I was reflecting on the past five years of my life. The past five years that I have poured myself fully into pursuing my doctorate. The past five years where I have experienced some of the lowest lows:
- Friendships Ended
- Loss of Loved Ones
- Sexual Assault
- More debt
- Disordered Eating
- Bouts with Self-Harm
The past five years where I have experienced the highest of highs:
- Moving cross-country
- Making a life for myself
- Buying a car
- Traveling Internationally
- Taking part in meaningful research
- Making wonderfully rich friendships
- Discovering myself and my own strength
The past five years have been full. I could not see this day, then. I could not conjure the feeling of surviving the lowest lows and soaring through the highest highs. I did not see myself here because my mind just does not work that way. I did, however, know that I would make it. Even on the days where I did not know how I would make it. I knew that a way would be made, sometimes out of no way. I knew that because this step, this process, this half decade roller-coaster was meant for me. I have unwavering faith that I am supposed to be here. And when I tried to share the credit with others, Heather–the executive assistant for my academic department and truly the most remarkable soul–reminded me that I took those steps. Yes, I absolutely had a tremendous amount of help and love and support throughout this entire process however my actions also deserve recognition.
It is not just “done” but I did it. When I allow myself to sit with that emotion I become emotionally overwhelmed. I wanted to give up so many times and all I knew was that There was something meant for me in each difficult experience. That I would be made stronger, that I would have more of a testimony, that I was not going to be a victim of my circumstances. God saw fit for me to make it, so I was never not going to make it.
I am left with the feeling that I can truly accomplish anything and also the knowing that not everything is meant for me to accomplish. I am trying now to create pockets of silence in my life. Spaces where I can hear God speak to me and guide me towards what is right and what is ordained. I remember the days where I was crying uncontrollably unable to get out of bed wondering how I was going to make it through the day yet alone design, conduct, and publish original research. I did not know how I was going to live…but I did. The answer to all my improbable “hows” are always By the Grace of God. That answer will always and forever be sufficient. In this moment, I have finished my dissertation, I can officially sign my name Jessica J. Williams, PhD. I can answer to the name “Doctor” without feeling it will jinx my process. It is done and I did it. And for today I do not want to wonder what is next or what is yet to come. I just want to sit in the moment and feel the sense of accomplishment all throughout my body. I want my toes, liver and veins to feel like a doctor. I want every cell and fiber of my being to sit in revel. And yes, I also want to allow myself to feel the warmth of pride. Be in this moment. It is sacred and it is precious and you have earned the right to be here. It is done. You did it.
Watching the offering that was Lemonade stirred up all the earth that had settled at the bottom of my sea. Gold flecks caught the attention of the moonlight and whispered to me that maybe it was time to reveal my treasures. Your value, said Osun, is more prismatic than light.
Ebony skin smoothed and slick like moss on rocks I closed my eyes and looked upwards at the heavens. Constellations marked my skin in freckles reminding me that I, too am an endless horizon stories unknown and expanse immeasurable.
I spent a year trapped in my body. Believing I was flesh and bone, spoiled and diminished by the unwelcomed. The sky was the only freedom from his influence. Because I am wider than my hips, more full than my lips, taller than the Andes and softer than the inside of a rose’s petal; he no longer laid claim to me. Nothing of mine was stolen because where I exist is beyond reach.
There are memories in my skin. Fingerprints tell my age in centuries I am older than the redwoods. Southern trees bear a strang fruit. Southern women sweat tears of generations. Our bosom vast to comfort the hurt of the nation. Who comforts us if not Yemayá?
Tell me, are you surprised God is a woman? When her waves sing of love and forgiveness is it not a sweet soprano? But what of the great roar of storms, hurricanes and ships tossed into harbors; strength of men surely. Remember the womb from which all sounds first echoed. Cavernous her being she sacrificed her form to carry humanity, mother you are God.
Grip tight on my spine I lay to rest and inhale deep the perfume of flowers. Everything comes to the light. Bulbs open, moths fly and as she spreads her legs and pushes, the next generation covered in her blood is brought to life in the light.
I learn to honor my mother. I grow to honor my Creator. I shine to honor the women who live in skin like mine. Persimmon. Cocoa. Tar. Midnight. Dark and frightening because we cannot be contained. We cannot be solved. We cannot be silenced.
You see me when you close your eyes. You return to me. Black. Mother. Earth. You replenish me and in my surrender to you in prayer in triumph or in rest, it is only darkness that makes me whole once again.
They rolled all night one right after the other. Finally I took a sleeping pill.
When I awoke to prepare for the workday my eyes were swollen from crying. Bloodshot and sore I told them I would be late.
