Time to Let It Go

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I bet you know exactly what movie that image comes from. For the longest time I was ignorant to Frozen. I didn’t understand all the hoopla and I certainly didn’t appreciate Let It Go winning best song all over the place. I certainly preferred Pharell’s Happy, although I had never heard let it go. And just to be clear, I still prefer Happy. That is my go to song when I’m in a slump. It immediately makes me feel, well, happy!

The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside
Couldn’t keep it in;
Heaven knows I’ve tried

But for the past couple of weeks the song Let It Go has been having a new meaning for me. I didn’t understand it for the longest time. Whenever I would hear it, or sing it with Johanna, a new feeling came with it. I connected with it. Kind of how I connected with the song Reflection in Mulan. I didn’t understand it, until I really focused on the lyrics.

Don’t let them in,
don’t let them see
Be the good girl you always have to be

I started thinking about everything I risked when I decided to audition for, and commit to, Listen to Your Mother. I have experienced a lot in my life, a lot that I have kept hidden from everyone. A lot of hurts and pains. You know, in the African American community there is a strong belief in not letting the outside in. Family business is family business. You don’t discuss it with others. What happens in the family, stays in the family. Well my immediate family was small. In my house it was me and my mother. My father lived 10 minutes away. So really most things stayed between my mother and I. In many ways it brought us closer in a good way. In other ways it wore me out emotionally. I would watch her have her own personal struggles that she wouldn’t let others in on. When she was around them she was reserved, yet smiling. You would never know. So, I learned the lesson of my mother.

Conceal, don’t feel,
don’t let them know

I didn’t tell her until I was in my 20s about when Sister Marie Helene knocked me out of my desk when I was in 1st grade and how I hit my head on the radiator. How I blacked out for a second and woke up in my own vomit consisting of the milk at I had snack time and that, THAT is the reason why even the smell of milk causes my stomach to turn to this very day. I did let her know when I was touched inappropriately, but by the time I was 16 I had decided not to tell her about the rape and the pregnancy that resulted in a miscarriage. Part of it was the shame that comes with rape. I learned in my 20s (my 20s were apparently good to me; I learned a lot) that sexual abuse is one of the few crimes that make the victim a participant, and that brings with it a lot of shame. But that’s another topic for another day. The other reason I didn’t tell her was because of our issue with discussing sex and everything it brought with it.

Well now they know!

I kept the little things and the big things to myself. I learned not to trust anyone, but God. I’ve often said that one of the best gifts my mother ever gave me was knowledge of Jesus Christ. He has always been my very best friend and my confidant. Eventually, in my 20s lol, I confided in my pastor about my rape. I knew I had to say it out-loud in order to release the burden I was carrying. I had to speak my truth and she seemed like the safest place next to God. And that’s where my healing began.

When I did my LTYM piece, I knew there was a chance that there would be some backlash. Not from my friends, nor from strangers, but from family. How dare I let others know? How dare I talk about my mother in that way? People love and adore my mother, but I can assure them that no one loves and adores her more than I do. She is in heaven now, but I love her more than words could ever say. But that doesn’t stop my truth from being my truth. I was so tired of what happened in my teen years weighing me down. I just wanted to be free, and if it could help someone else in the process, even better. And now I have my freedom papers! I still have a lot of other stuff to work through, but the issues I had from 10-16 are finally dead. I can finally let them go and not have them threatening me emotionally and mentally.

It’s funny how some distance
Makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me
Can’t get to me at all

It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me,
I’m free!

It did initially scare me, the thought of my family seeing my piece. Even up to the day that the videos were released I thought about blocking my family from seeing my wall for a week, so that the video would be buried way down on my facebook timeline and they would be none the wiser. But then I decided no. NO. This is my truth and if someone has a problem with it, bring it! And I don’t mean that in a huffy, chest puffed out kind of way. I mean it in a “God has set me free from that internal hell and nothing you say or ask can take me back there; I love you, but I love me even more; God has work for me to do, and I can’t do it if I’m being held hostage by my past, so sorry, not sorry” kind of way. In the words of Elsa, I’m never going back, the past is in the past.

So, yeah, that’s my story of how I fell in love with the movie Frozen and the song Let It Go. It has a way deeper meaning for me than I’m sure it should lol, but that’s ok too. God often talks to me through music and movies, so I’m not surprised. Oh, and just in case you love the song as much as I do, here’s the video!

