Dead Beauty

On the wall, facing my bed was movie poster sized picture of Marilyn Monroe.

A beautiful sad, dead woman.

Every morning, I awakened, sat up in my bed, and looked into the face of a beautiful, sad, dead woman.

I started my day.

One morning, I awaked, sat up in my bed, and looked into the face of a beautiful, sad, dead woman, and I no longer wanted to start my day with her.

I removed her from my bedroom, and from my home.

The next morning, I awakened, I sat up in my bed, turned to my mirror, and looked into the face of a beautiful, vibrant, alive woman.

I started my day.

I Choose to be Chosen

During a recent message, my pastor told the church that in order to start healing, we had to go back to the origin of the pain. I thought my point of origin was when my mother left my brothers and I, and moved to Washington, DC. I thought that was when I was abandoned; but that’s not true.  I tried to feel the angst that should have come with the thought, but it wasn’t there. Instead I found the real hurt of abandonment happened with my mother right there in the house with me.

One summer evening, when I was about 7 or 8, my brothers and I were outside playing with the children of one of my mother’s friends. Somehow I fell, and cut my knee pretty badly; it required 9 stitches. I still have the scar. When it came time to have the stitches removed, I was fine, until, the nurse picked up the surgical scissors; she held them in her grip as though she meant to stab, not cut. The fear in my life was unspeakable. I refused to allow the procedure to take place. I fought with everything in me not to be stabbed by this deranged looking nurse. My uncle was a college football player, and he was called in the room to lie across my chest, in an effort to keep me still. I remember lifting him up off of me. I believe I had the strength of someone on PCP.  When it was all over, the nurse was a sweaty pulp, my uncle was out of breath, and I was very angry. When we went through the waiting room, little children were crying, being held by their mothers, their mothers looked afraid, as well. My mother, my uncle, nor I spoke of what we had just experienced.

When we got home, I remember asking my mother for some juice. She didn’t respond. I didn’t understand her not responding, so I repeated the request, a couple of times. My mother did not speak to me for two weeks. She spoke to my cousin, who lived with us; and she spoke to my brothers. My mother did not speak to me. That was my first encounter with rejection, abandonment and fear. I was a little girl who lived in the house with a mother who did not speak to her, ignored. I feel pain all over again, right now.

As the years went by, the feeling of rejection and abandonment would be all too familiar. I was a kid, I was messing up all the time, no matter how hard I tried not to. Many times, I didn’t mess up, I was just contrary to my mother’s way of thinking. We were never on the same page, so anything opposing her was a reason to be shut out of her world. As I grew, I would walk on eggshells, trying not to say the wrong thing, not to do the wrong thing, nothing that would cause my mother to go silent and ignore me. No longer was it just a couple of weeks, it had moved into a couple of months.

When I became pregnant with my oldest child, I told her through a letter, because she was not speaking  to me. At 20 years old, I chose to go to the Superfest in Pasadena, to see Stevie Wonder, and not church. After my mother threatened to have me institutionalized for defying her, she shut down. That was through spring, in the summer I informed her that I was pregnant and she would not make me have another abortion (she took charge of my life and I had one, the previous year), if she wanted me to leave, I would. She spoke to me through written commands, finally using her vocal chords when she decided to give me a baby shower.

Throughout my marriage, there were many, many hard days. One reason, because I was being physically abused by my husband. Another, was because I was abandoned by mother. Physically abused by him and emotionally abused by them both. I had no friends, nothing. I was trying to survive in hell with two small children. It was no wonder I had not lost my mind. But thank God I didn’t!

As my children grew (I now had three), I didn’t know how to protect them from my mother’s anger. I never learned to protect myself. Because our household was different; there was nothing my kids could do to make me ignore them; they didn’t understand why I didn’t protect them, and my girls suffered worse than my son. Yet, my mother had no respect of person, so whenever she wasn’t speaking to my kids, she wouldn’t speak to me. When she wasn’t speaking to me, she wouldn’t speak to my kids. As my girls became mothers, they learned to stand on their own, and protect not only their children, but their nieces and nephews, as well. They tried to protect me, but I would not let them, in some sick way trying to not have them incur wrath on my behalf. They learned to speak up for everyone, and I cheered them on, but I did not know how to speak for myself. Whenever I would venture to protect my grandchildren, it became “you and your kids…” and she would shut out all 3 generations. Since anything could set her off, at any given time, I learned to exist on fragile ground.

When my mother told me she was moving in with me, I had been completely alone and loving it for only 2 years. All three of my children were married, living in their own homes, raising their own children and tragedy struck me. I didn’t know how to say “no” to my mother, and she had never learned to ask permission for anything. So years later, my mother is still living in my home.

