Category Archives: CONNECTED

CONNECTED: Father Figure, chapter 7 (by C.G.)

 

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As my wedding approaches I think about all the traditional portions of a wedding: being walked down the aisle and the father-daughter dance that will not take place. 

Maybe I should start from the beginning. I am the youngest of my father’s three children, by three different women. However, I am my mother’s only child. My father passed away a few months shy of me turning 11 years old. I always think of the line from Tupacs song “Dear Mama” in which he says, “No love from my daddy cause the coward wasn’t there. He passed away and I didn’t cry cuz my anger wouldn’t let me feel for a stranger. They say I’m wrong and I’m heartless, but all along I was looking for a father he was gone”.

I remember the day so vividly. My mom came into my room and told me that she got a call from a family friend, who was told that my father passed away. My mom asked if I needed anything and I told her that I wanted to be by myself. I turned my radio on and Maria Carey’s “Hero” was playing. Hearing that song triggers emotions and memories from that day and I still can’t listen to the entire song. 

For years I was angry with my father because I could not understand why he was never around or didn’t come around, but now he had a reason. He was dead.

 

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 I used to cry thinking about my wedding day and what I was going to miss out on. The prayers of my mother worked because unlike many young girls that sought out a father or father figures in negative ways (drinking, overly sexualized, and being mistreated in relationships) I channeled my focus on not being a product of my environment. I was raised by a single mother and surrounded by all strong, black, single mother’s who said they didn’t need a man and were the mother and father to their children. Even though my grandfather was around it was very clear that my grandmother was in charge.  

My mother was in a relationship with a Man that loved me as if I was his own, but he could never fill the void I had for my father. I remember returning home from a summer vacation and he was gone. No explanation, no goodbye, just gone. This hurt me deeply. I began to distort that he left because of me. Oh, did I forget to mention that a few months before my father passed away, my favorite uncle died, then my father passed, my mother’s boyfriend left, and then my paternal grandfather passed away. This all happened before my 11th birthday.

 I think at this point I developed the idea that all men leave or if they do come around they don’t stay for very long. I developed trust issues, especially with men. We started to attend church that same year as well and it seemed to be beneficial to closing that void. It was the following year that I met my two best friends (sisters) who both had fathers in their lives. It was an odd, yet eye opening experience for me to see a father and daughter relationship in action. Once their fathers learned of my father’s death they graciously accepted me as their own. It took me several years before I could actually call them dad because I never had to use the word before and honestly it felt weird to say. 

My growing relationships with my new fathers pushed me into no longer wanting to be angry with my biological father. At the age of 25 years old I began to ask questions about my father from various family members. It was this information that slowly closed the void of not having him around. I became more empathetic as I learned more about his childhood, lack of relationship with his biological father, and volatile relationship with his stepfather. Did my father love his children? Yes! Do I think he wanted the best for his children? Yes! However, how was he supposed to be a father figure when he was given very little guidance from the beginning? 

With this knowledge I begin to mourn my father for the first time in 25 years. He was a person and even though we didn’t have a relationship, I miss him. 

Now back to my upcoming wedding. My brother in-law has accepted the role of walking me down the aisle. I have decided to attach my father’s picture to my bouquet so that he will be a part of the occasion and my mother and I will have a mother-daughter dance. 

Fathers or father figures play a very large role in a young girl/woman’s life. They show you how to be respected, loved, treated, and most importantly they are a big part of your self-esteem. My father figures have helped me to see this and I am forever grateful for their willingness to practically raise a child that was not theirs. It was because of my relationship with them that I was able to trust and find my future husband. I look forward to giving my future children something I never had as a small child, A Father.

 

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CONNECTED: The Quality of Life For Whom, chapter 4

The prose author is Aasiya A. ID-Deen, a native of New York, who has lived in California since 1980. Her love and passion is to bring another level of awareness via her creativity; using various medias: acrylics, collage, recyclables, photography and writing are accessed through her visions of wonderment. Look and see, what can be as she allows you in her world to expose the outer world. Some of her work is featured below. The name of her business is WEIUSUME (we-i-us-u-me), meaning, we are all connected.

