CategoryE-book

South Africa

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I stopped in South Africa on my way to Madagascar to meet my daughter who was working as a diplomat in training. I told a few friends about the trip and one in particular suggested that I see Zulu Songoma Credo Mutwa. I had no idea who he was or where he was or where I could find him. All I was told by my trusted friend was that it would be good for me to sit with him.. South Africa is pretty big. I wanted to find him not simply to sit at his feet but also because the possibility of sitting at his feet was near impossible. These are the type of challenges that I live for.

The more I researched him the more it became evident that I should do everything to be in his company. Here is what one prominent South African leader had to say about him:

His name is Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa, loosely translated meaning, “Awaken you, Truth of the Little Bushman”.  

Baba Credo is a traditional healer. No! He was the highest level of traditional healer. He is a Sanusi. Recognised by his peers across Africa as a Prophet. He is a Doctor. Medicine man. Diviner. Scientist. Storyteller. Psychologist. Clairvoyant. Artist. Sculptor. He is a Baobab. 

Credo Mutwa is a national treasure. He should be celebrated. He is Shakespearean in his command of the language and African mythology. He is a philosopher and a prophesier. He carries the secret knowledge of our continent. His cosmology is a lodestar to us regaining our balance and harmony in Africa and as the human race. Would his knowledge and wisdom be studied in schools and universities, we would have doctors of Life. People who know what it means to be human. And be kind. Humankind needs to study “baobabism”. It’s a way of life, not a religion.

The first few lines of Wikipedia describe him in this way:

Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa /ˈkreɪdoʊ ˈmʊtwə/ (born 21 July 1921) is a Zulu sangoma (traditional healer) from South Africa. He is known as an author of books on stories mixing traditional Zulu folkloreextraterrestrial encounters and his own personal encounters. His most recent work is a graphic novel called the Tree of Life Trilogy based on his writings of his most famous book, Indaba my Children[

Credo calls himself a sanusi (common spelling isanuse) which is a type of Zulu diviner or sangoma. The term stems from a more historic time and is not widely used today, even in a traditional setting.[2][3]

Credo currently lives with his wife, Virginia, in Kuruman where they run a hospice clinic.

I felt like I was in one of those movies where the hero is given an impossible task and sent on their way. So I got to South Africa. Johannesburg specifically. Phase 1 accomplished. I was a little disoriented because it was winter and I wasn’t ready. For winter in Africa that is. There was also a bitterness in the air not necessarily related to the weather.

I began asking a few key folks in America (via text) and in Johannesburg about where I might be able to find this mystery man. Dr. Charles Finch (was on my call list) former head of Morehouse School of Medicine who confirmed that Credo would be a good person for me to sit with in order to get my mind right had lost track of Credo over the years but offered information that made my future meeting with Credo an absolute necessity on my journey. I was determined.

Locally I was greeted with an array of emotions when I mentioned Credo’s name. First there was astonishment. How did I know his name people wanted to know. I got the impression he was a folk hero that South Africans would rather keep to themselves. Folks immediately wanted to know who I was to be asking about HIM. Others had only read or heard about him on the news. Most said that he had been out of the public eye for years and they weren’t sure if he was even alive. If he was it was probably near impossible that I would be in his company.

I did more research online and found tons of videos but nothing recent. It seemed as if the man had fallen off the face of the earth. Some said he was very sick. Others believed he had died a few years ago. But (for real) nobody really new where he was.

Again my determination increased. One call led to another which led to another and before I knew it I was on the phone speaking to his wife Virginia. I checked flights first because I had no means of ground transportation. Credo lived over 7 hours outside of Johannesburg. There was nothing available. So the only other option would be to hire a driver. One was recommended by a friend. I also asked a friend of a friend to accompany me on the trod and there I was with two perfect strangers on a 7 hour trek of the country side to sit at the feet of Credo Muthwa.

The drive was both beautiful and disturbing. I am loving the scenery but I’m feeling away about the fact that Germany though not there is there. Every town, street sign, and even most business names were in German. It felt like such an offense. Where is black Africa and why wasn’t this negotiated in the post apartheid arrangements? The great historian Dr. John Henrik Clarke would always say that the beginning of freedom is calling things by their proper names and here we were driving through towns whose name that nobody I knew could even pronounce.

We think that we are lost many times over as the drive was long and often barren and night had fallen so we stop and ask along the way and the people are only too gracious to offer advice which is usually something like “you are going the right way,” with a finger point. That’s it. I’m feeling the weight of this drive and the experience in general because this man holds so much history and mystery. My legs are also cramped and my body is also feeling it. As I feel us getting closer I could feel a certain peace and quiet come over me. We are sure and yet not so sure where we are going but it feels right so we keep trodding. I could feel a certain patience and quietness come over me.

