This morning I got an email with the subject teaser “I love you.” Hmm. What’s this? It was a letter from the July 2013 me. I wasn’t going to share it, but why not? It’s my 2nd mommyversary today, and I am super blessed to be able to celebrate the milestones my baby has made over the last two years AND the milestones I’ve achieved myself as the sole caretaker of a bustling, precocious, charming boy. I’m so proud of him, and I’m even prouder to be his mom. He’s an amazing soul, and though this journey hasn’t been easy, it has been beyond worth it. I look forward to being Frederick’s safe place throughout his adventures. Watching him evolve is an almost unbelievable experience. I can barely even believe that at one time he was a butterbean in my body. Now he’s over half my height! If Frederick has taught me nothing else, it’s that life keeps moving through it all. He’s a daily reminder that life is mysterious and beautiful and hope-filled and worth living to the fullest. Happy 2nd birthday to my sweet thang!
June 6, 2014 vs. June 6, 2013
Anyway, here’s the letter from past me to present me.
Congrats on your second anniversary of pushing an almost 9 pound human out of your body! Frederick is 2, and you have even more to be grateful for than ever before. I hope that as you’re reading this you are saying to yourself, hey old me, I can barely remember the heartache from that time. I hope that by now, you have fully reclaimed your confidence and your passion and your “I can do it” attitude and have been slanging it around for all the masses to see and feel. You MADE it through the roughest time of your life so far, but just like the other rough patches you’ve been through, you are better for it after it was all said and done. Can you believe you actually thought you were less of a woman because of situations out of your control?? But I am confident that today, you know and OWN the fact that you are MORE than a woman. You are a WARRIOR and an extremely loyal, dedicated, and gifted person. Do you realize that in the worst of times, you conquered your depression, your hurt, and your bad outlook on your own life to do whatever was necessary to give Frederick everything he needed and more?? That’s powerful, young lady. Even when you didn’t want to take care of yourself, you did it anyway so that Frederick could have a strong foundation and a solid connection to his mother. Even when you despised his father, you swallowed all your hurt, anger, and sadness to try to have a cordial relationship with him for the sake of Frederick. That’s not WEAK, honey, that is STRONG. Can you believe that your sweet thing was once an arm baby, then he started teetering everywhere like he would tip over at any moment. OMG I can’t wait to see what he is like at 2!!
I hope this letter finds you in a brand new, loving, positive, promising place in your life, where you wake up with happy thoughts and new ideas and a fresh outlook on the day ahead of you. Continue to leave the past in the past, and know in your heart that your future is #winning. And live today like the star you are.
I love you for all you are today, all you have been throughout your life, and the wonderfulness you will be in your future.
Your Past Self on July 3, 2013
There are books that have been on my reading list forever and ever. I even think of some of them when I’m moving on to my next book, but somehow I never quite choose them. The Shack was one of those books until last month, someone special told me I should read it and that she has reread it multiple times because it really speaks to her. This someone was one of the first to share with me her personal story way back when I was preggo and hadn’t yet fully accepted what my life was turning into and still very much ashamed, terrified, and hopeful that maybe once my son was outside of my body that his father would choose to be a daddy. That particular morning, I just so happened to be volunteering and ended up in a small room organizing clothes with two women, whom I always just considered strong and dynamic women without a thought that they could possibly have had major strife in their personal lives. I learned that morning, after I dropped the veil of excitement about my pregnancy, that they both raised their children alone, and while of course, they acknowledged the hardships, they felt blessed through it all. That day was just one of many that was set up by God to get me through the turmoil. The respect I have for them magnified that morning, and it was a reminder that you really just don’t know what people have gone through. So, two years later, her suggestion that I read The Shack bumped it up to the top of the queue.
And it was a blessing. Last year, I read more Christian fiction books than I probably ever had before, and I think what makes this book different from some others that I’ve read is that it’s not preachy. I found it very inviting and paradoxically, light in the way that a heavy box is light if you have a dolly. And as I traveled with the main character through the story, I ended up highlighted tons of phrases and quotes. So, with that, I just want to share a couple of the parallels of my life and Mackenzie’s.
1. The Great Sadness is real. It’s frustrating to know that some people think “Just get over it” is sound advice. Some tragedies in life affect you so deeply that it feels like something wraps around you and even when you make a concerted effort to look on the bright side, this blanket is still just there no matter what. And some tragedies never go away because either it or the consequences are never-ending. I can’t really “get over” being a single mother, even if I have gotten through the grief and anger of the initial abandonment, because I am confronted daily and monthly with decisions and tasks as a single parent. So every time I pay the daycare bill or see that Frederick has outgrown something or the countless other things that parents encounter, I am reminded that I’m by myself–but I am learning to refocus my thoughts instead of reliving the initial trauma. Mack couldn’t really “get over” his tragedy because even if losing a child wasn’t enough, he was having to deal with the daily task of trying to help his other daughter. I’m happy that I was able to lift my Great Sadness some by seeing a counselor. But it wasn’t an easy process.