An ant, a flea, the cat and dog as well as the elephant and zebra, are among the few contributing on this Earth to BE.

A blade of grass, the budding flowers, even the roots of trees collaborate their essence to BE.

One drop of rain water to the oceans and seas come together in a smooth transition to just BE.

A grain of rice, a grain of sand. . . expressions of the watermelon seed or mustard seed, have linked itself through a cell. . . is this as well you and me?

 

Photography series by Aasiya ID-Deen

They all lent themselves; itself to the art in creativity. From the creatures with many eyes to no eyes, we have envisioned the beauty of true love in which we evolve. Some through pain, some in joy and all in between. The quality of life comes from our choices of intent with action and the use of negative negativity, compassion or silent voices.

Why become more human-like when the world we occupy is dehumanizing its residents? Tasteless food, without nutrients, but only to change our DNA; to desensitize the emotions, compassions and independent thinking. 

 

Photography series by Aasiya ID-Deen


Scentless buildings of entry. What will happen to the olfactory bulb that associates with the brain? Odors contribute to the emotions of fear, pleasant and unpleasant responses. Will we no longer smell the richness of Merlot, the sweetness of the rose, mama’s Sunday afternoon apple pies or the smell of your new baby? We come upon a centless world to break down it’s natural independence from power – the soul.

A senseless group of controllers, greedy to move the world. That’s bold, but who really will be left so to speak in the cold? Will our dreams, prayers and hopes only reveal a turnaround, an upside down exposure of our true foes?

 

Photography series by Aasiya ID-Deen

I don’t want to become more humanlike, and I’m really tired of human experiences. Although, they are constructed, perhaps, for the purpose of earthly lessons or experimentations. Some speak of agendas for the day, month, year and even for a lifetime. . . however that is sorted out to mean. My agenda at this very moment is to just BE so I can get home.
Take time to be with yourself. Are you content, happy with what you have created from within yourself, the environment around yourself, on this canvas called life?

I’ve learned the simplest task can be meaningful if I do it in the right spirit. I’ve learned that every great achievement was once considering impossible. I’ve learned that the great challenge of life is to decide what’s important NOW and to disregard everything else. I’ve learned that you can make anyone smile if you give them a box of crayons and a coloring book (or paper).

 

Photography series by Aasiya ID-Deen

Buddha said: Do not believe a thing simply because it has been said. Do not put your faith in traditions only because they have been honored by many generations. Do not believe a thing because the general opinion believes it to be true or because it has been said repeatedly. Do not believe a thing because the probabilities are in it’s favor, or because you are in the habit of believing it to be true. Do not believe in that which comes to your imagination, thinking that it must be the revelation of a superior being.

Believe nothing that binds you to the sole of your masters or priests. That which you have tried yourself, which you have experienced, which you have recognized as true, and which will be beneficial to you and others; believe that, and shape your conduct to it.

 

Handmade journals by Aasiya ID-Deen

 
 

WEIUSUME 

P.O. BOX 1554

WINDSOR, CALIFORNIA

95492

(916) 248-3882

benejueves@gmail.com

 You may contact Aasiya to request a viewing of more of her art; discuss her art or make purchases.

CONNECTED: The Prodigal Son, chapter 3

woman, mother, wife, therapist, blogger, enlightener, AVENGER

[originally posted 5/2015]

My first born turned 27 years old this year. He stands six foot; three inches tall and his skin color varies with the season. He is a handsome man: half of me and half his father who is Mexican. He is his fathers son despite my bestowing upon him a name I hoped would shape him. A name that means, god•man.

He wears the features of his sire: same face, same expressions and if you read about my domestic violence history with my ex-husband; you will understand when I say; my sons temperament and lack of insight rivals that of his fathers. 

He was never arrested as a juvenile, but he did have interaction with the police. I’m going to wager he had more dealings with the law than what was brought to my attention. 