During the past 6 years, there have been many instances of her abandonment. Although now, I no longer try to get her to speak to me; I have learned to go on my merry way. Yet the pain, although not acknowledged, still existed. I learned that the fear of abandonment, had worked its way into my friendships with women and relationships with men. I couldn’t understand what it was about me that others found it so easy to dismiss me. Why would they make plans with me, and then not follow through? Why was I not worthy of a phone call, or an explanation? Why did I remember their birthdays, yet mine was so easily forgotten? I wanted so badly to be wanted, that I allowed myself to be used and ignored by people that I really didn’t want to be with. I just didn’t want them to reject me!

As I explore this cavern, I understand the origin. I have gone back to the source of the pain. I have forgiven the behavior of a frightened little girl. I have given her the juice that she requested, so many years ago. I have held her in my arms, and told her that I am so sorry, that she was scared, but she was never alone. I have taken that little girl and placed her in the open arms of Jesus. He cradles her with love and whispers in her ear. She belongs to Him, He will always protect her. No one will ever again lie across her chest and try to pin her down. It’s all over. I am not rejected, I am chosen. I am not abandoned; but in the midst of angels encampeth around me.

I have never been the cause of my mother’s pain; I don’t know the source of her anger. I am good with that knowledge. There are holes in my past that will never be filled; things I will never know or understand. I don’t know how much time I have left with my mother; either of us can go any day. But if I am the one left standing, I want to remember my mother in happy way. Good morning, Heartache, pack your bags! Good bye Fear, hello Faith! There are things that I cannot change, but God is a God of evolution, and through Him, I am evolving into a bigger, better, stronger, chosen woman.

Ripping Off the Band-Aid

NeshephahAs a little girl, I didn’t fall too much. I didn’t have scrapes and minor cuts, those things that caused me to sing “I am stuck on band-aid brand, cause band-aid’s stuck on me.” Although I loved to sing the commercial, I had little use of the product. I do remember when the “ouchless” band-aid was revealed to the world. You know the kind, the adhesive doesn’t stick to the hair on your skin, so removal is easier, and the band-aid doesn’t have to be ripped off. Well, I have wounds, but the band-aid isn’t needed for the skin. It’s needed for the heart. The brand name I chose was “Neshephah” (Nay-shay-fah).

I had a friend, Nate, who studied the Hebrew language. He told me the name “Dawn” translated in Hebrew is “Nesheph”, meaning “dawning of the day”, or “morning twilight”. “Nesheph” is a masculine name, adding “ah” at the end makes it feminine. Hence, “Neshephah”. Nate would call me by this name, and I would use his Hebrew name.

At the time, I was dating a bass player who looked amazingly like the actor Tommy Ford, or “Tommy Strong” on the TV show, “Martin”.  This working bass player was too broke to have a free email account, so I allowed him to have one of my AOL email accounts. Well, he proceeded to date other women by hooking up through my AOL account. He was also over 35, had no car, and still lived at home with his mother. This was the kind of man I attracted over and over again. I continued to give of myself, to compromise myself, to allow myself to be taken advantage of over and over again. How many times can the same thing happen before one questions their part in it?

One evening I sat at my computer and wrote something, I don’t remember what. I signed it “Neshephah”. I thought that would be a cool pseudonym for my writings. Then, I thought that it would be a cool name for me. In May of 2001, at the same time of breaking it off with the bass player, Neshephah was born.  The first thing I did was tell my children to no longer introduce me as their mother, “Dawn”, but their mother “Neshephah”. I did the same for my friends and church family. I would start a job as “Dawn”, but be introduced as “Neshephah” on the first day. It worked out well, there were those who asked if using “Dawn” was okay; and there were those who had a hard time remembering my new name. I was particularly tickled when the older members of my church would use my new name. It made me love them, just that much more. The only person who made fun of my name was my mother. I was “Nefertiti”, “Aphrodite”, “Nefertility” and the like. One summer my aunt visited from Atlanta. All three of her children had changed their names and she referred to them by the new name. I asked her if it was hard to do that, because I had a hard time with my own mother. She looked shocked and said, “Absolutely not! It’s a matter of respect!” My turn to be shocked. Why did I have to demand respect? Why did I find it so hard to demand respect?