“Mack, pain has a way of clipping our wings and keeping us from being able to fly.” She waited a moment, allowing her words to settle. “And if it’s left unresolved for very long, you can almost forget that you were ever created to fly in the first place.”
2. One of the most difficult things in life has been accepting that I don’t control much of anything. Mackenzie and I share a tendency to take credit for things we can’t control if we tried. It took me a looooooooong time to stop being so hard on myself and to really release myself from punishing myself for someone else’s choices (think about that–the negative consequences that exist just by virtue of the bad situation PLUS self-inflicted punishment because somehow in my brain, it’s my fault). Just like Mack kept trying to recreate his situation in head, thinking of what he should have or could have done differently, I have done that countless times too. At the detriment of peace of mind. Even if we could go back and do something differently, it’s not up to us. It’s not in our hands–so there’s nothing we could do in either of our situations to make it turn out better. When that happens in life, you have to trust and believe that the part of the story you can’t see yet will use that craziness for some bit of good.
“Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.” – Thomas Moore
3. As hard as it is to forgive, I’m sure it was as comforting to Mack as it was to me that forgiveness is not an automatic “poof, you’re forgiven” act. It’s a process that you have to work at, and it doesn’t end in forgetting what happened. In the same way that tragedies are not it happened today and by some expiration date it’s over and the impacts that result disappear, it’s okay to be angry, it’s okay to have whatever natural emotions arise–you don’t have to buy into the notion that something is wrong with you because you feel “some type of way” about how someone mistreated you. The emotions are there for a reason. And actually, I’ve found that many times there is wisdom in my anger–if I allow myself to analyze it and not just blow up. It’s just not okay to let those emotions consume you and take over your life because when that happens, it affects no one but you and possibly the people who actually care about you, which many times does NOT include the offender.
“It does a soul good to let the waters run once in a while–the healing waters.”
4. Pre-Shack Mack and I think too much. When Jesus told Mack to start walking on the water, I kept thinking what would I do? I honestly don’t know. I’d like to think I would have just stepped in on impulse, but who knows? I also probably would have thought myself into a frenzy over the author of the note that led Mack back to the Shack. Talk about paranoia. I can’t tell you how much I’ve thought about a negative comment on Facebook or subtweet on Twitter that I felt certain was aimed at me. Sometimes I can laugh it off and say to myself “I know you think this tweet is about you, don’t you, don’t you, don’t youuuuuuuuuuuuuuu,” but other times I actually craft what I would say if I felt like the person was worth knowing how I feel. Or if the person was worth it, if I felt that our already clearly shattered relationship could handle it. See, thinking too much. Aye-yi-yi.
“Well, I am afraid of looking like an idiot. I am afraid that you are making fun of me and that I will sink like a rock. I imagine that—” “Exactly,” Jesus interrupted. “You imagine. Such a powerful ability, the imagination! That power alone makes you so like us. But without wisdom, imagination is a cruel taskmaster.”
5. We need closure. We’re human. We need someone to apologize. We need a resolution at the end of a contentious discussion. We need to know we’re understood, or at the very least, listened to. We need the funeral. And although it may not be the easiest thing to accomplish, it’s so necessary. It did MY heart good to read about Mack burying his daughter. Sometimes letting go just isn’t official until you get that last note. And it might not even involve the person who caused you the anguish. That’s why many people do the burning paper with their negative thoughts thing. Closure is a beautiful thing.
“Today we are on a healing trail to bring closure to this part of your journey— not just for you, but for others as well. Today, we are throwing a big rock into the lake, and the resulting ripples will reach places you would not expect.”
I would share a bit more, but I want you to read it. If you have read it, please share with me some of the nuggets that touched you. Happy reading!
In my journey so far as a single mother, I have experienced an emotional roller coaster like none I’ve ever ridden. And not just romantically–that’s actually probably the easiest part of the ride. The scariest and most difficult parts of the ride have been dealing with my self-image, managing and changing the dynamics of my friendships, and reconciling societal perspectives with my reality.
Some days, I get to a place where I want to share this experience, and other days, I don’t–mostly because I don’t want to deal with any more opinions. I also don’t like that some think I sound bitter (and in some instances, I am)–when my bitterness has waned significantly over the last two years. What’s funny is that the more I talk, the more some think I’m bitter, when in actuality, the less bitter I am, the more willing I am to talk. There was a time that the last thing I wanted to do was talk about what I was going through. And I avoided people like the plague for fear of being seen by people whose opinions I valued as a negative Nancy and bitter Betty. And then I think to myself that the bitterness that’s left should be understood–why is it even such a negative label? Emotions are what they are, so who can judge me and say and too bitter–from my perspective, it’s just as relevant to wonder if I’m bitter enough because I haven’t allowed my bitterness to permeate my decision-making as a mother. So then I began to really appreciate the people who ASKED me how I was doing and stayed around no matter what I was talking about, whether it highlighted my bitterness or not. Because they still saw me, Ranada, and still cared about me as a full person, and didn’t confine me to the box I limited my own self-image to.
