When Words Weren’t There

A "Positive Office Referral" that reads: This student was sent to the Office for: Being a kind and compassionate friend. J is always the first person to ask, "Are you okay?" and encourage with "It's okay" You're awesome!

I have always found comfort in words.

When I was a young child, I had big feelings. (I see a lot of those big feelings mirrored in my very enthusiastic and lively 7 year old.) But big feelings don’t always have a place when a family is in survival mode and when the way to survive is to keep your head down, work hard, and try not to make mistakes.

I often felt lonely and out of place, growing up. I felt apart, partially a part of many worlds that those around me didn’t understand, but never in a place of full belonging. And though I was well-liked and well-loved, I very rarely felt seen.

So I began to write. Writing became the place where I could sort myself out. Writing became the place where I could be messy, where I could find my own voice. It became my most honest place, my most vulnerable place, and my most joyful place.

After my mother died, I wrote in a journal every day for a year. I still have those journals although I’ve never reread them. I keep them for when I’m ready to hold that girl who went through all the ups and downs of a first year of grief while also being 16 and a junior then senior in high school. I am glad that she had writing, that I had writing, to help through that time.

This last week, initially, after the Monterey Park shootings, the words were still there.  I even wrote about (but shared less) the waves of emotions, I was riding the day after. But as the week wore on, with the news of the Half Moon Bay shootings, with the release of more information and the video (which I will not watch) of Tyre Nichols’s brutal killing at the hands of police officers in Memphis, and closer to home, with my little one ending the week on lockdown at her school because of an armed hostage situation in the neighborhood, I found myself without words.

I tried to write during the week and no words were there.

I was able to compartmentalize to get through the week. I found it easier to talk to those I didn’t know, at a distance, than those who know me best. Friends texted and messaged to check in, and I didn’t know what to say other than facts and the truth that this is such a hard time.

All that was there was a profound sadness, searching to displace itself in self-critique at points because being mad at myself is easier than being with the deep sadness at a world on fire, multiple crises of dehumanization, and the fact that, at any moment, someone I love more than the world itself could be taken from me.

This morning at 4am, the words returned, so I am writing.

Writing feels strange. It feels transformed in its purpose.

It is, all at once, my most intimate and vulnerable form of communication, but it also requires some distance.

There was a rawness and an unhealed self in the journals I wrote as a child, a space of figuring oneself out.

Now, I write, still in an unfinished state, but also to be seen and heard without having to say all the words out loud.

I write to reassure community that eventually I will be okay, that we will be okay, if we continue to love on one another, be with one another’s humanity, hold ourselves accountable and forgive ourselves and others when we make mistakes and hurt one another.

Eventually, the words will return.

They may not be the same, but they will be there.

Eventually, we will return to ourselves. We will return to each other.

We may not be the same, but, if we engage authentically, we will find our people.

This coming Friday will mark 28 years since my (single) mother was killed in a car accident. It was the defining moment in my life. There was life before this moment and there has been life since this moment, with a chasm of unknown between them.

This Friday also will be a day of possibility, when I need to be and bring my fullest and most authentic self to be among many people who don’t know my story, when I will need words and presence.

I cannot know the future. I cannot stay in the past. I am learning to be in the present, as painful as it can be. I am learning to bring as much humility and humanity as I can into this world which sometimes feels like a dark void. I am learning to hold on to the light, to hold on to those who love me, to return to the messy.

“Are you okay?” my daughter is always the first to ask, says her teacher, and then she follows up with, “It’s okay.” (she says she actually says, “You’re going to be fine.”)

I’m okay, Mama. I’m hurting, but I’m okay. I’m going to be fine. Really. We’re going to be fine.

One thought on “When Words Weren’t There

  1. I’ve always loved and respected you. Other than a great teacher, I never really got to know you. I wish I did. Although I’ve gone thru your Mama hood, your adoption of your daughters. Then moving to the LA area.
    I am sorry you’ve gone thru so much in your life.
    You are a strong lady. I can understand and see where all the killing and mayhem can get to you.
    Each night I ask God, “Why, I don’t understand why people can be so horrible to each other.”
    It makes me sad and depressed. I should write. It would be an outlet for me. I still would never understand WHY??
    You have so much love coming your way.
    I pray you will be OK! Jojo had it right.!!
    “You’ll be fine” ♥️

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