As a youth, he was in fights often. It wasn’t that he initiated combat; he just loved being where there was drama and excitement, which is where trouble typically lurks. Thus, he was associated with trouble and trouble became his reputation. His mark preceded him and his siblings. The Lopez kids. Teachers, principles, students knew them all, because they all knew my first born.

In school, he was in trouble regularly and I received a lot of phone calls from faculty. My son was brilliant; he had a lot of energy, and school bored him. He had trouble sitting still. Once or twice a month I would leave work to sit in his classroom. Of course he behaved while I was present. On one occasion, I was sitting in his 9th grade class and observed every student in the class out of control. The students did not know who I was, nor did they care; judging by the way they continued to act out, throw things and remain out of their seats. I was humored by my sons angelic behavior. I could tell he was usually part of the mayhem because the students were puzzled by his demeanor and repeatedly attempted to get him to engage. He just sat there; aware his mother was four seats behind him.

I was surprised when his teacher said, “See?! That’s what I’m talking about. He always does that.” She was referring to the way he tapped his pencil on the desk. I understood what she meant. He was restless. Some part of him was forever in motion.

His suspension record was lengthy and for a variety of infractions: fighting, cutting class, disrespect to faculty. I remember one of his high school principals called to inform me he was suspending my boy for calling him a “nigger.” It wasn’t quite like that, My boy said something to the effect of, ‘Why are you always on me nigga?’ which is still very much disrespectful, but different than a racist comment. Faculty did not care for my son. They watched him closely and suspended him whenever plausible and possible. He was suspended once for jaywalking. When school was out, my boy crossed the street while the light was red and was suspended. I had that suspension reversed.

His last suspension occurred when he was 18 years old; a high school senior. It was two weeks before graduation and the principal told me he did not want to suspend my boy, because if he did it would mean he wouldn’t be able to graduate with his class. My son and two other young men were caught with stolen yearbooks. The principal wanted my son to tell the truth about what he had done. Telling the truth and taking responsibility is something my son continues to struggle with. He never told the truth about stealing the yearbooks; even though a few were discovered in his backpack. The principal was saddened by this, but permitted him to graduate. The principal, a Latino man, said he did not feel right about holding my son back from graduating since the rate of high school dropouts continued to rise. His fear was my son would not return to finish, or if he did return he would continue accruing infractions and perhaps end up expelled. The principal did not want to chance it. So, we made it: made it into adulthood, made it through high school.

I spent a lot of time focused on my first born; which took attention away from my children who were doing well. I saw my eldest had the potential to do very well in life; or fail very well in life. He was failing. I tried to save him. I sought out the best high schools with the best athletic programs. First, I tightened my budget and put him in a private Christian School. We were not Religious and I didn’t know how I would pay for four years of private school, but my boy liked it. It wasn’t long before I started receiving calls from the school. My son had an issue wearing his uniform the way school policy required it to be worn. Either his shirt was untucked, he was sagging his pants or he took something that did not belong to him. After blatantly and constantly dismissing rules and authority, the school said my son could no longer attend. He lasted three months and cried when he was asked to leave.

I sent him to New York City to stay with my father for a while. My father works with young people. The thought was, my son would have a job with his grandfather; close guidance from a positive role model; he’d see different possibilities which would nurture the good in him. Instead, my boy did what he does. He looked past all the positive and found drug dealers to hang on the corner with. He was disrespectful to my father, which pained me, because my father tried to help him. My son was back home in two months.

After his return, I tried him in different charter schools but to no avail. The issues were always the same because he never changed. He was stuck. I received calls during grade school, throughout middle school and high school. Fighting, stealing and lying carried over into his adult life. There is a side of him that can be considered kind and giving. Perhaps the battle between his fathers genetics and my own.