There are times that I also wonder why I care what people think. And I’ve realized it’s because I’m human. Humans need to be liked, accepted, affirmed, and understood. So when I’m feeling my loneliest, it’s because I feel like the group of people who have tried to understand what my life has been like in the last two years is much smaller than the group of people I considered my friends before this ordeal began. It’s all an exercise in evaluation.
Self-evaluation, which I’ve gone above and beyond in doing for the last two years and had to realize that even though so many of the self-help articles begin and end with self-evaluation, that I was being WAY too hard on myself, and there definitely is a such thing as judging yourself too harshly.
The evaluation of the people I can truly call my village, understanding that I could not have made it to this place in my life without their support and understanding that you can’t predict who will be standing there when the dust settles. And you can only trust that God sends his encouragement through the people He chooses–over the last two years, I’ve received a good word from the most unlikeliest of places, and they were salve for my soul.
The evaluation of my previous perspectives, societal ideals, and my current reality in the context of those.
The evaluation of what happiness is to me and what role hardships have in my journey.
Zora Neale Hurston’s birthday was yesterday, and one of her most well known quotes is
There are years that ask questions and years that answer.
Sometimes I think 2012 and 2013 were question-asking years and I’m hoping 2014 is an answer-giving year. But time will tell, huh?
So as my bitterness continues to subside, or at least I continue becoming one with it and learning to not care if people use it as a label when I’m only speaking my truth, I am kinda looking forward to sharing the lessons and emotions and outlooks from this joyful yet painful, rewarding yet taxing, fun yet hard, loving yet lonely journey as a single mother. Happy new year!
Last night, I had the good fortune and great timing to go to the concert of one of my favorite artists. Frederick was well-taken care of by Tee Rashida, and Mommy threw on a vintage sweater outlined in pearls, some red lipstick, and some thigh high boots with silver buttons running up the fronts.
So, in music loving fashion, here are a few comments:
1. Rahbi is a trip. Wasn’t feeling his attire, but I loved his mashup of Loveeee and When Doves Cry.
2. Rahbi’s background singers outsang him, yikes. Those girls sounded wonderful! Let me add, though, that his voice reminds me of Stokely’s from Mint Condition. So his voice is nice, don’t get me wrong. But those girls behind him did their thing!
3. Roman GianArthur is a nice singer, but I walked away thinking about how that brother played that guitar. Great opening act! I’m going to have to check him out more than the brief research I did before the concert.
4. JANELLE MONAE has incredible energy. I feel like she blessed the start of my new year. She sang and danced and hopped all over that stage and never seemed to get tired. I left at midnight and she was still singing, lol (though I’m pretty sure I didn’t miss anything because she introduced the band before I left).
5. The first song she sang that’s not on Electric Lady is the song that made me a real fan (I was a fan before Metropolis, but this song sealed the deal). It’s def one of my top 3 fave JM songs. But her singing “Sincerely, Jane” at that moment was just like her singing Happy Birthday to me.
“Are we really living or just walking dead now? … Daydreamers, please wake up; we can’t sleep no more.”
6. She sang almost all of the songs I really wanted to hear live. Yes, “Mushrooms and Roses” from The ArchAndroid too. Love love love.
7. I loved that her encore was a whole new production, lol. We got our money’s worth fo sho.
8. One of my favorite things about Janelle Monae is that the music behind her vocals is ALWAYS on point. There’s a song where she yells out “Kellindo!” and you hear a ripping guitar solo. Well, I got to see Kellindo in action and that thang knows he plays that daggum guitar. And I would be wrong if I didn’t talk about his hair. I don’t watch the “My hair is laid like” videos, but I kept thinking he would be the perfect subject–his hair was part of the show!! She also has an 4-piece orchestra within her band. I kept wondering if Frederick’s future teacher would disapprove of me buying him the acrylic outline violin or cello if he decides he wants to play a stringed instrument like mommy. Probably so, but those instruments had me in awe!
9. I’m thankful for Alisha who came with me. We were co-workers at my job before my current one, which was over 5 years ago, and she’s still been in my corner ever since. Smooches!
10. I love connecting with new people too. I’ve been in an email group of people who are all friends with one person for years, and I’ve only gone to one or two group outings. But when one of the members (Tonda) emailed if anyone was going to the concert, I told her I was so we met for the first time, and she’s great! Definitely plan to keep in touch.
11. This was one of the best bday gifts I’ve given myself in awhile. Happy birthday to me!
I love the lyrics of Beyonce’s new song. I look at Frederick every day and am still amazed that I shared my body with him for 40 weeks exactly. And I will always be grateful for the joy he’s brought to my life. This Thursday, my #1 blessing is Frederick Daniel. ❤
I’m spending my day doing what I seem to do best: reflecting. This is an Instagram post that is resonating with me. Everything happens for a reason, and just because your plans may not pan out, it doesn’t equal failure. Here’s to the success all around me. Happy, happy birthday to me, to me, to me! [In my Sprout/Chica Show/Sunny Side Up voice]