The best thing that ever happened to me

It’s 18 degrees with a 1 degree wind chill here in Maryland this morning, and I’m thinking my planned haircut will have to wait.

What I’m doing in this moment, though, aside from writing this post, is listening to Gladys Knight’s ‘Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me.’ I can think of a few fellas I can say that about, but that’s a story for another day…if ever.

I thought of Gladys’ song while making coffee this morning and considered asking Siri to play the video for me. I could hear the lyrics, but I didn’t know the name of the song and figured it would be more trouble than it was worth to ask her to find it.

Fifteen or so minutes later, despite my menopause-induced forgetfulness, the song continued playing in my head. I googled and found the video. After listening to it a couple of times, I googled the lyrics because now I was hearing the song in a completely different way. Instead of remembering the fellas who’ve impacted my life, I was feeling God and the way HE’s impacted my life.

It could be said that I’ve had a pain-filled life—heck, I’ve said it more than a few times myself—not only because of menfolk but also with losing my father at fourteen, for the terror my siblings and I were subjected to those months before and after his death, and for the subsequent repressed emotions I carried all the years since.

Thankfully, after some serious prodding and after doing a few things that were totally out of character for me, I decided to release it all, and it was the best decision of my life! Why? Because it afforded me the opportunity to open doors I wouldn’t have had the courage to open otherwise and because it allowed me to free the woman I knew was trapped inside, buried beneath decades of repressed anger and grief.

How grateful I am that I came to see the bigger picture of it all: that all of my challenges equipped me to live this one life the way God intended—with the freedom, boldness, and courage to which I continue to aspire.

It was difficult, yes, but I can’t even be mad at the fella whose actions tapped into my grief and let me know it was there. I’m just glad that God graced me the courage to face and work through it. I’m glad, too, that as good as the season is that I’m in now, the best is still yet to come.

What’s the best thing that’s ever happened to you? Think about it and if you’re so inclined, let me know in the comments below.

Lifting the veil

Upon reading “Lifting the Veil,” a prayer in Iyanla Vanzant’s Daily StimuMail, I was reminded of my reluctance to look within myself for the reasons why I was always feeling so bad. It just seemed easier to find ways and things to block the pain and discomfort, to blame folks, work, and circumstances for it.

I happened to be in a relationship when things began to change, and I had started looking to him for comfort. I needed him to assuage the sadness I was feeling; I needed him to be my “feel good”; I needed him to be my “fix”, the Bandaid, as it were, for the wound that was at the root of the problem.

I needed that fix from him all the time and when he didn’t come through, I was sad, my heart ached, I was even immobilized sometimes. “How could he treat me this way?” I cried. “How can he be so cold and unloving?”

The truth, though, was that a Bandaid wasn’t the answer to my problem and being my Bandaid wasn’t his responsibility. I didn’t come to that realization, though, until a few days after I did something that was totally out of character for me.

For reasons I won’t go into here, he had refused to talk to me for an entire week. That one week seemed more like months to me so that Sunday, I showed up totally unannounced on his out-of-town doorstep. I’d awakened that morning resolved to see him, to make him talk to me, to get my fix, and not once during the hour and a half drive did I consider the absurdity of what I was doing. It may not seem absurd to some, but to me, it just wasn’t something I was in the habit of doing in relationship…had never done, in fact. So yes, this was totally out of character for me. Hmmm, as I think about it now, maybe even that behavior was symptomatic of this issue, wasn’t it?

Anyway, he wasn’t home when I arrived, and it was a movie and several miserable hours later before I finally saw him and worked things out. The relationship survived my brief foray into “madness”, yes, but the day revealed that something was terribly wrong and needed to be fixed.

During the drive home, I finally asked the pertinent questions: “Why did I do that? Why did his rejection hurt me so deeply?” “Why was everything hurting me so deeply?”

I had noticed over the years that even though his rejection was devastating, certain other events left me emotionless. I could sit through relatives’ funerals, for instance, and feel no emotion at all. It could be said that we hadn’t been close enough for me to feel anything, but even when my favorite uncle died, I couldn’t shed a tear. And the one memory I have of my father’s funeral was sitting there dry-eyed while the usher fanned and implored us to “go ahead and cry.” But no tears came.

But back to the revelation. In answer to my question, God revealed to me that the emotions I’d been repressing for all those years since my father’s illness and death in 1975 were finally surfacing, and my beloved’s rejection was tapping into that deep well of pain.

No longer could I repress the grief, the pain of losing someone so dear to me, or the fear and anger over the terror my family had been subjected to after Daddy’s death. It all was demanding to be released!

No longer would time with my beloved, or work, TV, books, alcohol, drugs, food serve as distractions.

It was finally time to resolve the emotions of the past and the not-so-distant past.

Either I could allow the emotions to come forth now, or I could continue blaming others for the pain that was, unbeknownst to me, written all over my face. I could allow them to come forth, or I could end up destroying the relationship that was so important to me.

My choice that day was freedom; freedom from the past; freedom from the well of pain that innocuous TV shows and commercials were tapping into; freedom from the pain that often immobilized me for days; freedom from the pain I’d been hiding from family, friends, and colleagues.

Yes, it was time!

So, for the next few months, whenever I felt that familiar heaviness or that overwhelming sadness, I’d take a seat in my bedroom recliner and sit with the sadness. I’d allow it to rise from the hidden places of my heart, and I would cry.

I’d cry for minutes, sometimes hours.

I’d feel the pain in my arms, legs, fingers, and toes.