Now “Neshephah” needed a personality. She could not be like “Dawn”. She would not be a victim of abandonment, molestation, spousal abuse, or low self-esteem. She would stand at her full 5’7″, which has diminished to 5’6″. She would wear her hair differently. She would dress differently. She would speak of herself differently. She would think of herself differently. This would all take some work, but I set about it. It absolutely helped that my daughter was and is an A-1 hairstylist, so that was first thing I tried. I went into natural hairstyles, and my friends would comment: “That looks like a ‘Neshephah’!” I sought brighter colors in clothing, and stopped wearing colored contacts. I opted for interesting shapes in sun glasses. All the things outwardly that I wouldn’t allow myself to do before, I did. Inwardly, I took the time to tell myself how beautiful I actually am. I didn’t say it in passing. I would stand in the mirror and say something like, “wow, you are beautiful.” I would mean it from the inside to the outside. This helped me to stop looking for validation from others. Most of the time, it didn’t come anyway, and half of the time, it wasn’t sincere. I took a big leap of faith, and quit my job. I stopped driving an hour and half to work and 2 to 3 hours home from work. I increased my annual pay over $10,000 in less than 6 months.

I started dating someone that I really cared about, but this time, I let him show me first. Steve Harvey hadn’t written his book telling women that a man should “profess, provide and protect”, but I knew these were important factors for me. I had never required them as “Dawn”, but as “Neshephah” it was a requirement. This guy didn’t have much, but it felt like he gave me everything he had. Then it was over, no muss, no fuss. He decided to move back to Chicago. I knew then that he didn’t give me everything. So I shut it down. Clink-Clink!

That was February of 2004. I told God that I didn’t want it anymore, no more dates, no more heartache, heartbreak, nothing. If he wasn’t my husband, don’t let him come near me. I wanted to focus on being a grandmother; I wanted to live single without worry of whom I date or if I married; I wanted more of God. God should have always been my first priority, but He wasn’t.

During the past ten years, I have learned so much about God and myself. I can’t say how many times I’ve been laid off, yet never evicted. Had no money, but never hungry. Couldn’t walk, but never fell down. Endured horrible pain and agony, but never lost my smile. According to my doctor, I should not be able to walk on my treadmill, but I run on it (when I use it). I am left with chronic nerve damage in my leg, but I don’t limp. I have greater knowledge of God’s Word and know first-hand how He loves me. I have a testimony that I can’t keep to myself. I awake daily with a song of praise rolling around in my head.

So here we are, and it’s May again. Thirteen years have passed. My pastor delivered a message in his “Wounded Healers” series, it was entitled “Replacing My Labels”. I thought what perfect timing, because God has been dealing with me about “Neshephah”. I was starting to feel uncomfortable being called that name. I told one of my friends that I felt like Dawn and Neshephah were becoming one. When pastor called for those to come to the altar, those who were ready to drop the labels that they were carrying, I was one of the first to go. As I stood there praying, I doubled over and a knot formed in my stomach, I tried to stand but was hit with a powerful knot in my back which caused me to bend, again. I came out of my prayer concerned that I couldn’t move. Then I heard it, “Neshephah, no more.” See, sometimes God has to immobilize us so we can clearly hear Him. I began to cry because I truly felt emptied. No more guilt of what I had done, or hadn’t done based on someone else’s opinion or label of me. Not a victim of anything, but a victor over everything!

I have been feeling Dawn getting stronger. This band-aid “Neshephah” , is starting to irritate me, because the wound is healing. It’s not even a wound anymore, just a little sore. It needs some air, it needs some sun, it’s ready to become a part of the body and not an isolated spot that needs nursing. It’s time to rip off the band-aid.

Pity Party

Hey girl, what’s up with you?
Sittin’ there lookin’ sorrowful
Life ain’t bad unless you make it
Stand up and smile!

Ain’t no pity party here.

You say you wanna’ look pretty
But you don’t like lace.
You ain’t gotta be frilly,
Put some make-up on your face.

Car broke in your garage?
Hate going out alone?
You don’t need no entourage
Just get you some backbone.

Looka’ here girl, so you ain’t got a man
Check yourself, are you doing all you can?
You don’t want him, if he ain’t tall, handsome and lean
Look in the mirror: you ain’t no beauty queen.

What do you call yourself
Plump, heavy or overweight?
It really don’t matter,
‘Cause they all mean fat.

And fat don’t leave with the help of Corn Flakes.
You got to do something else, girl.
Do whatever it takes.

Look baby, I gotta’ go
And with this note of cheer,
Be thankful God granted you life,
‘Cause ain’t no pity party, here.

Have you ever had one of those days when everything was “one time too many”? This was one of those days. I didn’t feel pretty; my Datsun B210 broke down, again; some guy (whose name I don’t remember) and I broke up; and I thought I was all alone, believing no one’s life was like mine, again.

While I was looking in the mirror, those words came to mind. I wrote them, and immediately felt better. I didn’t look any different, my car was still not working, and my weight didn’t change. “Be thankful God granted you life” changed my mindset. I had been through many challenges by 1988. At 26 years old, I had lived with an abusive drug addict for 3 years; bore 3 children; and had been sick unto death with toxins running through my body, needing 5 blood transfusions. Oh, I forgot, homeless. But God granted me life. The song says: “when nothing else could help, Love lifted me.”