His father is a sociopath. My son is the oldest and witnessed his fathers violence toward me and his siblings. For example, when I was eight months pregnant with my second son his father was beating me and trying to strangle me. I ran from the bedroom and grabbed the phone in the kitchen and called my mother for help. My then husband ripped the cord from the wall. He tackled me to the floor and drug me to a spot on the living room floor near the front door. He had me pinned to the floor and was gently speaking threats and disparaging remarks with a smile on his face as he sat on my my pregnant belly. When my mother arrived, he refused to get off me. My mother said,”I can see you sitting on her stomach through the opening of the curtain and you’d better get off of her. He did not. My mother threatened to use force. She’d brought her weapon. I screamed my sons name. He was four years old,  crying and rubbing his eyes with his little fists. I gently told him to open the door for his grandmother. My son walked passed his father who sat atop me; got a step stool, carried it to the  front door, stood on the stool and undid all the locks. As my son unlocked the door my husband released my wrists from his grip and sat up. He was sitting on my thighs and saw my pants had come off from being dragged along the carpet and said,”If I knew your pants were down I would have raped you.”

There were times my son would tell me what his father did to his siblings in my absence. He was a baby himself and I don’t believe he remembers; but I’m certain he remembers seeing his fathers abuse toward the girlfriends that came after me. I’m also certain the horrors he doesn’t remember, are singed into his subconscious and contributed to shaping the man he is today. That man is a lot like his father.  

When my son was a junior in high school, I was contacted by an enraged mother who told me my boy had grabbed her daughter and shook her. Apparently, my son had become jealous after seeing text messages from another boy in the girls cell phone. I empathized with the girls mother and apologized. I asked her how she wanted to handle the situation. She said she wanted the apology to come from my son, and she wanted him to stay away from her daughter “for now.”

I spoke to my son many times about how abusing women is wrong. He said he understood. I suggested many things he could do besides being abusive. I told him not to ever expect that I would side with him just because he is my son. I told him I believe people should be held accountable for their choices and actions. I said,”I will help you improve if you want to improve. That’s it.” He gave me a hug and said,”Thanks mom.” My boy did not give me many issues inside the home; aside from bullying his siblings, lying and taking things that did not belong to him. He was usually respectful to me and when in my presence.

My son relates to his paternal side of the family, lots of drama, machismo, lying, acceptance of disrespect to women and because I work in a prison I often wonder how my son would fare if incarcerated where the Mexicans and Blacks are at war. They kill one another. They are enemies. I wonder which side he’d choose; because he would need to choose. I thought,’the blacks wouldn’t trust him.’ He has LOPEZ tattooed across his chest in huge letters as well as tattoos I think he believes are cool; but are actually insignias for dangerous Latino gangs. Marks that might get him killed in prison. I can only hope he doesn’t place himself in that predicament.

knew it wasn’t good for children to live in a household where there was violence. It’s common sense; not rocket science. It was overwhelming for me as a young mother. I didn’t think I had the support or means to get my children to safety and maintain it. I was planning, but in the interim my children were being effected.
“Whether or not children are physically abused, they often suffer emotional and psychological trauma from living in homes where their fathers abuse their mothers. Children whose mothers are abused are denied the kind of home life that fosters healthy development. Children who grow up observing their mothers being abused, especially by their fathers, grow up with a role model of intimate relationships in which one person uses intimidation and violence over the other person to get their way. Because children have a natural tendency to identify with strength, they may ally themselves with the abuser and lose respect for their seemingly helpless mother. Abusers typically play into this by putting the mother down in front of her children and telling them that their mother is “crazy” or “stupid” and that they do not have to listen to her. Seeing their mothers treated with enormous disrespect, teaches children that they can disrespect women the way their fathers do. Most experts believe that children who are raised in abusive homes learn that violence is an effective way to resolve conflicts and problems. They may replicate the violence they witnessed as children in their teen and adult relationships and parenting experiences. Boys who witness their mothers’ abuse are more likely to batter their female partners as adults than boys raised in nonviolent homes. For girls, adolescence may result in the belief that threats and violence are the norm in relationships. Children from violent homes have higher risks of alcohol/drug abuse, post traumatic stress disorder, and juvenile delinquency. Witnessing domestic violence is the single best predictor of juvenile delinquency and adult criminality. It is also the number one reason children run away.”

http://www.domesticviolenceroundtable.org/effect-on-children.html

When I did escape, it was a nightmare. I really do understand why some women stay, conform and keep their mouths shut.  For me, that was not an option. I didn’t want my daughter to think it was acceptable to be mistreated by a man. I didn’t want my sons to think it was normal; culturally acceptable to mistreat, abuse and/or devalue women.  

