Activists and advocates should always be on the ball! Out there on the front lines, moving the cause forward and ever “in your face”.
I guess I have, but just not in the HIV arena. I have selfishly been taking care of MOI! I hope y’all don’t mind!
As World AIDS Day rolls around again, I don’t really have any pressing issues surrounding the subject matter, per se. My usual focal point has been me been throwing myself into talking about HIV – especially how it manifests itself in the congregations and the faith community (which is a loaded topic, because it always leads somehow into people worrying about what is going on in other peoples committed relationships and in their bedrooms) Mind ya business.
But I digress.
Yes, that has been a focal point for me, as well as keeping my face out there as a public reminder that this is what HIV looks like…and what it looks like in the pulpit!
But I have been remiss in taking care of myself! And so this World AIDS Day, I believe that is my focal point.
Selfishly taking care of self. For quite awhile, I have been selflessly taking care of others. This year, I have been gearing towards really living and being selfish about it.
As I fast approach my 60 year milestone in February, I need for things to be ALL about me, if just for a minute.
I have been in therapy with a wonderful therapist for a year, now. I have for YEARS had my inner child/my traumatized little girl put up on a shelf. Sexually abused and ignored, I finally decided it was time for her to come down. It has been a year of work integrating her into the whole of who I am. I took her down off the shelf, and nurtured her, and loved her and have promised to listen to her, when she is whispering in my ear. I have learned the tools necessary to keep her safe. Instead of being high up on a shelf, out of sight – she is usually taking her place in the playground of my mind, and most usually on a swing, letting the air whoosh around her. She can be calming…or she can be quite the mischievous little girl, whispering playful pranks for me to play on someone…sometimes in gatherings, she can be my cautious voice. “Be careful, mommy”. It’s the paying attention to that inner child, that is very important. Parents, pay attention to your little children, don’t put them up on a shelf – don’t brush them off. Don’t ignore them. Play with them, and allow them to play with you.
Presently, I am working on my rage…
Yes. My rage. I have quite a lot of it. About a lot of things! Some, I didn’t even know about!
I have just learned through the years to keep my rage on a slow burn…periodically, it comes out the side of my neck or there may be a full fledged tornado spewing forth, once I am in the eye of the storm. Takes a moment for me to “settle down now”…Oh, don’t worry, the only piece you will probably ever see of it (if ever) is an anxiety attack. I go into panic mode. My tornado is inside my head. I call her the “Protectress”. She is the one who has had to protect my little girl and myself during times of crisis, when we have had no one to fend for us. I have been in survival mode for quite some time. Controlled survival mode. It’s no wonder I am still sane. (Am I? – lol)
This past year, I have slowly taken a step back from a lot of HIV responsibilities, boards and committees, to deal totally with me.
My sister had her leg amputated, a traumatizing event for the entire family. Bouncing back and forth to New York during that period was oh, so painful. Losing her limb had such an effect on the family, not to speak of the effect it has had/is having still on my sister. I have lost some dear friends, one in particular, who was an intern at my church. I was his supervisor and taught him about ministry in the ‘community’ – and he taught me as well. I lost another young person from my congregation, who drowned in a rip-tide in the ocean … some aspects of life have been totally devastating this past year. Through them all, I have managed to care for others…and I still care for others.
Entering into therapy last year, began a new phase of life for me.
A phase of: “slow down and take care of yourself”. This has included taking a long hard look at what friendship means to me, and how being friends with certain people either feeds me or leaves me hungry.
I have even stopped working so hard at ministry. Not stopped working, but stopped carrying it upstairs into my living quarters with me. I leave my desk at a respectable hour (5 pm, if not before). If I get fatigued during the day, I go upstairs and rest – or take a walk around the block. I take time out to play (whatever form that may be…may sound irrational, but during an intense meeting in church – I got up in front of the congregation and acted like I was playing ‘hopscotch’. I heard a few of them giggle, a few of them probably thought I was crazy, but it bought some levity into the situation…as well as gave me room to breathe during a critical moment in the meeting.
I am being very intentional about doing new things. Movies, dinner, and book readings/signings, meeting new people, and going to concerts. In October, I was treated to a Neil Young Concert (Old Man Look At My Life). Last night, I attended The Songs in the Key of Life Stevie Wonder concert, in Madison Square Garden.
Why Madison Square Garden, in New York City, when I could’ve attended here in Philadelphia? To face a fear. I grew up in New York, and yet, since 9/11, venturing into Manhattan has been a terror of mine. Being here in Philly the past 11 years have spoiled me. The trains, people and skyscrapers make me anxious. And yet, I did it and had a great time.
I am learning not about “PreP”, not about “Getting to Zero”, not about all the different organizations, not about making awareness’s here and there….I am learning about ME. I am learning how to live, instead of telling others how to live. I am becoming aware about me! And I still have that book to write!
I mentioned earlier that I am turning 60 in February. This will be the second birthday party I have ever had. In fact, it will really be the first. When I turned 50, I celebrated that milestone by holding a celebration with a silent auction for an organization called Diakonia AIDS Ministry in South Africa. It was nice. We raised a few thousand dollars, for the support group to purchase a refrigerator. But it wasn’t all about me.
This 60th milestone, I planned on having a silent auction for Sexually Exploited Children. When I talked it over with my therapist, she asked:
“Why do you hide behind a cause?” “Why can you not celebrate the fact that you are TURNING 60 YEARS OLD???”
And gosh darnit, I had to reflect on that! While the causes are important, they were merely “smoke screens” I was hiding behind. Not feeling worthy to be celebrated, and feeling uncomfortable with all the attention.
My therapist calls it: the po’ little black girl syndrome. Well, I am not a po’ little black girl! I am not on the sidelines, I’m not pathetic looking, not walking around with my head hanging down with hair and clothes unkempt, not trying to fool myself into being someone I am not. I am a graceful force to be reckoned with.
I now have an event planner and am having the time of my life –planning my event, the last few months of this year.
I have even joined the Red Hatters Society! I am the Queen of my own chapter: “The Red Ribbon Divas!” What will we do? Laugh and have fun and be silly! We will enjoy each other and life!
I am worth it.
And so are you…..
I know there are some of you out there working your tails off.
Its okay, I suppose. We need you. But I am tired, and sitting this one out for a bit.
I’ll jump back in the fray when I am rejuvenated.
Do what you need to do to stay informed, to activate and advocate…
Do what you need to do to stay safe
But please, this World AIDS Day 2015; don’t lose sight of what’s important:
YOU, living and loving life!
“The beginning of the end of AIDS does really start with you”! And me!
Peace and hairgrease!