I begin to rehearse in my mind what I will say to him. As a Sangoma I will want him to reach into his crystal ball and help make me right. My driver and friend that accompanied me understood what this journey meant to me however they could not contain their excitement as we approached the town where Credo calls home. I decide that I will ask them to come in with me to meet him and then ask them to give me some time alone with him. Well that didn’t go as planned.

So I’m thinking that I’ll have some quiet time with Credo but that’s not how it’s goes down. As soon as we park everyone gets out the car I knew at that point that private time was l looking distant and scarcer. This was a historic moment and a nobody had time to be sitting in the car so we all get out and were greeted by his wife who sits and talks to us for a while. A long while. Meanwhile I’m hearing movement in the back of the house. I’m hearing what sounds like chains clanging. I’m feeling a little bit of a way about not being able to speak with him directly about my health challenges present company but I’m so grateful to have arrived at this very moment and I don’t want to miss it with my ignorance and ego.

I had no idea what to expect but here comes this man in traditional Zulu attire with big ceremonial chains that look like they weigh way more than he can carry. He walks in and sits with us for hours.

I’m never quite sure where he’s looking because his eyes are a little crossed so I try to move periodically to make sure I’m in his eye view. I mean I need some healing. That’s why I am here. And I don’t want to miss my healing because he can’t see me. We talk for hours about the world we talk about politics we talk about life. We never talk about cancer. We talk about the collective and I’m feeling real real good for our journey back home. Healing comes in many forms.

I was still (low key) looking for the magic touch and words like” you are healed”. I eventually realized that this was not that kind of journey. This was the beginning of a journey to self healing. It was the beginning of a journey to self realization. It was in the beginning of a journey to find and locate my higher self.

My next stop was Madagascar

The Healing Power of Family

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Me, Niece Hanae, Nephew and graduate Iain, Big Brother Clarke and Niece Kai

My niece asked me last weekend at my nephews graduation from Colgate University why I haven’t been to Detroit to visit. I didn’t have an answer. At least not a good one. Feeling ashamed, broken, pained just didn’t seem like a good enough answer to tell my beautiful and brilliant rising senior at University of Michigan who genuinely wanted to know why. I didn’t have an answer. At least not a good one.  Some how I had forgotten the healing powers of family. The healing power of making amends. The healing power of saying “I’m sorry.” The healing power of just being in close proximity to those that share the same lineage.

I was reminded in the last two weekends when I attended My cousin’s marriage and later my nephews graduation. Grateful I put aside stories I created in my mind and decided to live and full joy the moment.

 

FORWARD

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Karen Marie Mason came into my life because of what she recognized in others that was actually a part of her own self.  I came into her life because of what I recognized in others that was actually apart of myself. We did not know this then, but this is how spirit works, always showing up in ways that remind us that everything we need is in our community.  Even when we do not know what we really need and who we really are; Spirit knows. So that as long as we are asking ‘why’ along the way….it will guide us to our truth.

Her tenacity, her wit, her beauty and courage has been passed down through her ancestors.  This book is the public declaration of this fact and this book bears witness to the power of truth. There is a theologian named Crossan who once wrote that disease is an imbalance, a dis-order that occurs in one’s body. If we accept this definition, then we can understand how returning to a balance state eliminates the disease/dis-order.  So, we are taught by wholistic health practitioners on how to return our bodies to a balanced state. I believe in this because I believe in a power in the universe that created us with the ability to bring balance back to our organs. This same writer goes on to share that illness is a communal thing. Illness is the result of the community’s response to that disease, that imbalance, that dis-order. In essence, this theologian posits that the silencing, isolation, stigma and disdain that a community shows towards the “dis-ease” interrupts the body’s ability to return to a state of balance.  Not a state of more or a state of less; not a state of lack or absence but a state of sufficiency and a state of presence-this is balance, this is order. The community’s response can make us ill. You know how that goes, you have headache or a cough and everyone begins to treat you differently and from a distance. Now, you are ill. And, when oppressive materialistic social systems feed on your illness and validates a community’s response of isolation by creating policies and institutions that further ostracize and, in some instances, condemn those with the dis-ease…we have sickness. Some of us then live in our sickness because there is no community response of faith in our getting well.

