Self Love Project | Day Thirteen | Resilient I’m not gonna lie… for YEARS I was ashamed of where I grew up. I fought my entire life to get out of that neighborhood. South Phoenix. Stuck in between 2 rival gang territories. It seems so surreal now when I think about it. That was over 16 years ago. I learned to block it from my memory. I had some wonderful years there that’s for sure. Days when I felt safe walking down the street to the local store to get a hot pickle for fifty cents and a handful of candy for a dollar. Night’s when we would play Hide-and-go- Seek until our parents were calling us to come inside. Running through Willie the Water Bug sprinkler during the hot summer days and laughing with no cares in the world. The only time I watched TV was in the morning right before we headed to school, the rest of the time was spent outside enjoying the hot summer breeze or cold winter nights. Those were the days. When life was easy.But something changed. The kids in the neighborhood got older. Started selling drugs. Formed gangs. I had 3 older brothers who participated. The youngest of the three I’m not so sure that he ever really did any gang activity. But he did always say proudly where he was from. We started noticing my brothers coming home beat up. My oldest brother was always the one in the most trouble. Then my middle brother as he got older. There were nights when we couldn’t even sit in the living room for fear that we would get shot. My house got shot up two or three times. I can’t even remember anymore. It’s all such a haze. A lifetime ago. All I remember is my mom hiding us in the hallway and holding our heads down as we were screaming for it to be over. Thankfully nobody was hurt. That time. I’m sure the retaliation went back and forth. I don’t really know. I was too young back then to understand all the violence. I was probably only 10 or so. I’m not really sure. I never really understood how my brothers could be involved in such things. We came from a loving mother. My dad left us when I was 7 and my brothers were 8, 14 and 17. Things went downhill from then. But my mom was the most kindhearted, loving mother you will ever know. My brothers acted out in the only way they could, I guess. I never asked them. One night in 1994 my youngest brother went to a house party two blocks over. He was 15. Him and his best friend were there. There was a little trouble happening and some guys were asked to leave. They ended up coming back and did a drive by at the party. My brother stood out in the crowd as everyone else was running to hide and was shouting at them. He was a very troubled teen. I believe he was manic depressive, although he was never diagnosed. As the guys fired off rounds of shots my brother stood there, ready to die. And his best friend jumped from behind the brick fence he was hiding behind and threw my brother on the ground and laid on top of him. His best friend got up and went to the backyard. He said he felt weird. And fell into the pool. He died that night. Saving my brothers life. This is something my brother Jerry was never able to forgive himself for. He lived in torment the remainder of his life. Before he finally decided to take his own life, 6 years later. (His story will be told another day). The neighborhood was in mourning for our dear friend Gabriel. He was actually one of the good guys. Never getting into trouble, just always there to stop it. Needless to say battles like this went on for years. I watched my younger brother become an alcoholic at such a young age. I knew this wasn’t a life I wanted for my child. So I needed to find a way out. I knew my mom would never leave. She isn’t one for change. So I had too. I finally was able to move out when I was 22. I was pregnant with my 2nd child. Moved in with her father. We were together for 8 years before we split up. I left him when I was 25 and got my own place. It was such a happy moment in my life. I was finally on a healthy path to healing myself. Living the kind of life I lived has helped me become the strong woman I am today. I chose to go a different route than most people that grew up in that neighborhood. I didn’t do drugs, nor did I sell them. I watched it tear my family apart. How my brothers would steal from their own mother to find a way to pay for their fix. It was such an ugly and cruel habit, for everyone involved. I wanted to be so much more. I wanted my parents to be proud of me. I wanted my son to have a future. One that didn’t consist of drive by shootings and random, crazy people coming to your house at all hours of the night looking for crack. I worked since I was 15. I was a teenage mom that had to care for her child (that story coming soon as well). Started off at an amusement park working on the weekends. Ventured out into the world until I finally landed at a job I thought I would retire from. A fortune 500 company. I was starving to make a difference with my life. For my only child (at the time’s) life. He pushed me more than anybody