I am ashamed to admit that I did not know God until I knew God.
I remember my mother teaching me to say the Lord’s Prayer when I was a little girl. I would get on my knees at night and repeat her words: Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. As I matured, I struggled to differentiate between religion and spirituality.
I always considered myself to be more spiritual than religious. I am more concerned with fulfilling God’s will versus my own. A mental filmstrip of memories – trauma, bullying, rejection and grief – rushes to the forefront of my mind. Those life experiences brought me to who I am today. As I approached my fifty-second birthday, I realized that my life has come full circle and it is nothing but God.
If I had to do it all over again, I would. It would be worth the pain because it all makes sense now. I had to grow through those experiences to become who I am becoming. I reminisce about my dreams of becoming a journalist as a freshman at Norfolk State University when I had dreams of writing for a big city newspaper. Yet, I was often saddened as I turned the glossy pages of African-American-targeted magazines. I never saw articles about women like me, women who loved like me. African American Lesbians were not highlighted in those pages. I wondered if they existed. Didn’t they have the same hopes and dreams as heterosexual women? Why weren’t their stories shared? I wanted to become a writer who could give the heterosexual world a glimpse into mine. My world was no different than that of my straight sister’s. I also had hopes and dreams. I wanted a family and children, just as she did. The only difference was that my sister wanted a husband and I wanted a wife.
When I did not see women like me, I didn’t think they existed. You cannot become what you do not see. I envied my heterosexual counterparts for being able to move through the world without having to repress their existence. I began to doubt myself. I didn’t think I was good enough, smart enough. As a result, I dropped out of college. Life happened. Working entry-level jobs was a sobering wake-up call as I quickly learned how difficult it was trying to maintain a decent livelihood without an education. That was not the life I wanted for myself. Enlisting in the United States Army gave me the discipline, confidence and determination that I lacked. I vowed to have it all: an education, a wife, a child and a family. In time, I obtained all those dreams.
When I became the first woman in my circle of lesbian friends to become a mother, I was actually shunned. I lost friends who questioned my sexuality: Are you straight now? Oh, so now you’re representing the “B” (Bisexual) in LGBTQ and not the “L” (Lesbian)? I am grateful that at a very early age, God gave me a healthy sense of self-awareness. I never allowed myself to be labeled or put into a box. I wanted to become a mother and I did not have to seek anyone’s approval. Period. End of story.
I began a pattern of entering unhealthy relationships with women where I dimmed my light in exchange for adulation. My spirit diminished the longer I stood in their shadows. I realized that I was the common dominator in all those failed relationships. I had lost myself.
And yet … I’m still standing. The diagnosis of an incurable brain disorder gave me an indomitable will to survive. The grief from a devastating divorce fueled my determination to succeed. Emotionally, I felt like Uma Thurman in the movie Kill Bill, slashing demons with a Samurai sword. I could hear the sound of the sword each time I slew a demon: ”Swing … Swing … Swing!”
My faith has never wavered. In three short years, God has allowed me to discover myself. I rejoiced in recreating myself as my second novel was released. I find strength in knowing that I am creating a legacy, not only for myself but for my grandchildren. I am empowered as I learn to love myself as I have loved others. I will not be distracted in becoming who I think God wants me to become.
Recently, a friend asked me if I’m dating anyone. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. “Girl, please, I’m dating my damned credit score! How about that?” Finding humor in trying times makes things less daunting.
Now when I review that imaginary filmstrip of my life, I smile when I realize that I have survived things that should have shattered my hopes and dreams. Not only could things be worse but they have been worse … But God.