My mom is the primary caregiver for my father. He has Parkinson’s Disease which is a result of being in contact with Agent Orange when he was in Vietnam. He also has other illnesses and diseases that have developed after Parkinson’s. Imagine you retire and you develop a disease that DRASTICALLY changes your outward appearance and your mental and emotional well being.
My dad has always been this strong guy with muscles. I remember him lifting weights and hanging from his biceps. I remember the big round weights that go on the weight bench. I remember the children in the neighborhood racing against him and they would lose. So, if it’s hard for me to see all of that, his mobility, his muscles, his strength disappear, it must be incredibly hard for him to deal with. He’s stubborn, but I think by now he realizes he needs help or assistance. Yet, he fights to keep most of his independence because he doesn’t like anyone doing anything for them. Especially, if they make it known they really mind doing it for him or that it’s a problem. I get that and the stubbornness from him. My dad has always had a sharp mind. He still has it. He is like a walking history buff and Bible. He is still pastoring and this is his last year as his health has really declined. Last week when he was in the hospital for rehab, we talked about poetry and just when I thought I knew it all about poetry he throws out poets I never heard of. He recites some lines. This is my dad.
This week my mom was out of town on church business and I was “hired” to take care of my dad. Even though my mom is the primary caregiver, all six of us children are there to do our jobs. We all chip in. Some more than others because some work full time and others have illnesses of their own (like me). We seem to take on our roles and fill in when needed of roles of the others. It just worked out that way. I took care of Dad this week and I got to see him in a different way. I got to see the struggles in a different way. I heard the yelling as he napped. It was something about war. I got to see the depression that he sometimes denies. I got to experience the moodiness and irritability that we rarely see. But, I also got to see the determination to wash his own clothes, put his dishes away, wash up, and put his clothes without my assistance a few days. I saw the sweat pouring down his face and the tiredness that followed those simple tasks.
My favorite part of the experience was getting him out of the house to sit on the porch as he likes to do and we listened to a famous sermon on YouTube by Reverend C.L. Franklin (Aretha Franklin’s father). He was unsure he could get out of the house or go anywhere with his new fancy walker (which he calls the Cadillac). I had to encourage him and he made it to the barber shop with his new walker.
Even though it was really hard work taking care of him all week from 7 am to 7 pm it was time well spent. The pain and exhaustion that I felt daily, the pain meds I had to take, the willing myself to get up, the swelling and the joint inflammation, the mental battle, reminded me of why I had such a hard time working my last full time job. By the time you recover, it’s time to work again and creates an endless cycle that worsens your health. However, all that I experience this week was worth the quality time spent with my dad. Care giving is a job. It’s a job for the one doing it all the time and the ones who do their parts regularly and the ones that have to fit it in. However, it’s rewarding knowing that you helping someone you love and it has it’s moments that will someday become memories.
There is this saying: You have to learn to eat the fish and spit out the bones. It’s a secret to some and obvious to my bloggers, that my relationship with my mother can be described as turbulent. I am not ashamed of this. Many mother and daughter relationships are at it’s best, “complicated” and I speak on behalf of some of those women. Here is the post I posted on Mother’s Day about my mom and photos from my day as a mother.
My mom and I are like oil and water sometimes. Some say it’s because we are alike and some say it’s because we are different. At the end of the day we love each other. I get my strong value for family from my mom. I get my strong work ethic from my mom. I get my cooking skills, my creativity, my fashion sense & need to have a lovely home from my mom. The idea of the finer things in life yet making the most of your lot in life. I am a giver and will try to help everybody and will feed everybody. I get that from My mom. My mom has her own big personality and it gives us many laughs. My mom is the best because she’s going to put family first and she’s going to protect it. She’s going to come through and this is why we come through for her. I love it when I make her laugh and she says “Nicole, You’re so crazy.” That’s us. That’s family. That’s love.
When I began the journey to excavate my authentic self I thought it would be fun and adventurous to discover who I really was/am. It was. It was also shocking at times. It was like re-introducing myself to a self that I vaguely remembered. I felt disoriented at times. The feeling of shock and disorientation often happened when I admitted to myself the truth about what I thought and felt about things I learned or was taught growing up. It really bothered me at times admitting the truth about how I felt about my religion. It was a going against the grain. It was fear that God would “strike me down” and keep note of all the thoughts and feels I had about some rules, regulations, and doctrine. I was like, “Oh, you really don’t agree with that. You never did like that explanation. Nah, that’s not what that means. No, I don’t believe that.” UH-OH, you’re in big trouble. You’re going to be called a fake Christian.