 

Without studying theology…Karen knew this.  She knew that the community’s response to whatever form of imbalance Black people possessed was an important factor to us getting well, being whole again.  So, she took to the most powerful venue at her disposal to give us an alternative response to our “dis-ease”. She used her gifting with the media and made it her life’s work.  Her radio shows, raising her daughter, her work with other artists, and the community events she organized continue to give us a different way to respond to the dis-ease of internalized self-hate, the lack of opportunity and voice, and our mis-trust of one another. She created ways to shift our collective response to the dis-ease we experienced as people of African descent.  She told us that we had indeed some severe dis-orders. Yes, her commentaries still check us, her life experiences required her to check us! Yet, she also understands that there are systemic forces designed to reinforce our notion of being a “sick” people. She brings people, music and the arts into our lives to shift our community response to the dis-order. Her plentiful wells of love and strength give us the will to resist being sick, to resist being labelled as ill. When we think about those who shoulders we stand upon and believe in; isn’t this exactly what they did? Jesus told the women with the issue, “by your faith you are healed’, Garvey to us “up you mighty race”; Baba Asa told us “to be Afrikan and live” and Sobonfu told us “not to hide ourselves from one another”.

 

So, in my heart and in my mind, this book is her authentic story of living through stages for us to bear witness to and glean from one person’s journey and more.  It is for me the journey, the authentic story of benefit to an entire people—my people. Karen and I have been truly blessed to know one another on this journey. My spiritual daughter is one of those spoken about in Armah’s book “The Healers”. This gift of healing we are reading about now in her book has always been hers. It was her decision to use it to inspire rather than to manipulate, and for this decision her ancestors and our ancestors who have journeyed with her, are pleased and I, I am in awe of who she is becoming!

 

Mama & Dr. Itihari Toure

unarm someone

by

telling the truth you could not face

when you

struck instead of tended.

 

— put the fire out (unburn) Nayyirah Waheed

 

.1

 

I went bra-less today.  I never go bra-less. Maybe not never but damn close to never.. It’s new to me. It’s not something I am accustomed to. You talking to a girl who wouldn’t wear sleeveless anything no matter the temperature. So letting it all hang out was major. But I liked it. At least I like it so far. I feel a sense of freedom…coming ‘cause I am not all that free with it yet.  It’s coming. It’s new. I also feel a little awkward. You know that trying something new for the first time kinda awkward. You know like you sure but you not 100. But there I was outside of my house. Hanging. Out and about with my boobs treating them like a new relationship that you testing out. .I may have gotten some stares. I’m not sure. I didn’t look to see.  Too busy being fascinated, concerned and observant of my new behavior. You see, I’m not that confident yet. But soon. It’s part of my healing. Through The Stages. Chapter .1

Up until recently I would rarely go without the support that I felt my breasts required to hold me up. I know now that it was really not about the support at all.  I lived and slept with a bra on as a way to create distance and further separation from myself. I never had much of a relationship with them to begin with. Before I was old enough to understand their nurturing purpose and power (and according to Dr. Jewel Pookrum 5 major energy points terminate in the breast) they had already become accustomed to grown men’s lips whose sensations I grew to like. In my pre adolescent mind that must be what they are for.  No one told me differently.

They had already begun sagging before I began breastfeeding my daughter. Years before. They often felt heavy to me.  Weighty. Gravity was pulling them down. I often slept in my bra. I wanted them firm and pointy like I assumed my friends and the folks on TV had.  So I didn’t touch them much. Outside of washing them they got very attention except from men. I actually preferred it to intercourse. I now know that my whole body warrants special attention.  But back then when I was growing up I didn’t like them. I didn’t like me. I didn’t like my feet either. Both areas of my body (breast and feet) would be the source of great pain and dis-ease in my later years. Like right now.

But today,  Karen Marie Mason left her house, got in her car and went to the Asian market and to Aldi  without a bra. Today was the first day. I have never been bra-less outside of my house. Ever. The right tit firm as a (literal) rock and the left one is on a race to see how soon it can reach my navel.  So many physical and mental conflicts going on in my life. My breast are just one of them. I had a cute dress on tho. And so I went.

.1 a.

I saw my Mom last week at my nephews graduation from Colgate.  It was one of the first times in YEARS that me, my brother, mother, and his children were together. The isolation i put on myself was real. But I also felt I had good reason to be isolated. At least that was the story that I told. Myself.

After we all reached our respective homes she called to tell me “what happens in the house stays in the house.  I don’t understand you children always talking your business”. She was referring to my brother and her belief that he shared certain family information with his wife.  In defense of my brother but at the same time riding on that middle fence with my 85 year old mother I told her that he can tell his wife whatever he wants.

