Relationships

Beautiful Complexity

Hello words.  It’s been a while.  I’ve missed you. It’s good to be back.  There’s so many things I could say with my mouth, but there’s so much more that I am able to say with my fingertips, which are extension of my thoughts… thoughts that are only buried deep in my heart and mind.  My mouth can’t often express them, and most of the time comes out wrong when I try.  But, my fingers… ah, my fingers weave magic.  They’re like a silver-tongue, able to coax words out of their darkness to dance upon the page in beautiful black font. My mouth often fails me, but not my words.

 

When I speak, my feelings, emotions, prejudices, and expressions get in the way of what I truly want to say. My vocal self is a mess.  Humanity is complex.  I wonder if the rest of life on this planet, or even in this universe, is as complex as the human mind.  There are so many parts – some strong, some fragile, some hidden, some obvious.  Our epidermis is only our shell.  How deep do our minds really go? What of the spirit? What of the heart? Simple; yet complex.

 

I’m forty-six years old, my temporary life on this planet is already half over and I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of understanding what living means.  I’ve been living, but my appreciation for it has been clouded.  My heart sinks at the thought of how much of my short life I’ve wasted. Yet, I can say I don’t have much regret.  I have many failures and lots of mistakes, but very little regret. 

 

Existential questions plague me.  Not because I’ve got to know answers. Don’t get me wrong, I have a curious mind and searching for answers will always be one of my greatest quests. However, it’s not in answers I seek most, but in purpose.  I hope my fingers can weave the question clearly for you, pull out the bits and pieces among the multitude to make my meaning clear.

 

I’ve been feeling really stressed and frustrated lately.  Not because I’ve quickly, almost overnight, have gone from a nearly lonely existence of spending ninety-five percent of my time in solitude to a full house where I have NO time alone.  I ate alone, always slept alone, and most often had my own thoughts to keep me company.  I tried dating, but found no connection with the strangers staring across the table at me, often spending my time defending myself from being pawed or molested.  My roommate/best friend and I had become distant and I found myself avoiding contact as often as possible in an effort to keep peace and preserve a sisterhood that I had dreamed about my whole life. I was taking adventures on my own, exploring the coastline for lighthouses, learning history, working out, doing anything and everything to keep my mind occupied, but I was empty; void of purpose. 

In my loneliness there was also a LOT of confusion; still today.  I am in love with a man with relationship issues and who has hurt my heart deeply. I’ve tried to pull away from him, walk away on many opportunities, but I could never just let him go, not completely.  My pride, my mind, and my will was able to put up walls, even able to convince myself I was over  him and ready to move forward, but my heart never listened.  I couldn’t stop loving him. I still can’t stop loving him. I know 

 

I will always love him. It’s a strange relationship we have. I’ve never known such depth of a connection in two souls, but on the surface, there are so many conflicts, so many differences.  We are so different from each other, have different views on so many different levels, different values, different personalities, different life patterns; we are an Oscar and Felix.  Yet, like that odd couple, we are connected in a very deep way.  Our love is a deep love and lives in such a depth, it’s almost an unspoken.  I don’t doubt his love, real love, spiritual love, deep love, but everything else (wants, desires, expectations, etc., they swim in doubts.  I never know from one minute to the next where we stand, what we are, what we’ve been, or even what the future holds for us. I can’t label our relationship.  Yet it’s enough to know that it occupies my life, it owns my heart, and I can’t give that life or heart to another. It belongs to him and him alone.  So, I’m stuck… in a confusing, beautiful, messy, uncharacteristic chaos.  Sometimes I wonder what kind of crazy test God is putting me through.  It feels unfair, unwinnable, yet beautiful and complex.  Just because I can’t identify a thing doesn’t mean that thing is any less valuable or meaningful than what I can identify. 

 

