Featured above are photos from my first book signing and reading (taken by my then 6yr old G-son). The very first photo is extremely special to me, not because of the accomplishment itself but more so the feedback I received from the audience. I hadn’t noticed until this particular photo was shared on social media where the majority of comments were regarding how intense the focus of the woman was in the picture as I responded to her questions. She asked, ” where do you get the courage to share your story” and “how did I overcome the trauma”? I had no idea those would be the most frequently asked questions from my audience all these years later. My response is, not only do I take back power growing stronger each time I speak my truth, but more importantly I “choose” to reflect on the good regardless of how far and few those moments may have been. It doesn’t benefit me physically or mentally to focus on the bad. It doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten those traumatic life events, only that I decided such events are not how I want to use my energy. Some have said to me, “I don’t have any good times” and my response is that I can understand because I felt the same way until I “choose” a different perspective. It all depends on how I view my situation. “Good times” has been as basic as a home cooked meal after a hospital stay or being released from jail. When I think about those moments, I’m able to still savor the flavors by being reminded my last meal could’ve been worse. I’m convinced that by me choosing to reflect on even the smallest occurrences in my life where the good out-weigh’s the bad!
To share an example of the power in choosing to recognize the good outweighing the bad during my childhood were days when my mother wasn’t battling with her depression. Not being subjected to the abuse and walking around the house on eggshells was one thing, but her being in good spirits and actually wanting to interact with the family are moments I treasure. These were the days when momma would pull out the board games and as I recall, we had all of them and she equally enjoyed each one. Sometimes she’d ask me to pick out one for she and I to play one on one. One of my favorites was Chinese checkers, for some reason I was fascinated with the marbles. Other times she’d plead with me to play Yahtzee. Then there were occasions the entire family would get involved deciding between Uno, Clue, or my all-time least favorite Monopoly. First of all, it takes entirely too long to finish, but momma was always determined. She’d say, “once you start something, ya gotta finish it”. That may apply to most things, but not Monopoly. My younger brothers and I would often fall asleep during the game and my stepdad would get bored after a few hours. Momma on the other hand, took the game so seriously. She loved being the “banker”, probably due to working as a teller previously. Even back then, the thought of going to jail freaked me out so I’d eagerly hope to pull the “get out of jail free card”. I could never seem to collect an entire group of properties to purchase hotels and would lose all my money by landing on the most expensive property, causing me to pay out. It was okay though because my fun came from watching my mother smiling and enjoying herself. Even through dreading the next day when we’d wake up to find the game neatly intact with our money and properties secured underneath the board sometimes with a thin tablecloth covering it because momma was afraid a breeze would disturb her hours of accomplishments. Plus, she intended for us to pick up where we left off.
As a child my mother NEVER celebrated my birthdays, gave me a hug or comfort. I desperately craved those three vital words children expect to hear from their mother’s, “I love you”, yet I didn’t. After spending the majority of my life thinking my mother hated me, it was easy to forgive her once I learned what Mental health is and how to recognize the patterns and behaviors in my mother. I’ve always known that she’s not a bad person so when people ask how or why I’m able to share, the answer eventually became very simple for me. I “choose” to reflect and hold on to the good days spent with my mother. For many years that was all I had. Instead of focusing on what I didn’t get from her, I’d rather stay mindful of the gifts she was able to give me. The life lessons I learned from our game nights that have carried me through rough patches in life. Balancing a check book along with the importance of excellent credit as well as how rewarding it can be in simply keeping your word and being honest. These are the gifts I received by watching her through struggle and overcoming obstacles. I’m fortunate to still have my mother and when she’s gone, I “choose” to remember her in good times as my momma instead of her as a person struggling with illness. Call me selfish but there’s too much anger and negativity in the world as it is, I simply prefer in any situation big or small to take notice in how the good out-weigh’s the bad!