Familiar ground

I lived like a child, only enjoying what gave instant pleasure. What’s wrong with that some may ask? Well when you’re a childlike adult who thrives on pleasure and instant gratification, many things can and did go wrong. I made such poor decisions that I found myself in similar situations I was running from. One of my deepest fears was repeating that day but my new beginning in Florida became a sun-shinier version of the one I left behind.

My life was becoming an endless cycle of nothingness wrapped in my own gross misconduct to cover up my ball of anguish. And as much as I went searching for pleasure I was ending up wallowing in despair, fear, and anxiety. Not enough words to explain the eye of the tornado I was living in within myself. Emotions I felt that day wrapped in the new ones I created through various horrible actions, decisions and my masochist behavior was destroying me. I was destroying me. I was helping the enemy in his quest and had no idea.

I recall a time, the feeling, the fear, the not knowing what was to come of this particular moment in time, it was all rushing back with every breath, and every step forward. If it weren’t for God’s grace I know I would’ve been raped…again. Why was I surprised though? I had been living blind, decidedly blind, not realizing I was putting myself back in those same sort of circumstances. You know, sometimes it was almost as if I was giving away pieces of myself, time, money, heart, whatever was left of it anyway, just giving pieces away so I wouldn’t feel as if it was being taken. Giving of oneself not wholeheartedly, to be able to endure and avoid the feeling of being seized, captured, or possessed. Give so you won’t feel like you’re being taken advantage of….but you are. That was my new beginning. That was my existence. Living to avoid reliving but walking a fine line on familiar ground.

Isaiah 43:18-19 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.

…The former things were stalking me and had made their way into the present. I didn’t perceive what He had planned. I was too busy trying, on my own, to escape. My now, then, was that wasteland. It was so hard to forget. I later realized not dwelling in it didn’t mean I had to forget or that I should. I wanted to though. I think. The pain I felt was overwhelming but like the memories that haunted me, they were mine. Or so I thought.

Digging my pit

I watched my mother work and work. The only time she enjoyed time for herself and had a blast was when she took her yearly trips to her birth place in Haiti. The only place I ever heard her desire to visit besides her childhood home was Florida. This was mainly due to the fact that my unofficial godmother/ her b.f.f. visited there so often. She eventually moved there and my mom never got the chance to visit.

Although I watched both parents always work and had multiple jobs at times, I never had that kind of work ethic. I mean don’t get me wrong, I’m not lazy. Far from it. I mean I’ve worked since I was about 15. Working is all gravy until you have to, at least in my case. I just am wired a little differently. I never wanted to be under someone else for as long as I could remember. I loved and required freedom over a chained existence. As I got older, the need to have things but not through typical hard work became part of who I was. We’ll get more into my work history at a  later post perhaps, but I say this to say, I left for Florida to pursue a new life, one my mother might have had, but lived my life more entwined in chains than she ever was working her crazy hours to provide for our family. She may had to work for someone else all her life but she most certainly was free. I know and understand that now.

The day I moved, I longed for the sense of freedom to come crashing through my every being. I ached for it. Can someone ever be free of themselves, their thoughts, and memories though? I half expected it to be like a switch one can just turn on then whammo, I’d have my sense of freedom. With every mile driven south, another heap of chains was added through sheer grief and turmoil. Spiritually, I weighed more getting out of the car to Florida then when I left Boston. Honestly I believe that spiritual weight and heaviness would have come on a lot quicker had I stayed. I think somewhere in the midst of it all, I was surrendering. No. I had surrendered. To put it mildly, I had surrendered to never feeling content and happy again. That was very mildly. It’s so difficult to explain. I guess what it was is I just sort of gave up. I gave up and gave in. The situation took away my mother and parts of me, but by this point I was just giving pieces away. My joy, my compassion, my morals, my sense of self, my freedom. I didn’t know it but I was going further into the dark rabbit hole, all chained up with my grief. So with that and whatever was left of Goretty, pass the chains, if anything well, Florida would have to deal with.

Psalms 40:1-2 I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.

…In those days there was nothing patient about me. Had I been who knows. God was faithful though, even when I wasn’t. He was working even when I wasn’t. He plucked me out of Boston where my grief began. After turning into someone I didn’t even recognize, He still remembered me and freed me from my own personal pit. Today, well today I thank Him that I even have the opportunity to surrender to His will. And no one else’s. Now that’s freedom.