 I desperately love two teenagers that are just as precious to me as my own children.  I fell madly in love with them from the moment I met them. Actually, I think I started loving them before I met them by listening to their father speak about them.  He spoke of a lot of things, but when the topic turned to his boys, it wasn’t just his lips that moved.  His eyes lit up, his face changed, his posture changed, and the tone of his voice changed.  Love exuded from him.  His sons are his life, his pride and joy, his opus.  I could only imagine the depth of love this man possessed because of the way he spoke about his sons.  Surely if he possessed such love for them, he could provide love like that for me too.  I couldn’t wait to meet them.  When I did, I also saw the love they had for their father too.  Oh, don’t think they’re a perfect family, no family is perfect and without issues. There are issues, there are needs, and wants, and complications just like every other family, and some of theirs are big issues too.  But the love they have for one another… that’s real; that’s deep, and I connected to that love; I craved it. It felt like a centerpiece to a puzzle snapped in place, like I had been the missing link and they had been the missing pieces around me.  I fell deeply in love with all three of them, the father and sons. I loved so hard it scared me. Again, there are no perfect stories, no perfect plans, only perfected chaos.  As with everything else in life, there were issues, there are still issues, and those issues force me often to have to love them from a distance.  I was constantly reminded they were not mine; he was not mine.  I had three beautiful souls tethered to my heart, with no way to hold them or keep them. In fact, I was often pushed away.  It was tortuous to my soul.  I wanted desperately to just walk away from them so the pain in my heart would allow me to simply breathe, but I could never manage to let them go, none of them – father or sons. 

 

My own children didn’t seem to need or want me.  They never called or visited, not on holidays, birthdays or any time.  I would send them ‘good morning’ prayers/wishes, but never got a response.  My youngest would sometimes text me, to hit me up for money. My son would messenger me sometimes to see if I had watched something or heard about a new game. My oldest just never messaged at all.  I was estranged from all my family, all of them.  My parents were dead, and even when they were alive I had a failed relationship with them. My brothers didn’t even seem to remember I existed unless they were stealing from me. I had moved away from all my friends in Georgia, and they seemed to have forgotten about me. Needless to say I felt a huge failure as a parent.  I had failed as a wife. I had failed as a daughter. I had failed as a sister. I seemed to be failing as a friend. I failed as a girlfriend, and I felt as if I had failed these two boys and I had failed God and my faith.  Of all my successes in education, business, career, civic duties, physical achievements, beating cancer, getting published, receiving promotions, having a stellar resume, etc.; I seemed perfect on paper, but I felt like a failure as a human being.

 

I was lost.  I was a piece of dust blowing in the wind, searching for purpose.  I was lonely.  I would put a smile on my face every day, tell myself how much I loved myself, take selfies so I could convince myself that I was happy, but inside I was lost.  I controlled nothing.  Sometimes I would close my eyes hoping I wouldn’t open them again.  I felt rejected, unloved, unwanted, and unneeded. I desperately looked for purpose, tried to keep myself busy with adventure, and constantly sought direction.  I couldn’t understand why I was so unlovable when my heart ached because I loved so many, so deeply.  What was so wrong with me that no one wanted to love me back? That has been the question that has plagued me my whole life, starting as a child wondering how my parents could hurt me like they did, and my brothers, and God must have hated me too – he took away the only man that had ever showed he loved me on a battlefield in Somalia, to my husband who couldn’t even tell me he loved me  for the twenty years we were married, to my children running away from me or forgetting I even existed, now to man who my soul loves telling me loves me but has relationship issues,  to two teenagers boys who are mine in my heart but I have no right in their lives.

 

See, complicated mess. Simple; yet complex.  Well, that was a couple months ago.  Almost overnight I went from that lonely existence to never having five seconds to myself because that man and his sons have moved in with me (we’re together, but not together) and our relationship is still unidentifiable. I can’t even describe it.  I have my family with me, yes they are my family, and my heart couldn’t be happier.  I have them, but I don’t. They’re mine, but they’re not. They’re with me, but not with me. My youngest daughter has also come home, and she’s pregnant with my first grandbaby.  She’s here, but she’s not.  My roommate is unpredictable now, with health issues and mental issues.  She’s also here, but she’s not.  I can’t even begin to express the stresses of having 6.5 people and three dogs living in a two-bedroom apartment create.  Everyone is stressed. Everyone is doing their best to work together and keep the peace.  It’s chaos, but a beautiful chaos.

 

I’m watching that man sleep right now. He’s the most beautiful thing in the world to me, not because he’s a handsome man, and that he is, but because I see his soul – his heart, his spirit.  He’s a mess, and somedays I want to strangle him because he’s often an arrogant asshole, but he’s one of the most helpful, giving, smart, and compassionate person I’ve ever met.  So, this brings me back to my original query – that existential question – what is the meaning to all this chaos?  My frustration isn’t from the cooking, cleaning, no privacy, no time for myself, being busy working and taking care of my family, including the dogs.  No, I LOVE taking care of my family. Taking care of them gives me purpose. Taking care of them is a way to express my love and appreciation for them.  My frustration comes in not knowing what tomorrow holds. They could all leave tomorrow and I would be alone again.  I have no control over them. I can’t make them stay. I can’t make them love me or appreciate me, or even want me. My frustration comes from fear – a history of those I love leaving me.  I love my family. I love this man. I love his sons – my sons. I love my daughter. I already love my grandbaby. I love my best friend. I even love the damned dogs.  I don’t want to lose them. But, I have no power or right to keep them. I can only love them as much as I can while I have them, and continue to love them even if they leave me.