The pain would be so deep sometimes that it rendered me breathless, racking my body with sobs.

Sometimes I’d sit on the bathroom floor, the door closed against the moaning and wailing that rose from deep within my soul.

At the beginning of each session of what I now refer to as my release ritual, I began asking God to show me the reason for the tears I was about to shed and in my mind’s eye, a scene from the past would play out while I released the emotions associated with it.

Those were some rough weeks, but I’m so very thankful that I made to choice for freedom, that I didn’t give up.

I’m grateful I got to walk in the light at the end of the tunnel, to experience the joy that comes in the morning, and to witness the beauty for ashes and the joy for tears that God promised.

I think, though, that I knew I wasn’t being the person God created me to be because I’d often think of her as trapped inside, wanting to be this, wanting to do that, wanting to be free, free to just BE!!

No more pretending that all was well even though my heart and mind were filled with pain.

No more needing to be Wonder Woman in order to prove I was on my game.

No more allowing the behavior of others to dictate how I feel. If he called, I was happy; if he didn’t, I was sad.

No more needing anyone to fill my voids or to be my joy. Love and self-acceptance fill the voids, and from within comes my joy.

No more avoiding the dance floor. I may not know how to wobble, but I do what I do to my heart’s content.

And while I may not be the best singer in the room, I’ll grab my makeshift mic (knife, spoon, fork, pencil, or pen) and do my thang.

No more restricting myself to the treadmill because I’m too self-conscious to walk outside. I now walk wherever I want—in the park, on the trail, along the river walk, on country roads, even on city sidewalks with traffic whizzing by and without a single thought about who may be criticizing me.

Freedom.

I was discussing plans for our high school reunion with a classmate recently, and she shared how impressed some of our classmates are with me. “Why?” I asked. “Because you talk now,” she replied. I laughed. I had met and talked with several of them while living down home on the farm after my cross-country road trip. How great it was to reconnect and not look for reasons to avoid it.

Freedom.

As for the relationship, it ended a few years later. I cried, yes, but when I think about it now, I can actually smile; first, because it happened and second, because of the role it played in my becoming.

Freedom.

With that said, I hope you’ll read the prayer that prompted me to tell all my business in this blog post (well, maybe not quite ALL of it), and I hope it’ll be the beginning of your journey to freedom.

On my birthday

As I awakened to the dawn of my 54th year, I lay there reflecting on my one life and all the challenges, changes, and beauty I’ve seen during the course of those years. It hasn’t always been easy, but I’m thankful to have recognized that I wasn’t alone on the journey. I’m thankful to have recognized, too, that the journey wasn’t all about me.

I’m thankful to have realized that for all the times I may have fallen and come short, I can finally acknowledge and accept that I did the best I could with what I had at the time.

I’m thankful for the release that came from hearing Mother Maya Angelou when she told us that “when you know better, you do better.” I’m so thankful that as I have learned better, I have done better.

No, it wasn’t always easy, but I’m forever grateful for the heart and mind for transformation with which the Almighty graced me. It was He who helped me see myself and others as He sees us, a gift that gave me understanding and compassion during those times when I didn’t understand who I or they were being…during those times when all I wanted to do was just cuss and say, “to hell with you!”

I’m thankful for the many days and nights of tears, tears that freed me from decades of repressed emotions and that freed the butterfly I always knew was trapped beneath all the pain, fear, anger, inadequacy, and insecurity. It was a cauldron of emotions on which I’d spent many years keeping the lid tightly sealed, but as that little girl demanded her freedom, it became more and more difficult to do so.

Then, one day in 1996, while confined to my bedroom after surgery on a broken ankle, that little girl’s demands became more than I could repress. At the insistence of my big sister Sheila (Stanley Bowser), I made the call that set in motion the transformation of a lifetime! I obtained the name of a psychotherapist from the insurance company, made the appointment, and began the reclaiming of Lydia. It would be a few years before we got around to releasing the emotions, but we did that, too.

When I look at my life today, I am thankful for the peace, the contentment, the happiness, and the passion I feel. My life today is the opposite of the life I was living in 2010 when I gave it all up to begin traveling light. I’ve had moments—ok, weeks, maybe even months–of fear and panic, wondering what was going to happen to me, where I was going to end up. Thankfully, though, I found my way when God showed me the beauty of the season I’m in right now. Through Joel Osteen, He implored me further to focus on the beauty and all that I do have instead of the burden of what I don’t.

What I see now are the blessings. The blessing of family and friends who love me, support me, and who have opened their homes to me during this continuing season of growth and change.

I see the blessing in experiencing God in nature almost daily in parks and by rivers and lakes in various cities.

I see the blessing in being able to photograph those God moments in ways that will inspire others. How satisfying to hear from a viewer that those photos are a source of inspiration, peace, and calm.

So, while my life may not be what it used to be, I am eternally grateful for what it is. I am thankful, too, for every person who has supported me in ways too numerous to mention as I move through this season, which, quite honestly is the second best time of my life!! What’s the first, you ask? That would be my cross-country road trip.

Oh, there’s one more thing that I’ve realized, and it’s that I’ve embarked upon yet another journey that I know will take me places spiritually—and probably emotionally and physically, too—to which I’ve never been, and I’m very excited about it!

As I end this post, I’m reminded of a line from Gil Scott-Heron’s song ‘I’m New Here’. In it he says,

“No matter how far wrong you’ve gone, you can always turn around.”

I hope I’ve said something today that will inspire you to turn around.

With this post, I’m including a few random photos I made over the last few days. I hope you enjoy them.