My son allies with his father; he’s been in fist fights with his father, uses drugs and alcohol with his father; they are amused by the harm caused to others; they have simpatico.  

Often, boys who witness their fathers abuse, either ally with the father or have the urge to protect their mothers. I counsel lots and lots of men who were once little boys who saw their mothers abused. As boys they felt helpless; unable to protect their mothers. and stand up for themselves. When men feel helpless, anger tends to be the ensuing emotion and young men aren’t very good at coping with emotions in general. These little boys grow into men who are sometimes violent toward other men, while worshipping women OR they become the ones who hate women and/or associate love with violence. {Of course there is grey area.}

I haven’t had much interaction with my first born for more than two years. A few years ago he was homeless and we invited him to live with us for a few months. My husband and I were invested in helping him get on his feet. He never quite landed. He has been terminated from many jobs because of poor work ethic, along with some of the same behaviors that kept him in trouble during his school years.

While at our house, he stole things. Although, stealing wasn’t his worst offense. I told him not to bring people to my house; he did. He was instructed not to drive our cars because his license was suspended, but he did anyway. We had to lock all the car keys in a safe. I told him, he was expected to stay sober in my home, but it wasn’t long before I suspected he was using drugs.  He began exhibiting odd behavior like sneaking out windows when he thought everyone was asleep. He was an adult; 24 years old. If he wanted to leave he simply could have walked out the front door. 

He was unpredictable and erratic. A recipe that did not mesh well with my PTSD. The last time he snuck out, I texted his cell-phone and after reading his bullshit reply about why he snuck out a window; rather than using the front door, I told him I couldn’t help him anymore. He was angry, but came to collect his belongings a couple days later. 

Roughly two weeks passed before he returned while no one was home; kicked in the garage door, entered the house and kicked in my bedroom door. He stole some of my jewelry. He didn’t take much. He just wanted to make a point. He felt angry with me and probably rejected. I kicked him out of the house when he was 18 years old and there were guys harassing my younger children because of things my eldest boy was associated with. I warned him over and over and over, before I told him he had to go. It was a difficult choice, but it had to be made. I made peace with the man he is and the choices and paths he chooses. I know it is not my job to enable him or fix him. He is 27 years old. He makes his choices and I make mine. I don’t want to be around unpredictable behavior when I’m not at work. Safety is very important to me. My first born makes me feel very unsafe. 

I had an acquaintance who gave me the nickname “History of Violence.” He said,”You’re quiet, but I know you have a violent history.” He meant I had the propensity toward violence. At least I thought that’s what he meant. Perhaps he saw through my vigilance and recognized some sort of survivor. Either way, he was correct.

 

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/antisocial-personality-disorder/basics/symptoms/con-20027920

Antisocial personality disorder is a type of chronic mental condition in which a person’s ways of thinking, perceiving situations and relating to others are dysfunctional — and destructive. People with antisocial personality disorder typically have no regard for right and wrong and often disregard the rights, wishes and feelings of others.

Those with antisocial personality disorder tend to antagonize, manipulate or treat others either harshly or with callous indifference. They may often violate the law, landing in frequent trouble, yet they show no guilt or remorse. They may lie, behave violently or impulsively, and have problems with drug and alcohol use. These characteristics typically make people with antisocial personality disorder unable to fulfill responsibilities related to family, work or school.