 

Love – this is the essential key to purpose and our short existence on this planet. While my life has been riddled with one chaotic event after the next, love is the one thing I never regret.  Even if I fail, even if love is never returned to me, I will never regret loving.  It’s really the only thing in the world that truly matters.  While I may not be able to identify my relationships right now, and I can’t’ put any of them in any known or familiar box (girlfriend, friend, step-mom, Gigi (that’s the name I hope my grandbaby calls me), bestie, roommate, lover, etc., there is love in and around all of it.  I love Jon. I love Anthony. I love Nathan. I love Kelly. I love Little K. I love Jenna. I love Nova. I love Bella. I love Gizmo. I love Johnathan. I love Meagan. 

 

God is love.  Where there is love, God is there also.

 

Till next time,

 

~T.L. Gray

Advertisements
Categories: author T.L. Gray, blogging, Faith, family, friends, Health & Fitness, Hope, Hurt, Inspirational, Instructional, Life, love, Muses, music, Philosophy, poem, Poetry, Quotes, relationship, Relationships, respect, Review, Spiritual, T.L. Gray, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Life Unexpected

Good Morning, World. It’s been a while since I’ve greeted you. It’s not because of a bad thing, but a good one. I’ve been a little busy with life. There’s been some big changes going on, and while they’re quite stressful, I couldn’t be happier.

I’m going to be a grandma! My baby girl is having a baby. I can’t believe it. I look at her face and she’s still my baby, and then I look down at her growing belly and realize she’s gonna be a mommie. My baby is having a baby. I’m happy and scared all at the same time. But I have much faith in her. She’s strong and she’s a survivor. She’s kind and caring. She’s made mistakes like the rest of us, and will continue to make more like we also continue to do, but I know her heart. She gives everything to what she loves, and I know without doubt she’s going to be a good mother because she’s going to give to her baby all that love and devotion. I love her even more today than the day I first held her in my arms almost twenty-three years ago.

I can remember a few months ago feeling very lonely and missing having a family. I was lost. I was trying to figure out who I was, what I wanted, and where I wanted to go and do in life. The world was my oyster and I had so many choices in front of me, yet I couldn’t move and often couldn’t breathe. I was trying to date and felt overwhelmed every time I sat across the table from one strange face to the next, all describing their boxes and what they wanted in life to fill those boxes. I started to lose hope because none of those boxes were what I wanted. The problem was, I already had what I wanted I just didn’t recognize it, because it hadn’t manifested yet and didn’t look like an expected box. My impatience always gets the better of me. Like everything else in my life, nothing comes in a ‘normal’ box. Normal doesn’t really exist. I have had a family for a while, one that I’ve prayed for, one that I’ve dreamed about, one that I love very much right in front of me the whole time, it just didn’t come to me in a normal way. I have a man that I love and respect who is my best friend and soulmate, two teenage boys that I adore and cherish to the moon and back, a best friend that is closer than any sister I’ve never had, and three dogs that I love and love me unconditionally. Now my baby girl has returned, and I’m about to be grandma. Wow, so much can change in just a few short weeks. God is good. He sees the true desires of your heart, even if you don’t know what they are, and those are the things He manifests. None of these relationships are without problems and issues, but in spite of all those issues there is LOVE, real, deep, devoted love.

I have a new job! With my new and rapidly growing family, I need better financial support. While my current job, Percepta/Ford, has provided for me this past year, it can’t sustain the future. I’m sad to be leaving my co-workers because I truly adore most of them and consider many of them good friends. I don’t think I’ve ever worked anywhere where I’ve been so close. I am going to miss them terribly, and this week is going to be bitter-sweet. I often cry thinking about leaving them. They’ve been there for me during my mother’s death, my brother’s recent brush with death, me meeting and falling in love and then the heart-break that followed, the moving, and the dating, the drama, the drama, and the drama that seems to surround my life. They made it a joy to come to work every day. Again, they are part of that family that had been right in front of my face that I didn’t recognize. Tomorrow is my last day with them, and then Monday I start my new job as a buyer at Italian Terrazzo.

So, good morning, World. As my blog titled says, this is the whimsical world of T.L. Gray – you better hang on because it’s going to be bumpy ride. So, throw your hands up in the air and ride it like a real daredevil. LOL!