But in the back of my head I was thinking about this book, the photo I revealed of my breast (which thank GOD she has not seen) and the story I was about to tell.  I don’t want to embarrass my family. I now believe in honoring thy mother and father. As a child not so much. If I were younger she would whip me from one corner of her bedroom to the other if she found out we were discussing anything that happens in the house with anyone outside of the house.    That information stays in the house. Plus if f I told someone, anyone then there would be another beating.

It was my brother’s belts that were used.  He was the only man in the house. I always wondered why when my mother said “Clarke bring me that belt” that he showed up in record timing like he was Usain or something. What the hell was the hurry.  Conversely, If Mommy asked me to get the belt for him which was rare cause he didnt’ get beatings like me, I would take my sweet time and mumble something about “I’m trying to find it Mommy.” I was the reluctant belt getter.

So we learned very young to keep our pain to ourselves.  I learned to keep my pain to myself. Even if it might one day kill me. Our house was filled with pride and pain. The kind of pride that would have you lying about all kinds of stuff but mostly the kind of pride that would have you lying to yourself.

.1 b.

So I left my house bra-less.  One breast defying gravity in one direction and the other moving rapidly downwards.  And me in between the two learning, re-discovering and working on not giving a —–. This is probably not a big deal for most but for someone who has been hiding behind every kind of mask that she could find for most of her life THIS was a big deal.  I made life so heavy for myself.

And now that I have decided that I will finally unburden myself I am immediately concerned and have created a bit of anxiety about what my mother will think if she knew I was writing these things.  My truth goes against everything that she stands for. My mother’s generation (first generation immigrants to America from Jamaica) have lived and many of them died (literally taking untold stories and illnesses to the grave with them) never revealing any information that may help us understand who we are and why we are the way that we are.

I get it. Well actually no I don’t get it.  But my desire to understand and work through this no matter how uncomfortable it is for me and for others is driving this desire to know. Because simply knowing is a game changer that will help me to be whole, to be honest and to find the me in me.

I know my Mama loves me. I know she does. Every parent loves their child right? I mean even if they show it in a funny kind of way. I know it’s there. It’s got to be there. I mean no woman grows up hating that part of him or her that was made from him or her right?  So this is the case with Mama and me. I know she loves me. Mamas love their children. All of them. I don’t know if they love all of them the same. Mostly cause I only have one. So I have nothing to compare it to.

For the longest time I thought my Mommy didn’t love me. The story I created was that I reminded her of my father in look, mannerisms and attitude and this reminder made her not want to love me.  So I got the beatings, I got the punishments, I was deprived of the love of my mother.

The stories we create as children become real.  At least mine did. Over the years my life started to unravel and an auto-immune disease and cancer became part of my daily vocabulary and life.

What I didn’t account for was the truth.  Much of it was kept from me. Parents will do that to protect themselves and their children and themselves.  I get it better now than I did as a rebellious teen, an ambitious young adult, wanting to be the perfect mother and even now as someone living with cancer.

But I need to get it all the way.  Epigenetics is a real thing and I don’t want to pass on any trauma, any unresolved issues to my daughter.  This needs to stop here.

I’ve been hard on myself, hard on my daughter and extremely hard on my mother.  She may not have always known this. But I was hard in silence. I was distant and absent. I internalized everything to keep the mask in place and made myself sick.  Nearly died.

My Mom was single, worked everyday and was climbing the corporate ladder to provide for her children. I don’t know of the daily troubles and drama she faced. She never talked about it.  I still don’t know. I don’t know how race and #metoo played a part in her day to day. I know now that they existed. She sought the help of Uncle Cleve and Andy (not sure why he never got the label Uncle) to help us and to help herself. On the surface they were nice men. One a teacher and the other I am not so sure what he did but I use to love when he would take my brother and I fishing. And most importantly they were a tremendous help to my mother.  One would fix things around the house and help with household errands. She needed the help. She had 2 children, worked full-time was terrified of what she heard about social services in America and them taking children away. So I get it. She needed help. And our Daddy wasn’t around. I actually thought he was dead. So they provided the necessary strength that she needed and a little a loving too.

But they also preyed on me.  For years.

Just last month Mama and I  talked about it for the first time.  She asked me what happened. I gave her specific and graphic details.  She fell silent and then said “ I don’t how or why they would have done that to you knowing that they could be put in jail…it just doesn’t seem….”  I interpreted this as denial. She still didn’t believe me.

And even though I am decades removed from the physical molestation her response still hurt. Today. And yet I have learned to give her the space to feel just how she feels. And love her still.

But I also give space to all the little girls who were touched by hardened hands; caressed before they knew what it was suppose to feel like, sucked on like the lollipops he would give them; entered by those who were not invited. May your healing be complete.

