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.
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,
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