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray

Categories: author T.L. Gray, Dream, Dreams, Faith, family, friends, Health & Fitness, Hope, Hurt, Independence, Instructional, Life, love, Philosophy, relationship, Relationships, respect, Romantic, Spiritual, T.L. Gray, Writing | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Controlling

I was told recently that I have control issues. That’s not the first time I’ve heard that, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. But, what does it really mean? What are they trying to tell me?  Is it a positive or negative thing?  The way in which it is said, the tone in which it’s given, and the impression implied is never positive, but negative.  So, my conclusion is when I’m told I’m being controlling, I don’t think it’s said as a positive thing, it’s not given as a compliment, but a complaint against my character.

Am I controlling? I suppose I should first define what it means.

Controlling – 1. Determine the behavior or supervise the running of. 2. Take into account (an extraneous factor that might affect results) when performing an experiment.

By definition – Yes, I’m extremely controlling.  I’m a natural born leader, a supervisor, a planner, and a strategist. That’s how my mind works. That’s how it has always had to work. I’ve always been responsible for a large group of people, and that requires solving problems, being considerate of others, their needs, and their wants, and supervising situations.  So, I agree, I’m controlling in those aspects. But, why is that a bad thing? Why is it a negative thing? The alternative is chaos and disorder, lack of preparation, and in-coordination.

 

When I see a need, lack, or a void, my mind immediately begins to plan a solution, find a supply, or seek alternatives.  It’s one of the dominate traits that have led to many successes in my life – in business, in writing, in marketing, in management, in life, and in relationships. I communicate, I plan, and I try to see things from all angles.  I try to make the best decision possible, take into an account of all the various elements, and conclude the best possible result.  As the Word says, I count the costs before I begin to build, and I consider the consequences before deciding. I will not give to my God that which costs me nothing.

I am in control of my life and my decisions and I don’t see that as a bad thing. I personally think it’s a good thing.  I have the same options as everyone else in the world. I have the same choices, the same temptations, and the same amount of hours in a day.  I choose what I do with those hours. I choose what I do with my body. I am in control of my choices. I, alone, am responsible for my choices.

Yes, there are things that happen outside my control and to which I am well aware that I have no control at ALL. Having two of my children run away from me and do things I have tried to warn, to teach, and to protect them against proved I had control of nothing. Having my fiancé die at the hands of Somalian soldiers proved I have control of nothing. Having a husband that never loved or wanted me proved I had control of nothing.  Having a family that abused and didn’t love me, beat me, abused me, and even try to kill me proved I had control of nothing. Having my soulmate tell me he didn’t want a relationship proved I had control of nothing.

Believe me, I am well aware I control nothing – nothing but myself, how I respond, and how I allow the choices of others to affect me and my life. I choose to be responsible. I choose to love. I choose to not do drugs. I choose to eat right. I choose to exercise. I choose to fight for what I want. I choose to work. I choose to do the hard things. I choose to open my heart and love, and give, and be there for my friends, and for my family. I choose to be organized. I choose to be excellent in everything I do, and try to do it to the best of my ability, and not just give a half-assed effort. I choose to be clean and not messy. I choose to make up my bed. I choose to wear make-up.  I choose to make decisions that would be for my betterment, which would make my life easier, more organized and happy. That requires being controlling of those choices.

I am not perfect. I make mistakes. I’m often led astray by my emotions, but at least I have them. Most of all, I take responsibility for my actions, my reactions, and my choices.  It’s not ANYONE or ANYTHING else’s fault for the choices I make.  My excuses are not found in a pill bottle or the bottom of a glass, in my unfair genetics, my weaknesses are not in the inability to say “NO” to myself or anyone else.  If that makes me controlling to be able to say NO when needed,  or YES when needed, and know the fucking difference… then I choose to be controlling instead of controlled by addictions and weaknesses.

I’m surrounded by excuses every day. I hear them stemming from one addiction to the next, whether it be from drugs, cigarettes, food, or just the need to be touched and loved.  That’s another thing for which I have no control.  Sometimes I just need to be held and told that I’m loved, and if I had any fucking control I would be held every day and told every day that I am loved, and wanted, and needed, and appreciated.  So much for my fucking control!

There is one thing I will NEVER do, and that’s be somewhere I’m not wanted, force someone to do what they don’t want to do, or try to manipulate them to do it.  I have had to sit in silent torment as I have had to walk away from being unwanted or stood still as others have chosen to walk away from me for that very reason – that clear example of lack of control. Anyone in my life is free to leave at any time they no longer want to be there. I will never stop them or make them stay. I cannot make them love me or want to be with me.  I have no control – which is ironic for someone accused of being so ‘controlling’.