.2

I can still smell the odd sent of broken skin.  This is not how I imagined that this would happen.  I didn’t even imagine. At least not about that. I was 12 . Or 11.  I don’t really know. I have selective memory.

 

….soon come.  June-ish.

Preface

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I am not writing this from a place of brokenness or despair. I am writing from a position of hope and optimism. Well, not so much hope. I don’t really believe in hope. I believe in will. As in the will, drive, desire in my case to live. I want to tell my story with regard to my own thoughts and feelings for a change. I want to figure out and examine what those thoughts and feelings are and how I arrived at them. And then I want to change them if they no longer serve me. So many of them were born in pain and shame and have become a part or a piece of the layers of the masks that I have worn. Still wearing. I want to learn to be selfish if even for a short moment so I can re-introduce myself to myself. So that I can find the me in me. This is why I am writing “Through The Stages.” I am telling my story because I believe that like everything else I have (and have not) been doing sharing in this way is contributing to my quality of life. Saving my life actually. So many of our voices are mute. There are so many untold stories from those who never had or took the opportunity to tell there story. Nobody hears us. Very few are even listening. But our voices are being enveloped and caressed and magnified by the Universe anyway. That’s that magic.

Shame is a disease in our community. It spreads secretly, quietly but you can feel it even if your eyes can’t quite make it out. It spreads itself through doubt, lack of confidence and poor decision making. It causes you to hang your head and shoulders at an unatural angle. It causes you to lie, make shit up just so others don’t know how you really feel because you yourself don’t really know.

I know it well. Cancer and my auto-immune disease added to my shame. A shame whose seed was planted when I could barely walk by men whose grey had already settled in and whose big hands loved to touch on little girls, the younger the better.
With shame comes sorrow. I believe they work in tandem. But to be quite honest they are two words that I rarefly ever used in my vocabulary even though they have been a staple in my life for years I am just now realizing.

The writing of “Through The Stages” is yet another modality I am using on my healing journey of many, many modalities and treatments. This book is just my little piece of my contribution to my wholeness. I am out here finding my own path , giving myslef permisson to shed what no longer works, getting unstuck and learning how to live again. Maybe it just might inspire you to do the same.

If we are honest we are all going through some shit. If we are gentle with ourselves and focused with our intent we can change that shit. 

This book is dedicated to my mother who raised me and my daddy who did not.

Dear Daddy*:

Mama told me you were dead. She told me this way before you actually died.When I started feeling my oats, around the age of 16, something miraculous happened. Mama remembered you had not died. In fact, you were alive. Next thing I knew, I was talking to you on the phone. Soon after, I was on a plane to see you. I’m not mad at Mama anymore for doing that. Mamas have all kinds of reasons for lying about the men in their lives. Maybe she did it to protect me. You did walk out on her. Maybe she felt you would do the same to me. Again, this is what she’s telling me.

I’m old enough to know there are two sides to every story. And then there’s the truth. Too often, people lie first to themselves, and then, to their children. And finally, they lie to everybody else. I just know that I would never do that.

Anyway, I wasn’t sure what to expect the first time I met you. No one gave me the blueprint. Mama didn’t know what to do with me. I think I was messing up her relationships with men. Don’t get me wrong: Mama didn’t have a lot of men. I had problems with the ones that she did have. So, there I was at your doorstep. Unsure. Frightened. Awkward. I could tell that you felt the same way too.

When we met, you seemed so confused. You were unsure whether to treat me like a little child or a young adult. You let me do what I wanted, even smoke. At 16, I thought that was so cool. I guess that was your way of making up for being absent my whole life. We both tried hard to forge a relationship out of nothing. No history. Only DNA. It was tough.
After I got back home, I wasn’t sure whether I was better for making your acquaintance. I was glad to, at least, be able to say I know my daddy. We wrote each other and occasionally talked. It was difficult, but I tried. We would skip a couple years and then connect. A few more years would pass us by before we communicate. This was not the way I thought it was supposed to be. But it was the way it was. The tears are pouring down my face as I write, daddy. I expected more. I guess I watched too much TV.

I tried harder. I called more often. I made promises to visit soon. Then, you got cancer on me. It was the kind that left a hole in your throat and hole in my heart making me feel like I was talking to a stranger. I was so mad at you. I couldn’t understand why you had to go and do that.

I think you knew that you were dying. I choose to believe this because you acted like you didn’t care about me. That’s how I felt. We grew apart. I thought death, or the threat of death, was supposed to bring people closer. I was wrong about that, too.