 

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Do You Believe in Magic?

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For years have been aching to get back on stage. The last time I took the stage was when I was 24 years old, almost 10 years ago. I used to live for the stage, it was my home. Whether I was acting, singing, or dancing, I loved it! Then real life and real life responsibilities set in and I packed up my Broadway dreams to become an adult.

On Sunday I woke up energized because I knew that I was going to see her, the stage, again. We were going to reunite in the most frightening way possible. The stage and I have shared plenty of stories together and I loved telling each and every one of them. I loved finding myself in a character and making her (or him as I also once played Puck, the ass in a midsummer’s night dream) come alive. But this time was different. This time I was telling my own story, my own truth. A truth that so very few know. It was the scariest thing I have ever done. Would my words be too painful? Too painful to say, too painful to hear? Would they judge her? Would they judge me? I wanted there to be no space for judgment during my piece. I wanted the audience to know that the story I was telling was a snap shot in the midst of a million others in a very specific period of time, and that things changed and people changed and it’s all really ok now, it got so much better! But there wasn’t any room for that.

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I arrived at Synetic Theatre unsure of what to think, with a mixture of excited and nervous energy pulsating through me. As a few of us made our way into the dressing room, I was in love all over again. I was the one to flick on the theatre vanity lights because being backstage doing my makeup was one of the best memories for me. The girls and I turned on curling irons, put on lipstick and mascara and nursing pads to soak up the nervous sweat that was beginning to break through some of our underarms. It was a true sisterhood. We were in this together, sharing our private stories to an audience together. It was beautiful.

As we took the stage before the show to do our tops and tails of rehearsal, I watched every single person go up and marveled at how brave they were, but also at how as mothers our stories are so similar. Our worries, our fears, our bonding, our joys, our “this can’t be life” moments. We can all relate in one way or another. It made me so proud to be a woman, so proud to be a mother.

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And then it happened. We stood backstage as Happy by Pharrell played and I heard all of the chatter, then applause, in the audience as we went on stage and I…panicked! I had the biggest friggin panick attach you could ever imagine. I was something like #10 to go up and do my piece, so I had nothing but time to agonize over how it wasn’t funny and I wish I would’ve shared one of my funnier pieces and how it was too dark, why would I do that to the audience. Unbeknownst to my new found friends, I almost passed out on stage TWICE. It was nothing but sheer will and God that kept me firmly planted in my seat. And then I did it. I got up, and spoke my piece. I stumbled and fumbled at times, but I had to get it out. I had a story to tell! And before it was all over I took a moment. I looked out into the audience, and I took it all in. I was on stage. I WAS ON STAGE! And I’ve missed her so! Even though the circumstances were so different from the other times, I missed her and loved her and knew that although I never wish to tell my own personal story again (at least not one that deep), I do wish to tell someone’s story again. It was magic. It made me believe in magic again. The applause was like someone was caressing my soul. I felt alive!

Afterwards as I went to meet my family and friends who showed up to support me, people began to stop me. So many thanked me for my bravery. Many whispered “I can relate. Thank you for telling our story”. And that, that broke my heart. The truth is, I don’t wish for anyone to be able to identify with my story. Not that part of my story. I wanted to tell each of them “I’m sorry. I’m sorry you were hurt. I’m sorry you know this pain and this questioning”. But instead I needed and gave a wear smile. And then gratitude leapt into my heart. When I auditioned for the show I prayed about it and I only wanted to do it if it was God’s will. And it was. He chose me to let others know about his grace. He chose me to touch people with this particular story. And even though it saddened me that some knew my pain all to well, I suddenly felt incredibly blessed to be a voice for all of us. Getting on that stage and deciding to open yourself up so wide is not an easy thing and it’s not for everyone. I thank God that it was for me and perhaps the healing for someone out there has begun because of it.

If you didn’t make it to Listen to Your Mother 2014 in your city, I can promise you that you missed an amazing show. However, the youtube videos will be out in late summer and I cannot wait to share my story with you! Everyone that was up there with me was absolutely amazing, and made me so happy to be a mom and to be a part of this amazing show. What a magical, blessed day it was indeed.

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