remind me of his smile. A kind gesture may remind me of his heavenly attributes. A song may remind me that I am still here and how he only lives in memories. When such an embodiment of love is forcefully taken away, we question and we recall. We recall their strength to love, despite other’s hatred toward them. We carry that with us and tell about it to all those who will listen. We write about it, so the future of history will never forget that love lives on.
I was drawn to revisit a poem, that I had written in 2014. At the time that I was writing the poem, I tried to feel what I was writing and make it feel real to the reader. It was almost impossible because I had never experienced losing anyone close to me.
I'm not sure if I'd have the ability to write it had I tried to write the same poem today. I'm experiencing the pain and I'm not completely sure how to put into words exactly what I feel. I've learned that that is fine. I've learned to feel on purpose. I've learned to be open with my loved ones about who they are to me and what they mean to me in my life.
Poem and description below.
So, I got the idea to write this poem from watching a movie. This is basically a eulogy to someone that I love. In the movie, the person wanted to attend their own funeral so he asked his closest friends to write a eulogy for him.
This is an honorable, yet unfathomable task to have to present these words today
It is both a privilege and a curse to have fell for and loved someone in this way
I have lived to tell of the greatest love story ever imagined between a woman and a king
But I have only left the memories of his perfection and his haunting in my dreams
My heart grieves incessantly, because never was I prepared to lose a light that shined so brightly in my life
My mind can't quite fathom how to lose so greatly, because never did we imagine that we might...
I can't really say enough about him...
His eyes lit up my sky and his laugh awakened my soul
He taught me that there was more to life and his absence left any room cold.
There's not enough that I can say...
His hands possesed magic that mended old wounds
His voice quaked my soul and from that we learned a new tune
He embodied hope, he was the prelude to my joy
I would have gladly drowned in his love and have it ballooned in my lungs
I found that home was in his heart and realized why any other place I've never belonged
I dove into his imperfections and vowed to deduce his pain
In turn, he kissed my tears with the same lips that always sang my name
My heart still skips beats for him...
I should pray to be relieved from this pain
But I won't, I don't think that I should
My love runs so deep, I'd be a fool if I would
Let him go
I could never forget how he read me so effortlessly
My manual was embedded in his being, and he swam every depth of me
I'd give the world just to see him, and have him here with me
But I won't be selfish
I have loved him for a thousand years, and I'll always have him in my heart
But for the life of me, I cannot fully comprehend why. I cannot comprehend that we have to be apart
"Instead of sending flowers, we're the roses" - Kanye West
"Who taught you how to hate yourself?"
Many times I have set boundaries with people and either one of two things happen; people respect the boundaries and change accordingly, or they don't. Sometimes, it's hard for me to accept that some people won't accept my new terms, because being who I am, I like to give one too many second chances. Since I recently had a birthday (why, thank you. I'm blessed to see another year.), I spent some time reflecting on the promises that I made to myself on my last birthday. I promised that I would only give another chance to those that wanted one. I am not now, nor have I ever been, responsible for making anyone change. Change is a personal choice. I've done it myself and seen many other make the decision to change. I've even witnessed a miracle of change. A change that, for as long as I could remember, I did not deem possible.
I'd often say that I would welcome a change, but was honestly not completely open to it, because I had no idea how the change would affect me. I'd lost hope for change, as there are generations of my family, that have passed down the inability to have a functional maternal bond. I'm a witness to the possibility of a choice. It is quite unbelievable at times to see how far we have come. I've received apologies and explanations that I thought I'd have to learn to live without. We've learned things about each other that soften our hearts with each passing day. My faith in a sense of family has been restored. I respect the choice that my mother made to do better and to be better. I also make the choice to not hold her to the same standard that I once did. The bar is set higher and my expectations have heightened. To witness someone so stubborn make a vow to change, gives me no doubt that it is possible for the others. I've heard more times than I can count that "people don't change" and I might have believed it. Knowing what I know now, my reply would be, "Well, why not?"
I know people that are absolutely set in their ways and show no signs of letting up. I know the signs to look for, as I've grown up with these people. I know people that find comfort in being the victim. I know people that find comfort in being the force that drains the energy out of the most positive beings. I've extended chances and had them stepped over. I have recognized their unwillingness to respect my space and removed myself from the toxicity. I don't mind looking like the bad guy to protect my peace. I have learned to always put myself first, but that's not to say that I cannot extend grace. If in the event that those individuals want to change, I will allow them to show me that they've changed. I won't, however, allow myself to be manipulated back into a relationship with them. Showing consistency takes a while, so true intentions will always come out eventually.
I'm happy to have reached such an unapologetic place in my thinking and way of living. In the past, I allowed others to pursuade me that I needed to do more work, while the other person drained me. Sometimes, I'd allow myself to be manipulated and get sucked back into the same vaccuum of negativity. I'm happy to say that at this point in life, I'm very stingy with chances, even for myself. I'm very strong in my convictions and can't be easily swayed. This allows me to focus on and cultivate the positive relationships that I do have. My love can never run thin.
"Unlearning is a part of the journey. Relearning is a part of the blessing" - Alex Elle