Yes, I was feeling sorry for myself that day, but it was minor compared to what I had already experienced in my life. I was healthy again, working again, smiling again, and far away from any abuse. I was going to church and had a fellowship within the young women there. God had granted me life. I got up, got my children and myself together. They went to school and I went to the bus stop. I was smiling, still without make-up, ’cause I never believed I needed it.

We are not broken vessels.

My Little Girl, Me

My little girl, Me, was full of innocence and wonder
As all little girls should be.

But you came, and you touched, prodded, poked, invaded and violated
And you stole my little girl, Me.

My little girl, Me, wore little girl dresses and little girl shoes
My little girl, Me, wore little girl bows, in her little girl hair.

You took my little girl, Me, treated her like a woman
And you stole my little girl, Me.

My little girl Me, plays with other children,
But she teaches them the games you taught my little girl, Me.

My little girl, Me, doesn’t play with “these children”.
Her playmate is a grown man
Not a strange thing for my little girl, Me.

My little girl, Me, is a young woman, now
She wears baggy clothes and calls herself “gay”,
She’s never touched a woman,
She’s so afraid of men,
She’s a woman-child lost.
Crying for my little girl, Me.

My little girl, Me, is grown now.
She has a husband, but finds it difficult to physically love him.
She cries for my little girl, Me.

My little girl, Me, is an adult, now.
Finally aware of memories repressed.
Knowing the beast inside of one so kind.

Promiscuity and abusive relationships
Trying to pacify the little girl, Me.

My little girl, Me, is a rabbit that howls.

Cry for my little girl, Me.

The little girls in this piece were all violated by someone that we trusted. We were unwittingly placed in their care, by others who trusted them. The other ladies remembered the incident(s) from the moment it happened. I, on the other hand, did not. I’m not sure if I was lucky or unlucky, cursed or blessed.

There were so many things going on in my life. My family was falling apart. My mother was gone, then, there was a new mom. My life was changing. In the midst of all of that, I was being molested. In the summer of 1972, my mother came back, she took me, and left my brothers. We moved to Washington, DC. It seems like it was all of a sudden,  but I know it was about 2 years or more. I write this as I am seeing it. Through the eyes of my little girl, me.

Three months later, we moved to California. I was going into the 5th grade, not yet ten years old. There was a new school, new classmates, new teacher, new home, new cousins. No brothers. I remember being so homesick, I cried a lot. But I got on with life in California, and I forgot about my life in New York. I remember only one friend from my old life.

The Friday before Mother’s Day, 25 years later, I was unexpectedly terminated from a job I really enjoyed. Five months into the unemployment, I was under tremendous stress, and I started having memories and dreams that just didn’t make sense. I told someone I loved and trusted, and all was confirmed. There was nothing that they could do, at  the time, being a child themselves.

Angry, hurt, frustrated, betrayed, and confused; I was physically sick. The next day was Sunday, I had to go to church. I was in charge of the Youth Choir, and needed to be able to perform my duties. But I could not. I went to church, and a very good friend found me curled up in a chair in the ladies lounge. She took me to the First Lady of the church. When I told her what I was going through, I expected arms to hold me, and console me or maybe disbelief. What I got instead was “this happens”. She proceeded to give me examples of “this” happening and near misses. I wasn’t satisfied, I wasn’t calmed, I wasn’t vindicated. I was pissed. “This” is not supposed to happen!

We are blessed and privileged to have children in our lives. We are supposed to love, guide and protect them. What gives anyone the right to abuse a child? I told my mother, but I am still not convinced that she believes me. I ended up in therapy for a few weeks before I came to the realization that my only cure for what I was feeling was to forgive.

The next few sessions were spent with me telling the therapist how forgiving was working for me. I didn’t write the letter, I didn’t confront the molester. I prayed for my little girl, me. I asked God to forgive the abuser, I asked him to heal my heart. I asked him to not let me go through another foul relationship, or another one night stand. I wanted out of the rabbit hole. I was the rabbit howling, but I didn’t know why. The men that were attracted to me, heard the howl, and they preyed upon the rabbit. No more. I dug into myself, and I dug into my God and I was better. Not perfect, but better. No longer a victim, but a victor.

This cavern of pain has been explored. Yet, there are walls that still need to be scraped. I was afraid to start this blog, because, I don’t like opening myself up to ridicule or criticism.  That same friend who found me, said, “that’s the molestation talking”. That fueled my fire! Molestation is no longer my spokesperson. I don’t hide in shame from the conversation, so why should I hide from the written word?

I am created to worship God. I choose to worship him, by using my gift of life to share my victory with you.

We are not broken vessels.