I had to sit with this uncomfortableness as I made a decision whether to walk in ALL of my AUTHENTICITY, or partially or to hide some parts. Nod my head and go along to get along with the masses. The first thing Spirit gave me was to LEARN TO LOVE this old/new part of me by accepting that it is what it is. It is what I think and what I feel. Right or wrong by others standards, it is what I understand on my spiritual journey. “LOVE ALL OF IT. Get so comfortable with it, when you are called too modern or too out there or FAKE, you’ll be okay with it because you’ll have a peace about it because of your own personal relationship with the CREATOR and yourself.” So, John the Baptist…locust and honey-ish in the wilderness, yet at home. (LOL)
Recently, I read Dr. Martin Luther’s King theory on Jesus and my mind was blown to pieces and put back together again. It wasn’t very “Christian-like” to say the least. But, I loved that he spoke “his” thoughts and theory. I don’t have to agree and I don’t have to call him fake or a non-Christian because he had his own thoughts, ideas, and theories. Even if it did go against the Bible and Scholars.
Loving my authentic self empowers me to keep growing and moving towards my own goals, dreams, and destiny. It gives me POWER to walk my own journey and not to worry too much about yours. Oh, and to stand the criticism. I’ll uninvite myself, thank you very much. I was feeling kinda’ trapped in there anyways…
I had researched enough. I had practiced enough. I had thought about it long enough. I had stood on the sidelines watching and observing others. It was time to JUMP. TRY MY HAND AT IT. LEARN AND LIVE THROUGH THE PROCESS. RIDE THE WAVES. It was writing a book. It was putting it out there. It was learning to crochet, selling it, and doing festivals. It was working on a mini-series. It was taking sewing lessons. It was creating abstract art and putting it out there for the world to see.
JUMP. It’s scary. It’s nerve wracking. It’s exhilarating. It’s freeing. It’s fun. It’s faith building for sure!
Merging my G and H together for GOOD HEALTH choices. It’s always empowering to me in spite of having Rheumatoid Arthritis, Fibromyalgia, and other health issues/concerns to make as many good health choices as I can. It’s true that when you eat better you feel better. Plus, with all of the medication I take, I try to give my body a fighting chance to counter act the medicine.
I am not one for diets, trends, or gimmicks. I simply believe in making better choices, more positive ones than negative ones and getting some exercise. Also, what you eat can help your mental health as well. Too much salt or sugar doesn’t help your anxiety or depression.
Becoming. Allow yourself to become! We, that are doing the work on ourselves or just living our lives are all becoming something. The choice is yours. But, when you are trying to empower yourself, change, be a better person you can easily become frustrated. It takes time to become who you are becoming. Let it unfold and be patient with yourself. Numerous times I said yes when I wanted to say no and then found myself dealing with drama. There were times I wanted to say something, but I didn’t. I had to find my voice and then take the opportunities to use it! A decision to change overnight may come, but change itself won’t be overnight.
The authentic self is the soul made visible. -Sarah Ban Breathnach
AUTHENTICITY. I took a journey to excavate my authentic self and it turned out to be the most POWERFUL tool in empowering myself. Who am I before religion, before all of the trauma and drama, before I was shaped and molded into the woman I had become to know, loathe, and then love? I had learned to love myself as I was, which was powerful, but when I remembered, dug deeper into who I was before all of this, before I admitted how I TRULY FELT ABOUT EVERYTHING I WAS TAUGHT in home, in school, in life, in church…that real honesty that can make you feel guilty because you know, they say it’s wrong…or it’s not lady like or it’s not part of our culture or God is going to strike you down. God’s going to write it down and he is reading your thoughts and recording them. Whew, child! I had to now accept my TRUE SOUL and love her all the more. I had to do away with some of my outdated thinking and programmed thinking. I had to move beyond the Black/African American-AMERICAN culture. I had to remember the free little girl in her free moments laying in the backyard looking towards the sky. The little girl sitting on the step of the front porch daydreaming. The little girl before being horrifically teased about being black with naturally red hair. Before prejudice and racism. Before, abuse and before the beat down of self esteem and the rip off of a budding fashion designer. I am more than a preacher’s daughter. I am more than a Christian, if I am that in fact. (Still discovering).
My authentic self is like this megaphone echoing throughout the universe. “Here I am! Here is the real me! Love it, like it, leave it, NAMASTE.” If you are mean, miserable, biased, rude, insensitive, lying to yourself about what you really think and feel, carrying the torch for known evil, etc.. I highly recommend EXCAVATING YOUR AUTHENTIC SELF. If you hate anyone in this world, if you love division, if you can’t see people for people, then you’re probably not as REAL as you claim to be. If you are about ZEN life, Yoga/Yogi, spirituality, but when a person of color walks in you ignore them and their knowledge or experience you probably need some excavating. But I must warn you that becoming your authentic self can be daunting and painful work. It may cause you to lose friends and family and to leave you lonely at times. It may make you feel funny and it may make others living a carbon copy life question your sanity. With that being said, GO FOR IT.