I knew. I fought my way to the top. I was 23 years old making 6 figures. My child and I were set. I was finally where I wanted to be. Providing a beautiful life for my son and my daughter. I did not let my past consume me. It only made me stronger. I no longer am ashamed of where I came from. My mom still lives in the same house. There aren’t gangs (that I know of) that exist there anymore. All those kids have grown up and moved on, went to prison, are on drugs, or never made it past a certain age. She says she is comfortable there. It’s the house my youngest brother Jerry died in. I’m not sure she will ever move out because of that. She is still holding on to whatever memories we have of him there. Whether they be good or bad. I do know that this life has made me resilient. I have learned to pick up the pieces and build a strong foundation for myself. Always pushing my kids to do better, work harder, be the person they dream of being. I was always a dreamer. Since as long as I could remember. It’s because of those big and wild dreams that I live the life I do today. Owning my own business and giving back any time I possibly can. I am living proof that you can choose your destiny. You can choose to go down the easy route or you can choose to work your ass off to the bone to go a happier and healthier route. One you can be proud of. One you can hold your head up high to. That’s the one that I chose. And because I adore quotes here are some of my favs. Two things define you: your patience when you have nothing and your attitude when you have everything. - Unknown
“The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself. - Anna Quindlen
Throw me to the wolves and I will return leading the pack. – unknown
And my all time favorite:
The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen. ~ Elizabeth Kubler-Ross
Please comment below. I would love to hear about your story!
SELF LOVE PROJECT | DAY TWELVE| FORGIVENESS
We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies. -Martin Luther King, Jr.
Forgiveness is not always easy. At times, it feels more painful than the wound we suffered, to forgive the one that inflicted it. And yet, there is no peace without forgiveness. – Marianne Williamson
Oh my this is a tough one to talk about. I know the tears are going to start flowing because this subject is one that I push down to the depths of my soul and only pull it out in moments of weakness when I feel like I can’t let go of a grudge or forgive someone who has hurt me deeply. I have to remind myself that I can’t be set free until I do. Let me start off by saying I am not perfect. I chose to harbor hatred, jealousy and envy in my heart against a man that means more to me than any man on this earth. And to this day I still regret that decision I made as a teenager. And wish I could turn back the hands of time and do it a different way. In order to tell this story I will have to reveal some really personal parts in my life and talk about all those that were involved. I apologize. Know that I love you. And this is my story that I have to tell. Even I have never told you in such a way that I will reveal today and how I experienced it in the eyes of a child.
I was probably about 6 or 7 years old. I was a spoiled little brat. And remember my mom and I were out shopping all day, probably for that outfit I needed and a matching pair of shoes to go with it for a special project at school or something silly. I needed an outfit for EVERY occasion. And there was always an occasion. Ask my mom. Well this day was different when we came home. I will NEVER forget it. It may not have happened exactly like this but its what I remember vaguely at that age. We walked into the house like normal. I ran to my room to try on all my clothes and do my fashion runway show like I always did after shopping. My mom was the only judge. And she always gave me a 10. I walked into her room and saw her as pale as could be with a note in her hand. Tears streaming down her face in disbelief. I didn’t know what happened. The closet door was open and some dresser drawers as if she was in a mad frenzy double checking to make sure this was all just a nightmare. But it wasn’t. My dad was gone. And little did he know that he dragged our hearts out the door with him as well that day. Twenty years of marriage gone in the blink of an eye. I remember watching her world crumble as the days went by. She hid it from me very well. Always waiting until I wasn’t around, to break down. Some nights I would hear her crying herself to sleep as I laid with my ear pressed up against my wall to make sure she was ok. And I silently cried with her. My mom is the strongest woman that I know!!! She really is. You’ll learn all about that in the days to come. Life never got easier for us. I wish I could say it did. She gave us the best life she could and there were times it was amazing but the divorce really tore my family apart. It affected my brother Jerry the most. And his story will be told at a later