Three hours of sleeplessness and a bucket of tears later, I called out.
The jar of rational thought became sealed tighter and tighter until I could no longer hear what reality sounded like. All I could make out was the staticky white noise of panic.
I clawed at my skin. A habit id developed when I was trying to avoid the attacks. If I could channel the pain somewhere else, sometimes they wouldn’t come so strongly.
Today I was just left with welts on my skin and a body sore from the havoc the attacks leave.
Every hurt is a sore. It’s how the pain gets out and the healing gets in. I tell myself to soothe my spirit. I am still healing.
I roll over as Annie leaves wishing me good night. A noise from upstairs startles me and I begin to cry. So I slip my hand under my shirt and dig my nails into my skin. I can breathe again. I know I shouldn’t. But right now if it takes a bit of pain to make it stop…to dull the pulse of that deep vibrato of hurt from resounding within me. I chew hard on my tongue until I can taste blood in my mouth.
As if on cue, my eyes get heavy. Now I can rest.
I never imagined this day without you. It was true, I hadn’t. And in preparing myself to transition out of and into various stages and roles. I revisit you.
If women could recall the sensation of pain, the world would cease to exist. We are built to forgive it. To become strangers to it almost the instant the threat passes. Our minds cling to hold our memories to the stove eye because we’ve been hurting so long we don’t understand ourselves without anguish. My reflection in the mirror permanently distorted as I meet her often with tear soaked vision.
Why were we fighting again?
Who is mad at whom again?
I couldn’t recall the origins of chaos only smell the burning of scorched earth between us.
I never imagined this day and in some ways this day was made possible by seeds you planted. Your faith in me was catching as soon I began to believe in myself–quite fiercely.
Despite all our dead ends and splintered branches, I wanted you there. I still do. In a new way for old times sake. Because there will always be love. It’s only energy and energy can’t be destroyed. There will always be love, Krell. But never the same love twice. Attraversiamo, let’s cross over?
It didn’t occur to me until tonight on the sixth out of seven nights that I’ve woken up buzzing with energy that it might be God. I was used to night terrors or nightmares. They aroused my energy and made it difficult to calm down and fall back to sleep. Tonight was not that, though. Lead to an article online I found myself reading about a woman who travels the world on her 30k salary. When asked how she does it she answered “obedience”.
What is God asking from me in this moment?
Listening to God feels a bit like taking Felix Felicitus potion. I wonder if J.K. Rowling equated the two when she wrote of it. But you have inexplicable urges and should you decide to indulge in them, they lead you exactly where you are meant to be.
Your job is to allow enough quiet that you can hear Gods instructions. I came to the conclusion that this was the reason for my night interruptions. I closed my eyes and asked God, What are you trying to tell me in this moment?
It was like my question was an incantation. Immediately a flood of instruction came to me. This is what I’ve been missing insisting on my own way and coming to my own conclusions when I promised to surrender to a more omnipotent power this year. The article lead me also to Luke 16:10. A sentiment I’d been feeling ever since I accepted my job. A job whose salary is far lower than I initially wanted but that felt so right to my spirit. The scripture reads:
Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.
It was clear to me. God will not give me what I cannot handle. So it is my job to prove I can manage what I have before I am entrusted with more. This is not punitive. This is protective. This is in my best interest. This is how God teaches me, scaffolds me for the life I know is waiting for me. I do not want to disappoint God.
And now that I’ve gotten the message, God will give me rest.
I have been struggling to write lately. Feeling guilty about blogging without dissertating, I’ve sequestered all words to a place in my mind where they float around bumping into each other all day. Each day I would wake up in full panic knowing I needed to write and being both physically and mentally unable to.
I tried my old tactics. Giving myself something to look forward to–graduation and trying to imagine the feeling of completion but it didn’t help. It wasn’t until this morning I woke again in panic but also seemingly in the middle of a conversation with Zachary.
I am afraid. No longer being a student. No longer working towards a prescribed goal. No longer the script and regiment of academia. As much as I hate it sometimes, I also love being tethered to something. It is nice to…
I could feel his listening and his words before they crossed his lips. It was safe. School, for me, is my safety net. I am good at school. I know how to succeed at school. I can write. I can network. I’m even spectacular at math and science, I am not a one trick pony. I am a very intelligent woman who has always excelled at learning. “Yes, and…” I sensed him inquiring.
Yes and, I don’t know how to be good at what I want to do. There is no prescription. There is no handbook or framework or precedence.
There had been strong moments of synchronicity lately. Messages from “them” or “they” sent to inform me. It boiled down to listening and trusting what I felt right now in this moment. Presence.
