As a writer, I’d love to end the story with, and I never returned. As a person showing up in authentic spaces, I’ve created for myself, I want to tell the rest of the truth.
Of course, I returned. I had to get my purse.
But I didn’t want to.
That evening, I’d stayed up well past midnight journaling: writing and processing, processing and writing. It had worked when my father died, so perhaps it would work with this situation. I wrote until my eyes were heavy. Part I of this series is the result.
“I don’t belong here,” I told Dwight the next morning.
“Here in Covert or here in your family?”
“Both,” I sighed.
But we had a wedding to attend. I’d decided the only way I could live through the remainder of my time in Michigan was to drink, to remain self-medicated so as to numb any future pain.
Forget cognitive behavioral therapy.
I didn’t want to feel the heat rise should my grandmother tell me to speak up or beg me to engage in meaningless conversation.
So, I drank until I ran out of the liquor I’d bought for myself. Then, I started on what was available, which included bottles reserved for college dormitories.
By the time my cousin went from Miss to Mrs., and by the time the last car backed out of the driveway, I…was…drunk.
Dwight, my aunt, her beau, and I stood in the kitchen. I don’t remember what set me off into a Shakespeare-like soliloquy, but I projected all of my thoughts from the time I was sixteen to present day onto my aunt. For over two hours, I expressed my likes, dislikes, wants, and needs from all the adults who raised and didn’t raise me. I cried and purged. I spewed almost every part of my life, from stories I’ve written for this blog, to words encompassed in an unpublished memoir. I left it all there in that kitchen in Covert, Michigan.
I’ve gone back and forth with myself about sharing this, but I’ve decided it’s okay for a few reasons:
Healing isn’t linear. I’m not sure where I first read this, but it resonated. In this culture, we act as if there’s a magic healing wand. I blame popular media, as well as the instant nature of society. Once you do x, y, and z, then you’re “cured” of your trauma and you live happily ever after. That’s simply not the truth. I’ve spent years working on myself. Most days, I’m super good and never think about my past. Other days, I visit my grandmother and feel like an oppressed teenager who’s learned to silence my own voice before someone does it for me. That doesn’t mean I’m not healed. It means I’m a human being, who can be triggered.
People are not perfect. We want the “I Have a Dream” speech MLK, but we don’t want to hear about his alleged adulterous behavior. We want our heroes unblemished, like fictional Marvel caricatures. But Spiderman loses frequently, and Tony Stark seems to be a bit of a jerk. I’ve written The Greatest Thing About My Grannie and meant every word; however, I also see her as a multidimensional human being who isn’t always very nice or emotionally supportive. Likewise, as I noted at the beginning, I’d rather present my own self as a whole person, rather than a perfect being who walks around quoting pithy reflections.
One moment is one moment. Everyone asked how the wedding was, and I wanted to say, it was good, except for the part when…but there was no need to repeatedly mention this situation. Doing so would be a form of unnecessarily beating myself up and carrying energy that needed to dissipate in my grandmother’s kitchen. The best thing to do was to contemplate what happened, apologize to my aunt for the timing and manner in which I expressed myself, and move on. It was one moment.
You can be gifted, helpful, and flawed. When we returned home, I received several pieces of good news that have come and gone. Someone from the United Negro College Fund (UNCF)/Mellon Mays Conference contacted me about a paid presentation. One of my essays was published in another anthology. Dr. Dinardo’s institution, St. Clair, and their SRC revised our video on situational anxiety and showed it on IGTV. I know that a lot of people believe you have to have it all together before you can be impactful in the world. I’m here to tell you…you don’t. Your favorite celebrity is proof enough of that.
I began this series with my husband’s question, “Can you imagine living here?”
My answer is clear. Not only can I not imagine living in Covert, Michigan, I also have no intention on returning.
Watch Dr. Dinardo’s keynote, “Emotional CPR: Catch Triggers Before They Escalate” to learn how to recognize and rein in triggers before they get out of hand.