There was something I wanted to tell you while you were here with us, Daddy, and it is this: Every girl needs her daddy. By her side. I know things were difficult between you and mama.

So what? You should have made it work. You should have been there for me. You should have been at my first recital, at my graduations, at my suspensions, and at the birth of my daughter. Little girls want to look up, and see her daddy smiling. We don’t ask for much. You should have tried harder.

Maybe if you were around, I wouldn’t have been molested. Maybe I wouldn’t have stayed out late at night and partied a little too much. Maybe if you were here I would have made better decisions about relationships. Maybe if you were here, I would have been a straight-A student because I would have wanted to make you proud. Maybe if you were here, you would have sat your grandbaby on your lap and schooled her about life’s lessons.
Your grandbaby and I still made it, Daddy. You’d be proud. Your daughter only opened her legs when love was present. That love gave birth to your first grandbaby, Kenya Jordana James. I went on to graduate college, got a big job in the music industry and then left to be a mother and entrepreneur. I know you’re smiling right now. I know you would love that part because you always went against the grain. Hell, now that I think about it, that’s where I got it from.

I understand now. Life sometimes takes us on twists and turns that we don’t plan. Time flies and there are things that we’ve all wanted to do that never got done. I’m not mad anymore.

I am still here.

I’m working on making myself better. I’m releasing the thoughts that could cripple me, kill me or even give me cancer. I’m making a better place for your granddaughter whose father was killed when she was 3 years old. I want you to know that while Kenya no longer has her biological father physically with her, she has been fathered by many who have given her what you were not able to give me. I made sure of that.

As for me daddy, I have decided that I’m not gonna let cancer or these damn fibroids get the best of me. I’m gonna let go of the pain and the past. The bitterness, too. I’m gonna let you run free in the ancestral world so that you can be a daddy to me again.

As my angel. Love your daughter,
Karen

Karen

Through the Stages
So for more years than I can count I stopped touching my breast.  My bredren would come over and massage them weekly focusing on my right breast.  I wouldn't touch it.  It was hard as a rock.  I felt like I was carrying a bowling ball on my chest. It hurt in multiple ways physically and mentally. A burden. I considered it NOT part of me but something that was attached to me.  I did not want to interact with it. It scared me.  Reminded me of how sick I was everyday. But this distance between me and me didn't start with breast cancer.  It start long before when grown men found comfort sucking them for enjoyment.  

I have no interest in history recalling my battle with cancer. I don’t want to be known as the girl who bared her cancerous breast on the internet. Original Through The Stages IG Post  I refuse to be connected to the disease in that way. I’ve lived a full life before cancer and I plan on living an even fuller one now . I have no plans whatsoever of dying from this disease. Stage IV my ass.

So here I am .  Shame kept me from writing honestly. Shame kept me from writing at all. I kept trying to find easier, more palatable, more gentle, more acceptable ways to say what has been pent up in me for years. I was trying to tell half truths creatively. Sweetly. Without the pepper. I kept wanting to keep the veil in place as if I was writing through some lens of judgement. Self judgement. I know I shouldn’t give a fuck and I am trying not to. But shit creeps in sometimes. A lot of times.

When the reality of writing this book finally struck me I froze. I became anxious and concerned with what people would think and how they would perceive me if they knew certain truth about me. It just seemed so much easier to just bury the truth somewhere in my subconscious and create yet another mask for myself. The one that I would show the public.

Cancer made that magic trick impossible arriving just in time to save me from myself and to teach me a shit load of lessons. In my life I am its only pupil. Me. It arrived in my life at a time when I thought all was well. I was an artist manager, location scout for film and television, produced a couple films, marketed some uber successful artist and all that shit. But apparently all was not well and something drastic needed to happen to get me to pay attention to myself.  I was just too busy. Too busy doing shit to pay attention to the lump growing in my chest.

I know my daughter would have prefered I get a mastectomy. The idea of her mother living with cancer or even worse dying from it was overwhelming for her. I actually had one scheduled. It never happened. The reason why deserves its own chapter. It was not meant to happen. Spirit told me I would surely die the night before the scheduled operation. I listened.

And yet this is not my first go round attempt at book writing. I have notes and pages somewhere, everywhere on raising Kenya, my now 28 year old daughter. People have been telling me for years that I should write about that journey, one that took her from homeschooled precocious pre-teen, magazine editor and publisher at 12 to Oprah’s couch to full scholarships for undergrad and graduate. But the words never really came in a way that made me comfortable sharing. In “Through The Stages” I will talk about the mothering of my daughter and something very new to me: mothering of myself.