Antisocial personality disorder signs and symptoms may include:

  • Disregard for right and wrong
  • Persistent lying or deceit to exploit others
  • Using charm or wit to manipulate others for personal gain or for sheer personal pleasure
  • Intense egocentrism, sense of superiority and exhibitionism
  • Recurring difficulties with the law
  • Repeatedly violating the rights of others by the use of intimidation, dishonesty and misrepresentation
  • Child abuse or neglect
  • Hostility, significant irritability, agitation, impulsiveness, aggression or violence
  • Lack of empathy for others and lack of remorse about harming others
  • Unnecessary risk-taking or dangerous behaviors
  • Poor or abusive relationships
  • Irresponsible work behavior
  • Failure to learn from the negative consequences of behavior

Antisocial personality disorder symptoms may begin in childhood and are fully evident for most people during their 20s and 30s. In children, cruelty to animals, bullying behavior, impulsivity or explosions of anger, social isolation, and poor school performance may be, in some cases, early signs of the disorder.

Although considered a lifelong disorder, some symptoms — particularly destructive and criminal behavior and the use of alcohol or drugs — may decrease over time, but it’s not clear whether this decrease is a result of aging or an increased awareness of the consequences of antisocial behavior.

Personality is the combination of thoughts, emotions and behaviors that makes everyone unique. It’s the way people view, understand and relate to the outside world, as well as how they see themselves. Personality forms during childhood, shaped through an interaction of these factors:

  • Genetics. These inherited tendencies are aspects of a person’s personality passed on by parents, such as shyness or having a positive outlook. This is sometimes called temperament.
  • Environment. This means the surroundings a person grows up in, events that occurred, and relationships with family members and others. It includes such life situations as the type of parenting a person experienced, whether loving or abusive.

Personality disorders are thought to be caused by a combination of these genetic and environmental influences. Some people may have genes that make them vulnerable to developing antisocial personality disorder — and life situations may trigger its development.

There may be a link between an early lack of empathy — understanding the perspectives and problems of others, including other children — and later onset of antisocial personality disorder. Identifying these personality problems early may help improve long-term outcomes.

Every year, between 11-17 May, we help to raise awareness of mental health and wellbeing issues.

 

CONNECTED: 2015, The Final Chapter (19) by Tamika and Catherine 

  

I’ve been trying to remember who I was and how I was at the onset of 2015; the year I had been referring to as “The year of change” from the very beginning. I remember thinking,’This is going to be a good year.’ Every time someone brought me news; good or bad, I heard myself say aloud,”This is the year of change.”

JANUARY: My father in law died January 22, 2015. He was 88 years old and had been battling Parkinson’s Disease. “I’m not ready to die,” he said and fought it for nearly a decade. A week before he passed away, he told my husband he was ready to go… and so he did.
FEBRUARY: My husband and I purchased a new home and moved into it, February 14, 2015. Buying a home is big, but that part wasn’t a major change. I lived in New York until I was 21 years old. When I moved to California I lived in urban areas: Oakland, Vallejo, and Sacramento. Now I am living on five acres in a town populated by less than three thousand humans and I love it. Working in a prison made me appreciate sanctum and solitude more than ever. 

MARCH: In March I de-friended my ex-husband on Facebook. People are probably confused about why I’d accept a friendship request from a man who battered and bruised me, and threatened to kill me and our children. Well, my children were minors when I accepted his Facebook request. He was Facebook friends with the children and I wanted to be able to monitor his interactions with them. He’s a saboteur. He has nothing and does nothing and invites the boys to be like him. I watched for things like that and tried to protect the children from what they couldn’t see. On March 28th my ex wrote a lot of bullying type things on my posts. I quietly deleted them, and then I deleted him. I’d wager he was inebriated; just as he had been throughout the years when he left drunken voicemails or messages in my Facebook inbox. Some people never change.

 

APRIL: In April my baby, my youngest spawn, turned 21 years old.  

MAY: On May 5, 2015, I had major surgery; a hysterectomy. I’ve had horrible menses since they started at age 12. I was forever anemic and the pain was unbearable. In 2014, I had a procedure done; it was supposed to remedy the anemia by reducing or eliminating the amount of blood loss. One possible side effect was increased dysmenorrhea. I was dealt that side effect. The pain was so great that one day I fainted for the first time in my life. It was a big deal and eye opening. I decided to stop avoiding a hysterectomy. A physician told me,”Your uterus has served you well. You were blessed with four children. Haven’t you suffered enough?” I agreed. I had suffered greatly. I gave up my uterus and my ovaries were left intact. As a result  I really don’t feel any different… mentally. Prior to surgery I only had one pain free week each month. Now I just feel free.