Question to Reader:

What chains do you put on yourself?

Fight vs. Flight

Flight Won

I was never much of a fighter anyway.

And so I fled.

The decision to leave my not so home anymore of a hometown wasn’t one that came without consequences. Many consequences would follow but for now just a few nay sayer’s was what I had to endure.

“Leaving to go where?”

“Are you seriously leaving?”

“You’re a girl, a Haitian girl. You’re not suppose to do things like that.”

Some of the things I heard when revealing my decision to move out-of-state. I was fleeing and there was nothing anyone could do or say to stop me. My intention, my plan, was to take whatever money I had, say my goodbyes, then head to the south where eventually my “unofficial” godparents path and mine would cross then some version of happily ever after blah blah was to manifest itself.

I was to head out alone leaving behind the turmoil that had become my life. A close friend decided her life in Boston was not for her anymore as well, so she, her boyfriend, and myself packed up and headed south. But first one last stop. One last goodbye. Again.

With fresh flowers in hand to cover my guilt, I took steps towards the spot which held my mother’s tombstone. With everything she owned still in a storage in my name, the thought of being completely disconnected overwhelmed me. I knew for some time I was leaving but now, before the representation of her, it became clear I was leaving that spot, her spot, as well. Stupid huh? Did I ever think I could take it with me? Not really but when you cross a bridge you had been putting off  you never really know what the outcome would be. I couldn’t take her with me. I couldn’t take the tombstone with me. I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. So I snapped a pic. Should I have done that? Who knows. It felt weird doing it then and weirder remembering that I did now. Don’t ask why, all this was new to me.

My friends gave me all the time I needed to say goodbye but knowing we’d be driving, or at least they would since I hadn’t learned yet (don’t judge me, it was Boston and as long as I had the bus and train schedule I was fine l.o.l). I expressed my love to a piece of rock engraved with the portrait of her face. I laid down flowers which I’ve never been good at picking out, I turned and left.

The feeling of freedom I thought would come from saying goodbye and driving away from it all did not transpire. Quite the opposite in fact. At that moment, had I packed up the whole of Massachusetts and drove off with it, it wouldn’t have made a bit of difference. Everything, everyone, every agony brought on by this tragedy, every last bit of it all, was in that car driving to start a new life with me.  There was no need to turn back as most do when moving away from all that they’ve known, turning to see the homes they wouldn’t see anymore and the stores they’d no longer visit, and thinking of the reasons for the move. My stuff, all of my stuff was coming along for the adventure. My baggage would have front row seats to the new me’s next move. My baggage had already begun forming the new me. I didn’t know it or I didn’t care. I’m not sure. Mostly, I didn’t want to care.

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, “declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

…Sometimes we wish we knew the plans that was mapped out for our lives. When we have children we sometimes try to shape their lives with our own plans. I thought I had a plan, as unclear as it was, I thought I had one. Living blindly in grief leaves so much unnoticeable room for a plan. God’s plan. Thank God for His plans.

The sounds that plagued me

I thought I’d be terrorized for the rest of my days. Memory is something else I tell ya. For a while I thought perhaps I was one of those people compared to an elephant because my memory was so in tack. I realized my mind had another mind, one of its own. That mind was selective. Drawn only to those memories that rendered me a coward, jumping out of my skin at every turn at what seemed to birth a déjà vu moment. Numbing those senses was my only refuge during those in the valley moments of my life.

The crashing of pots and pans that resulted in her facial disfigurement. The sounds of feet, in haste, rushing down flights of stairs to her rescue. Rescue from what, at that  moment, we did not know. Those are the sounds that plagued me. The meeting of metal to the skull then the resounding clanging as that piece of metal hit the tile floors. The slamming of a bathroom door. The rummaging of a not so much a stranger aimlessly looking to destroy whatever crossed his path. Those are the sounds that plagued me. The shouts to go away and what are you doings spilling out from a crackled voice that was my own.