So I knew I HAD to write even though I am not a writer. Not like some of my faves  Kiese Laymon and Yrsa Daley modern day word Gods. But I had to tell the truth. My truth. And even as I write these words I type hesitantly, hitting the keys reluctantly trying to find the right words to say and feeling insecure as fuck about the writing journey ahead. Scared.

I found the seat of fear.  Startled me.  Scared me.  But just a little. I was more fascinated that i found it. The exact spot where fear enters my body and its not where you think. 

For a while cancer stopped my life. The tumor in my breast had grown so big that it started to affect my breathing, my heartbeat became irregular and I struggled to complete a full breath of good quality. It paralyzed me in away and somehow I knew the key to begin again was to share my story. I had to get it out of my system. I needed to put my pen to paper and be bold, unabashed, and unashamed. It also meant being vulnerable and honest.

Cancer saved my life.

It forced me to take a long, hard look at myself. I’m still looking. Discovering new shit everyday. I am slowly removing all the masks I have created. I’m pulling back the layers. This book chronicles my journey to healing.

You’ll read about the moment I knew I HAD to change my life in order to live. The highs and lows. I’m also sharing my regimen, including all the supplements I take. What works and what doesn’t work for me and my body. This will not a traditional memoir. It will be expressed in poetry, compositions, essays, and when appropriate, a simple word.

This is about my survival. This is about me thriving. Again.
So far on the journey I have discovered some incorruptible truths I’ve discovered:

1. No disease can thrive in a healthy body AND mind. It’s simple. If I was healthy, then the disease would not have found a home in my body.
2. Cancer came to teach me lessons and I accept this reality. I no longer battle cancer. I am working in cooperation with cancer. Oprah says it best.
3. When I stopped (or was forced to) doing what I thought I loved, I realized I didn’t miss it. I’ve worked in film and entertainment all my adult life it wasn’t until I gave up my main income that I realized how much I didn’t miss it.
4. I’ve had to make amends with my mother and so many others. This is an ongoing process. Let’s just say that I’ve been having many, many uncomfortable, yet, nurturing conversations initiated by me. I’m learning to use my voice to save my life. The silence was killing me.
5. It’s imperative that I design a new life for myself. The old life didn’t serve me. It made me sick, and almost killed me. It would be insane to continue to do the same things.
6. I’m facing my fears. I can’t shed them until I admit I am scared.
7. Breathwork is serious. During a transpersonal breathwork workshop many buried patterns and thought processes came up.
8. Spirituality is the center of being. I was not spiritually fulfilled. I periodically popped up at church. I’d go online and listen to the occasional sermon or meditation, but it wasn’t enough. I went seeking. I will share with you what I found.
9. Live a fulfilling life. My definitions for success and fulfillment are changing. I’m still learning what this means for me.
10. Slow down. I’m not sure what race I signed up for, but I was trying to win a gold medal for it. Since I wouldn’t slow down, I was forced to. My life was brought to a complete halt.
11. Restorative Yoga is changing my life.
12. Healing can’t take place unless I use all healing modalities. I have tried everything for autoimmune disease and cancer, including urine therapy, hydrogen peroxide, grounding, hormone supplements, meditation, breathwork, and ganja. I have left myself open to all the possibilities.
13. I had to begin to speak truth to myself. I had to admit how much I disliked certain body parts. I hated my breast. They were saggy at the age of 16, and continued to race to my navel through the years. My sacredness was taken from me somewhere between 9 and 10 years old. The love of my body went with it. Having grown men suck on them and rub vaseline on my baby vagina would shape a lot of how I feel about myself, my body and sex.

This book is just my little piece of my contribution to the whole. I am finding my own path, giving myself permission to shed what no longer works, getting in touch with who I am and learning how to live again. Maybe it just might inspire someone to do the same.

None of this would be possible without my community. Yes. Our community. Dr. Itihari Toure said it best, “we are all we need.”

 

  • Dear Daddy first appeared in Denene’s www.mybrownbaby.com

I Rose While Falling

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I fell. Hard. Long.
Saw things a little clearer from rock bottom. 
And now I rise.

 

Love Or Fear

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My Neighborhood.

Many of our decisions are guided by two thought processes: love or fear.  For instance let’s say you are not feeling well and don’t want to go to work.  The love response would be to call in sick.  The fear response would be to go to work sick.  This fear could be motivated by money, threat of losing your job or whatever.  It doesn’t really matter the motivation. What matters is the choice you made over the option to love and take (self) care of yourself.