JUNE: My surgeon said,”You should be back to normal activities in a couple of weeks.” I was not. I returned to work after six weeks and struggled. I returned to the surgeon for a check up and told him what I was experiencing. He said, the nature and environment of my job was a stressor on my body and therefore it may take longer to heal. He remarked,”I didn’t know you moved around so much at work.” I told him, after parking my car, I walk more than 1/2 mile to get to my office. I told him I was constantly on the move and to imagine the atmosphere of an emergency room; not to mention, if I were to be in danger, I’d have to handle myself. He updated my FMLA forms permitting me to care for myself. I worked one full day and three partial days each week. My thought was to gradually increase my full shifts (10 hours) until my body could handle 40 hours a week in state prison. 
 

JULY: My birthday is in July (Yay team Cancer!!). I welcomed my 44th year on earth.  

I was traumatized at work on July 20th. Further traumatized on July 22nd and haven’t been back since. I tried with all my might, but I couldn’t get over it. Post Traumatic Stress had hold of me like never before. I kept waiting to get better, but I didn’t; at least not right away. I had to grieve, accept, and make peace with the fact that I could not keep both my sanity and current career. 

AUGUST: Toward the end of August; after one more nightmare, I woke and literally said,”Fuck this! I’m never going back to the prison.” Making that decision laid something to rest within me because the nightly nightmares stopped.

SEPTEMBER: On September 1st, I started my own business. I rented an office, obtained my business license and the month was spent completing paperwork and researching. 

I started a private practice because helping people actualize, grow, gain insight, improve, etc., is meaningful to me. I knew I could no longer work for an agency; for multiple reasons. My aim was to figure out how to do the work I found rewarding while feeling safe. 
  

OCTOBER: My first client came to me on October 1st. Thereafter I averaged one new client each week. Some weeks I have three to five new clients. I am pleased and happy. I have a lot of power and choice which makes me feel safe and secure. 

The last time I changed my career, I had been in a really bad car accidents that altered my path. This time a really bad incident changed my path. Both times I advanced mentally and spiritually. I cannot complain. 

NOVEMBER: November was low-key. Uneventful for the most part. One of our children hosted Thanksgiving for the first time. That was different, but nice.

DECEMBER: On December 1st my husband had major surgery. He had a hip replaced and seems to have bounced back faster than I did after my surgery.

While he was recovering I learned I am stronger than I thought. I had to do things my husband typically took care of and they were things I never thought I would do because I was afraid. The fears stemmed from PTSD. For example, I would never go outside after sundown without my husband. If I was coming home at night he would come outside so I wouldn’t be afraid to walk from the garage to the house. After his surgery he couldn’t do those things for me and I found I had evolved. I had to go outside into darkness to take care of my animals because if I didn’t they would suffer and be vulnerable to predators. I think the “momma bear” in me woke up. 

That was my 2015 in a nutshell. Growth, progress and change

2016 is “The Year of Answers.”

  

By Tamika 
 At the start of 2015, I decided I would write down what I was grateful for. I heard that folks who are grateful would have more to be grateful for. Being a scientist, I wanted to test out that theory: every now and then, I would document what I was grateful whenever I came across something I deemed was significant. 

 As of today, I have documented  over 400 things I am, and have been grateful for. Some are simple: I am grateful I can afford comfy shoes and can buy what I want. Many are about love and how grateful I am for love and the loves in my life. Many were also about little lessons I’ve learned throughout the year. 

I noticed a trend in my data: I was becoming more open to seeing the signs or as the alchemist noted, “omens.” The signs could be as simple as getting lost, coming to a crossroads and trying to feel which was the right turn to make or mulling over a decision and trying to let my intuition guide me toward the best answer. The more I became open to the signs, the more signs came to me.