Many more sounds followed but the two that haunted me to the point of…I couldn’t speak of them were the laughter and gargling. The laughter, the sick almost clownish, empty giggling laughter of a once welcomed individual, that sound, that horribly frightening sound, followed me even as I slept. There were many horrific sounds. None however, can top the gargling. The gargling at times brought me to my knees. Not to pray but to force the noise out by squeezing my ears against my head tight enough between the palm of my hands, fighting back tears and hoping to pass out into a deep dream-free slumber. A vain attempt because I longed for dream-free rest that never came. Remove my innermost memories was my wish, my only wish, in those times. Gargling, trying to breathe through a mouthful of ones own blood. I misspoke, or mis-wrote…whatever, what tops that sound was much worse. The sound that tormented me more than the agony of hearing her struggle to breath as she choked on her own fluid of life was the sound that followed. The sound when she was unable to struggle for life any longer. So now the sounds of silence had its own torment to dish out.

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers (Goretty, readers, you) whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy think about such things.

Being able to put aside memories that stalked my every waking and sleeping moments was a far more difficult task for mere puffs of smoke and or gulps from a bottle could handle. But what grace. What mercy. What honest to goodness breath of fresh air it is to be able to sort through the silence and noise and hear my Jesus. He calls on to me through it all. And now, now a shower behind closed doors with my children on the other side making various noises and slamming this bedroom door and crashing that toy truck against the other, those noises are exactly what they are. Just that.

Philippians 4:9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Back up to Philippians 4:7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Very deep sigh. Jesus is so awesome ya. So very awesome.

Wearing black…

I’m pretty sure this tradition has died down in this country if it’s not dead. I’m referring to the custom of wearing black for a period of mourning. Now a days it’s more common to see t-shirts with a portrait of a deceased loved one in honor of their memory. This however, from what I’ve witnessed, only lasts during the wakes, funerals, and any ceremonial gatherings, then end up being worn to bed or around the house etc.. To be honest I never quite understood any of it. For me it’s just one of those things we do because well because we do. I didn’t and still don’t understand what clothing has to do with honoring a loved one but I tried it and to each his/her own.

My black wardrobe journey was to last 6 months to a year from what I was told. Now if any of you, my readers, are as oldish 😉 as I  am you may remember the t.v. show  ‘Punky Brewster’. It was about the girl who never matched her clothes and loved colors. She was a regular bag of skittles to say the least. From her clothing, hair accessories, and even her room, a variety of colors were her signature look. If I remember correctly, it was an era before the rainbow was taken as a symbol of being homosexual. Punky was all about all colors of the rainbow. I was never as bad as she but I did and still do enjoy colors.

I didn’t have much black until the death of my mother. One of my aunts took me shopping and got me a few things during that time. From then on, Goretty was in black. It didn’t faze me during the funeral, the wake, and even after all the ceremonial things were accomplished. When the dust started to settle however, and it was less about gathering people for various dinners and memory get-together this and that and became more about my day-to-day life and emotions, I honestly believe that the wearing of black became less about honoring my mother and my mourning period and more about drowning in the pit of my own sorrow. It made everything worse. It forced me to remember, and you know how much I love that (sarcastically). Each time I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, which I was consciously not doing as much as I could help it, I was reminded of why I was in the dark garments to begin with. I respected tradition to a point and I was doing what I felt I had to in order to please others, by no fault of their own, and to honor my mother. Was I being selfish to hate this tradition?

At the time, wearing those dark clothes formed a blanket around me, a dark harsh, burden-filled blanket, that separated me from the rest of the world or so I thought. At first I thought I’d might enjoy it to be honest because when people knew you were in mourning they tend to let you just be, in fear of saying the wrong things, again or so I thought. Not only was I feeling already on display from having been on the news and everything else but now, wearing these dark clothes was like having a billboard sign right over my head that guided people’s attentions back to that horrible day. I could barely stay in my own skin little-lone the dark materials I wore.

It wasn’t until after I moved did I decide to shed some light to my wardrobe. At first I was torn then came a bit of guilt for not lasting more than a few months. The brighter more vibrant clothing did little for my mood but I can’t say it added any more negatives as the dark ones did. That alone was a small source of relief. Very small.

I now know without a doubt that I had nothing to feel guilty about. I now know my mother didn’t require me to suffer in such a way. I now know Jesus only wants me to feel joy in my heart. I came into this world not in dark materials or colorful attires but as me. Just me. They both, my mother and my God love me for me. Goretty.

Moments that followed

So there I was, my mother had been murdered. My younger brother in a coma. My home was no longer. People either treating me with kid gloves or like a fish in a tank to be gawked at. Friends behaving as if they’d never known the real me. My then boyfriend in jail before, during, and after the tragedy of my life. And all I saw before me was the cold shadows of gloom that my home town had engulfed me in. The tall buildings caved in on me. The few trees were no longer colored in vibrant autumn hues. Smog overtook everything in my view. Not only was I buried deep inside myself but now the world around me wanted to swallow the outer parts as well. I couldn’t breathe.