day. When I was younger I spent the weekends with my dad and enjoyed being around my dads other family. I didn’t know any different. I loved them. My whole life I grew up with them. We hung out with them every weekend for as long as I could remember. Two families merged into one. Going on family vacations and camping trips together. It was my mom’s best friend. I was too young to understand why this was a problem. I didn’t understand why my older brothers hated the situation or why my mom stopped talking to her. When I was 13 or 14, that all changed. I became curious. I started asking my mom questions. Just like my daughter now asks about my relationship with her father and why we aren’t together anymore. And my mom isn’t one to hate anyone. Or to talk ill of anyone. So she just answered my questions as honest as she could, without upsetting me too much. By the end of our conversation. I was so pissed. I think I even used the word BITCH (sorry Noni!!!). And even though my mom told me to watch my mouth, she smiled a little at that. I told my mom I didn’t want to go over there anymore. And I refused to go to his wedding. I was just so angry. Angry that his new family got a better life than we did. Angry that I was stuck in the ghetto, with my brothers who chose to do drugs and get into gangs. I dreamt of a different life. A life where my dad would have stayed. Would my brother Jerry and Michael still be alive? Would I have gotten pregnant at such a young age? Would my brother Sammy have went a different route and stayed out of prison? I blamed my dad for all of this (I know now none of this was ever his fault). I never had the guts to tell him how I felt until he was on his death bed. I was probably around 19 or 20 when I finally decided to forgive my dad. I was older and wiser. I had just gone through a horrible break up with my son’s dad. I was exhausted from blaming and pointing the finger. I was emotionally drained holding such a strong grudge against this wonderful man. Because he was such a wonderful man. I know this post does not make him out to be. But he was. (Please remember this is just a snippet of my life.) I realized at that age that love can make you do crazy things!!! You can’t help but fall in love with people. It’s not a choice. It just happens. And when you do, you will move mountains to be with them. I don’t blame them for what happened anymore. I know we are all in charge of our own choices and decisions in life. And we can’t blame others for the road we choose to go down. We can only blame ourselves. I was lucky enough to spend 5 more amazing years with my dad, before he passed away. Patching up our relationship and getting things back to normal. Taking my kids to see him. He loved my kids so much. We have so many fond memories of him. He was everyones favorite uncle, favorite brother, favorite friend. He was my everything. And I wasted so many years without him there every step of the way. He was diagnosed with Cancer in 2003. And it took him really quick. He lived for 8 months after we found out. I remember the day he went in for surgery to remove a piece of his stomach to get rid of the cancer and them coming out saying… they didn’t go through with the surgery. It had spread to his liver, his lungs, his kidney. And there was nothing they could do to stop it. They said he had about 3 months to live. We all sat there devastated. How can this be? I don’t want this to happen. I need my dad in my life, in my children’s life. He has to watch them grow up!!! He has to help me be strong. I can’t do this on my own. I remember him coming to stay with me for a few days when I first moved into my new house. I was a single mom yet again and scared to death to be on my own. I was 25 or 26. And my daddy was there to protect me. It felt so good. He was placed into hospice the last week of his life. He wanted laughter and stories. He didn’t allow any crying while we were there with him in the room. He wanted Mariache’s and a celebration. My daddy was full of life. Even up until the day he died. He was charismatic, outgoing, a people person. He constantly helped those in need, he had the best smile, the best laugh. He told amazing jokes. He was giving. Loving. And was always there to help me even when I was so mean to him. He loved my mom. I know he did. He loved us all so much. He knows he has been forgiven. I had a long talk with him before his passing. I told him I was so sorry. So so very sorry for acting the way I did. His memory still lives on strong in my household. We talk about him often. Life is just too short to hold any grudges against those you love. I am very much a part of my stepmom and stepbrother/sister’s lives and I adore them to pieces. Don’t make the same mistake I did. Please, please find the peace in your heart to forgive. Once you do, you will fill your heart with love instead. And love is so much more powerful than regret, loss and emptiness.
To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you. -Lewis B. Smedes