This insight led me back to the one significant occasion in my life that opened up this way of thinking to me. It was the death of my grandpa in 1998. He was a long time smoker and died of emphysema. He loved us so much and spoiled us in good ways. I was grateful he could always find me when I went downstairs to play outside. Granted, this was a massive amount of open space with four parks, a pizza parlor and more, but he always knew where I was. My mom would always yell at me for hanging out at the pizza parlor and playing videogames so I knew I shouldn’t be there but the lure of Super Pac man or Mr. Doo’s Castle was too strong for that 4th grader. I was always afraid of getting caught,  but when my grandpa found me there, he wouldn’t chastise me and he’d even give me a quarter to enjoy myself a little more before going back home with him for dinner. It’s little things like that that made me love him so much. 

They took him off his respirator on my birthday but he didn’t pass that day. He lived four more days. I stayed overnight many times in the hospital waiting room so he wasn’t alone when he passed, but I  don’t think he wanted to pass with me waiting for him. He passed on the day I left the hospital in the morning to take a shower and change my clothes. 

It was after he passed that I saw so many signs of him. He had Red Rover Beanie Baby, while in the hospital and he would pet him on his bed tray. Once they retire a Beanie Baby, they stop manufacturing them and you wouldn’t be able to find them anymore but when I missed him, I would find Red Rover in other forms (e.g., Seeing a cheap knockoff that was in green which is my favorite color, I saw a giant sized Red Rover at Hallmark when I was stressed out from graduate school, a re-issued green Red Rover at Toys R’ Us years later, a tiny ornament version,  and a real Red Rover my aunt sent me). There were too many instances for this to be coincidental and that was the beginning of how I began to see the signs and omens. 

  
We all have our rational brain that tells us this is true or this is not true. There is logic to our rational brain as we find empirical evidence to support our claims but seeing these signs is often not rational, but intuitive as there is no logical explanation. I am also a statistician at heart. I know the statistics of the occurrences of certain events. Many times, the statistics of so many things that have to occur in order for a certain outcome to result is astronomical. That is what fascinates me so about these “coincidences.” A friend of mine told me that there are no coincidences and that things always happen for a reason. 

Going back to my theory testing, I  noticed that I’ve become more open to seeing these signs and omens and what I’ve learned is, we need to live with the questions and uncertainty at times because the answers will come to us when we need them. The tools we need to reach our goals are always right where we need them. Case in point: I need to work towards tenure with published articles in peer-reviewed journals. I could spend many of my days worrying about that but I haven’t. I make a conscious decision to work through the fear and tell myself that I will have enough time to get my 6 publications out so I can become tenured and promote to full professor. I’ve been working on my manuscripts and applied for a fellowship that will give me a mentor who will help me with my publications. I was chosen for that fellowship and it has been a wonderful experience thus far. My mentor chose to mentor junior faculty because she knows how hard it is for a woman to get tenure and publish in academia. The best part is that the colleagues I have met are all doing such wonderful research in the health field and we are all supportive of one another. 

I feel that by not giving into our fears, it allows our eyes to see the signs that are set before us. Of course, we need to have a clear vision of what we want to accomplish in life but once we do that work, I really believe the universe conspires to help us accomplish those goals. I’ve come across that lesson many times before and I am only starting to believe it wholeheartedly. I’ve come across many opportunities that are all helping me to reach my goals and it’s encouraged me to dream even bigger. I’ve witnessed signs that once we align our life’s goals with the work that we do, we tend to see the bigger picture and how our life’s work can create even more good in the world. Of course, we may not be sure how to reach those goals but I have a firm sense that those unknowns will eventually become answered as time passes. So by simply having faith that things will work out for the best, being open-minded and content with unanswered questions for now creates a shift in the universe where everything works out and in your favor. Living this way makes me so excited because there are so many projects I want to accomplish because I can see the signs that point me towards my destiny. 

 One day I will be a full professor, the author of the best breastfeeding book around, a world-renowned researcher, and it will all come to fruition because I dreamed big (& bigger). My signs and omens all point in that direction and that makes life so very interesting.

  
Catherine