Even the simple task of riding public transportation became an ordeal. A display of pitied eyes and over zealous displays of affection from random people became part of my norm. Imagine riding the same few buses for most of your life and sitting next to the same people each day, having casual conversations and random small talks before your stop to get off. Imagine those same people now unable to look you in the eyes or worse can’t stop looking. Imagine a new passenger getting too close to you on that bus which being public transportation is bound to happen. Imagine forgetting to shut your eyes to the bus stop that let people off right in front of your once apartment building, the very same apartment building you no longer resided in because your mom had been brutally murdered there. Imagine those passengers glancing over at you, anticipating a melt down once you come to that bus stop in front of that apartment complex. How did I forget to look away? Why did I not shut my eyes? Would taking the train be any different? Would it be more of a chance to bumping into people I knew? Who knows? It was unclear. Nothing these days was clear. Nothing made sense. Was this now my life?

Ugh, the feeling of uncertainty was becoming my frien-emy (friend and enemy), more so enemy, now that the thrilling spontaneity of the unknown was no longer part of its equation. Uncertainty, now was just that, uncertain, unknowing, unsure, unclear, fear-filled vagueness, and those qualities, those qualities, were not friends of mine. I was secretly afraid of them but my life now possessed nothing but. Everything was uncertain.

Isaiah 41:10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

…Letting go and letting God, what a concept. You mean I have to give Him those fears too?… I guess, no I’m sure, had I done that even just 3 years ago, I would be so much closer to fulfilling His destiny for me. So much wasted time holding on to stuff I honestly wanted to let go of anyway.

 

My once home

It was that time. Boy, how things moved along. We were in a special category since her death was what it was.  They couldn’t exactly kick us out in the streets. We were relocated to a much smaller apartment in another part of town. Our once 3 story apartment was to be a 3 bedroom, section 8 whatever. I had nothing against section 8 but it was just another slap in my already bruised up face. I am grateful however that we were at least of age enough to be on our own. Kinda. We all know early 20’s ain’t really adults, might as well have been 16, 17, but yea.

We had been staying with an aunt but it was time to clear out our home. The scene was no longer a part of the investigation or what have you. So my older brother and I set out to dispose, clean, and sort through 3 floors of a lifetime. As we got closer to our destination my chest reverted back to the puking feeling I dreaded, an odd feeling that resided deep in me since that day. The feeling I got the minute I was put in the back of the cop car, naked, wrapped in a sheet a female officer handed me from the house, and watched as they rolled my mother out on a stretcher. She was covered as well, completely covered with a sheet not from our home. My stomach twisted and turned. I refused to express the emotion, especially to my older brother who was dealing with his own feelings, I’m sure.

As we stood in front of the building before entering, he inquired whether or not I was scared. I said nothing. He assured me that our mothers blood should have been cleaned up. I said nothing. He then continued to say not to be afraid of ghosts or anything because if anything it was the spirit of our mother and she was all good. How I wish we had smoked before this. Or did we? That’s all I ever did anymore, well most of anything I ever did. It was whatever. So in we went.

We came through the bottom level, the living room, which I wonder if it was strategic on my brother’s part. The back door, the middle level, which we could have come in was the kitchen, where it took place. Maybe it was me, for having gone through the ordeal, but the smell of my once home was so different now. The faint smell of real authentic Haitian cooking was once a staple in our home. Now, the walls bled the odor of death muddled with the hint of bleach or whatever the city’s cleaning people used. I decided to close my senses to everything but the memories rushed over me like a wave. I wasn’t fit to ride this wave. My brother handed me an industrial sized black trash bag. I should’ve just jumped right in because that’s how I felt, like trash.

Psalms 34:17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.

…I wasn’t ready to cry out to Him, not then, not the way He wanted. If I had I wasn’t sure I’d ever stop. I was a leaky faucet of emotion. A slow drip that made its appearance during appropriate times, nothing more. My few outbursts were reserved for me alone. Otherwise, I’d…I’d drown outwardly as much as I was drowning inwardly. I was fine holding it together the way I had been. I was… I was fine… I was fine.

…I held on to that lie for what seemed like forever.