I could feel Zachary warm to this line of thinking. And so now that we have acknowledge the fear, we have sat in the panic rather than tried to escape it, we can write. We can press on.
It was the first clear moment I’d felt in a while. And with that, I was ready.
She told me, “I think the kind of tired you are can’t be fixed with sleep.” It didn’t stop me from trying. I couldn’t shake the nauseating recollection of the events that transpired one year ago, nor the turmoil that would follow in the days since. No tears, no breakdowns but a tiredness that would not let up. A hunger that was insatiable. And an ache in my body so deep I didn’t know if I needed a masseuse a chiropractor or church. Probably all of them. I didn’t have any other way of explaining how I felt except I hurt. I’m exhausted and I’m in pain.
Yet, the days must go on. The work must be done. I pushed through with the basics and told myself that would be enough for now. Looming deadlines threatened any thoughts of rest or exhale. I felt sick to my stomach. I was sensitive to everything again, smells made my head ache. I didn’t want to talk about it. I didn’t want to do anything. I wish I didn’t remember; rather, I wish it never happened. But it did, and now I have to wonder how long I’ll hate the month of february.
After fighting what felt like the one hundred year war, I am at peace. The cannons are silenced my brow is sweaty and my body aching. Dust clouds the horizon but does not and cannot guise the warmth of the sunshine over the scorched earth. Battle was here. War scratched at the epidermis of this earthly body but the soul remains in tact. Though the soil be barren I lay as if there were a field of flowers and I smile because I am at peace. My legs cry out from miles of wear but still the joy courses through my veins and radiates out of my fingertips. I am alive. My hair unkempt and beard overgrown, I am not handsome but in my survival I am glorious. By virtue of my tenacity birth right of fortitude and byproduct of courage, I am divine. I allow the earth to swallow me, surrendered not to my enemy but to my Creator: I am yours. I am returned emerging from water clean and healed My God says, “You are your own.”
I woke up with the taste of blood in my mouth. I’d be chewing the inside of my cheeks. Scratches on my legs and shoulders. Seven outfit changes and my face dripping sweat. It was back.
I pushed myself out the door and through my work day. Part of me wanting to admit I wasn’t okay and part of me reveling in the fact that at this place, this now place no one knew me as sick. Damaged. Broken. Fractured. Hurt.
I couldn’t decide what it was I wanted or what I needed. I was out of my “in case of emergency” pills and I hadn’t received my new insurance information to get more. I took off all my clothes and laid in bed, utterly exhausted from dragging myself through the day.
I wondered if I made a mistake by accepting my new job. I shook that idea off. I hadn’t. I just had to learn to manage it all. To balance it all. It was about learning to live with anxiety. To not let it run my life and overtake me as it had before. I knew better now, surely.
I am never going to be the same again. And for once I can exhale the pressure of feeling like I have to.
I’m going through withdrawals. Literal withdrawals from being out of my anxiety medicine. It’s a problem I can rectify soon, but at the moment–withdrawals. As a result, mornings are less peaceful and more scattered than normal. So I’ve had to pick one thing to do rather than my usual routine. Sometimes meditation is easy and what feels right. Today it’s writing. Though words were my second choice…
I wanted him. But in a very different way than I’d ever wanted him before. It was a boundary neither of us ended up being willing or able to cross. I’ve been trying to tell myself a different story about intimacy, about trust. It doesn’t fit me yet but I am hoping maybe I grow into it…or it grows into me. I would love to learn that not all men are selfish. My step dad isn’t. Neither is Ted. So it’s possible. I always thought love affected people in similar ways. It makes us all a little stupid, giddy, reckless, free…we would do anything for the person we love. Not everybody loves like that.
I thought of all the things coming my way. Buds of opportunity. It made me nervous. Here I’d asked God for guidance and support and I was being lead to places that took my breath away. Am I the person to handle this? Am I truly capable?
I held two stones in my hand. One felt smooth and familiar. My palm easily accommodated it and I knew when I tried to skip it down the river, exactly how it would land. I had control with that stone. I had experience. I felt safe. Then there was the other hand that was sweating and gripping a misshapen piece of sharp granite. Beautiful, but queer I didn’t know what to make of it. Was it for keeping? Was it for skipping? I had no idea what to do with it other than hold onto it and wait until an answer arrived. Patience, uncertainty, discomfort. That was this stone. But that is what I asked for. I asked for growth and I promised surrender. Here is my chance to trust.
I feel the kind of vulnerable you feel when you’re naked in front of strangers. Reaching for any piece of acceptable fabric to shield you and provide a sense of discretion, safety, relief. It isn’t always as easy as changing the outfit on a paper doll. Sometimes we just have to stand there and be naked.