Choose love you’all.  These thoughts came to me while I was walking my neighborhood.  It’s not something that I use to do often but so much of what I use to do is no longer relevant to what I am doing now.

Somehow I forgot how beautiful my neighborhood was.  It’s possible I may not have remembered in the first place since I have been so consumed with all things Karen.

Learning to remember again through love.

Intro

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My story is not breast cancer. At least not anymore. My story if and when it will be told may not even mention breast cancer except for maybe a footnote, not because I don’t or didn’t have it but because it is my belief that all diseases have a metaphysical component. Even more so no disease can live in a healthy mind and spirit. None. There is often talk of the alkaline body. There is more. Your body can be alkaline and you can still be sick. Your mind body and spirit must be alkalined. Not just your body. When you carry the consciousness of something it multiplies. If you carry the consciousness of pain. It multiplies. When you carry the consciousness of sickness then it multiplies. I will no longer carry the consciousness of cancer or any other ailment in my body. I am done with that way of thinking. It’s outdated and no longer in alignment with who I am becoming.

Almost six (6) years ago I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. I was told my bones were brittle, that my joints would always be inflamed and that there was no cure. My ankles began to age rapidly which led to me walking with a cane, ( I had too much pride to ever let you see me in this way) used wheelchairs at airports and limped terribly… I had to focus on every step. So on top of everything else I would often look down basically afraid that I might fall or trip. This disease directly and indirectly occupied my mind on a daily basis. Fast Forward. I later went on to run my first 5K a couple months ago.

Eventually, I took myself off of the meds, learned to bear the pain (meaning I no longer made it my focus) and stopped being so afraid of falling that I always looked at my feet. I slowly began to walk with my head erect no longer afraid of falling. I made no space for pain in my mind and the pain (though not completely disappearing) subsided.

I am learning that everything I think about including pain…magnifies – this is part of universal law, and there are many more laws at work and play in our lives. These laws are irrefutable and absolute hence the reason I almost didn’t type these few words, because I don’t want to talk about breast cancer except in the context of all diseases being our own creation. What we dwell on magnifies.

I am now more focused on living by these laws and magnifying them in my life in a positive way. I am confident that if I live by those laws the cancer will become irrelevant in my body. I no longer want to continue to talk about and frame my life around something that once consumed me and made me afraid. I have since shed that fear. So much has changed.

There was a time when I would have considered chemo or radiation but now that is no longer even a remote possibility. Grateful I did not succumb to the fear as this type of treatment was not for me. There was a time when I would have considered a mastectomy. In fact I did have one scheduled and as fate would have it that never happened. I did my pre-opt, went through the whole ordeal that is required before an operation and on the day of (spirit) said to me “don’t go.” I listened. To this day I have not heard from the doctor, surgeon nurse, social worker or receptionist at the well known Atlanta hospital where I was treated.

There was a time when I would have willingly represented or even led an organization for breast cancer patients and survivors that interest has left me.

I am convinced that my issue is not cancer but deeper. Cancer is but a symptom. So rather than treat the cancer I am treating the deeper issues.

I am releasing myself from the “cancer victim story”, whilst I begin to create a new story. I hope these few words I share here today will help someone.

This will be the last official chapter of my chapter by chapter story. There have been 7. I will continue to write if I feel like I have something to share that may be helpful. Thank you for coming with me down this road to self discovery.

My healing journey has taken me around the world. Everywhere I traveled in the last 5 years whether on business or pleasure I would seek out the healers, the medicine men and the bush doctors in hopes of finding some relief. There were times when I was so desperate for healing that I would do almost anything and go almost anywhere. Pain, despair, fear and the feeling of impending death will take over if you let it. I was willing to go down some pretty dark alleys and I did. I was willing to traverse the rural countryside with very little information except for some scarce info about a particular healer who lived somewhere in that area. And yes I went to see the community healer in the one room shack where she both lived and healed damn near the entire community. I looked in far away spaces looking to find what I would eventually discover was closer than I ever imagined. Inside of me.

Here is a small sampling of some of that journey. It does not include my domestic team which consisted of everyone from Dr. B in New York, to Dr Jewel Pookrum, Dr. Stephen Tate and the office of Dr. William Richardson in Atlanta.

There was also the consistent and constant advise from some of my heros like Attorney Alton Maddox and Dick Gregory. But maybe I will discuss these later.

Through The Stages

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Photo Credit: Terrell Clark

Today I release the Preface of my “Through The Stages” e-book. It’s not perfect. It is imperfect and so am I.  Grateful for all who are supporting this journey.  You will receive a link in the email that you used when you ordered.  The plan is to release a chapter a month.  Seven in all.