Categories: author T.L. Gray, friends, Health & Fitness, Hope, Hurt, Independence, Inspirational, Instructional, Life, love, Musing, Philosophy, relationship, Relationships, respect, T.L. Gray, Writing | Tags: | Leave a comment

The Whimsical World of T.L.Gray – The Story, My Story, Cheerleading

The Story, My Story, Cheerleading

Casey’s Ridge in New Caney, Texas didn’t offer much in the way of success and progress, especially in education, recreation, and culture. It was a river town filled with bikers, junkies, squatters, and drug dealers. There were a few old people left from a time when the community was a thriving hub of trade along the San Jacinto River, but that had long since dried up from the Houston suburban sprawl knocking at its back doors with its golfing communities and state-of-the-art shopping malls. There were no local gymnastics classes, public pools, greenbelt trails, recreation fields for football or baseball, no track, no tennis courts, and no gyms for basket or volleyball like its neighbors in Kingwood. No, Casey’s Ridge had none of that on the north side of the river, lingering on the edge of the county line. The only recreation found was a civic center where the old people would play a mean game of Bingo on Friday nights and a little biker bar right off Hwy 1485.

I was no fool. At the age of ten, I was old enough that the golden sunny haze of imagination and fantasy began to give way to the dull, dark gray skies of truth. I hated what I witnessed. This was about the time I began to hate and mistrust men, well humanity in general. When I was eight, my third-grade teacher Mrs. Akers told me that I could be anything I wanted; I just had to first see the truth of things and then make a plan of escape. Those words still stick with me today. I made to vow to myself, and the invisible god that damned everything that I wasn’t going to become like my surroundings. I wasn’t going to be hooker, a drug addict, or dealer, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to abuse and neglect my children. No, I was going to get out of that life and fly away from the nightmare. I fell in love for the first time, with a man in a red cape. I wanted him to swoop down out of the sky and save me from the beatings, the gun violence, the drugs, and the late night visits.  Superman was my best hope at this time, but since he wasn’t a real character, I focused instead on school, martial arts, and cheerleading.

It’s not to say that I didn’t give God a chance during this time in my life. The Christians at school always seemed to be happy, have good, loving parents, got to dress up in pretty dresses and go to church on Sundays. There was a little blue school bus that drove through our neighborhood every Sunday picking up the Ridge Rabble, as we were called. So, I decided that maybe if I caught that little blue bus to the Porter Baptist Church, things would change, because then God would see what was happening and save me, like I kept hearing. So, I studied the times and routes of the blue bus for a couple of weeks before I finally dared to make my bold move for salvation. I got myself, and my four brothers, dressed in the best clothes we had. I was a tomboy and didn’t wear dresses, but I borrowed a sundress from my neighbor across the street, Stacy Stowe. She was a tomboy too, but her grandma made her wear a sundress on Sundays. Dressed in my Sunday best, I stood outside on the street, holding tightly to my brother’s hands and we caught the little blue church bus that morning.

Now, I had no idea where that bus was going to take me, or when or if it was ever going to bring me back. From my reconnaissance mission the weeks before, it always seemed to bring back the kids it picked up earlier, so I was confident we’d at least make it back home.  We travelled a good distance to the nearby town of Porter to a little Baptist church. It had a main building for the sanctuary and then a gym for the Sunday School. After listening to some loud gospel music where people often clapped and shouted, we were then separated from the adults and led out to the gym. At first I was really worried because they wanted to separate me from my brothers and put us in different classes by our ages. I didn’t like not being able to see them or keep an eye on them. They were often a rowdy bunch, and needed someone there to keep them in line. I couldn’t image the damage they’d do to that fine church out of sight, but I relented and went into my own classroom.

So far, I liked this church. They gave me a brand new bible and a paper bag full of goodies, such as candy, pencils, and a little hand held toy game. All I had to do was memorize a Bible passage and it was mine. John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” In no time at all I was holding my brand new King James Bible and a brown sack of goodies. But, things didn’t stay fun for too long. Because then the weird psycho stories started. I remember shutting down and putting my psychological walls up when the teacher started talking about how we ‘owed’ Jesus our love and trust because he was beat and died for us. I remember my thoughts looking at that teacher and wondering if she’d ever been beat in her life, and how silly it was that she thought I was going to simply love and trust someone I never met who didn’t do any more for me than I did for my brothers on a regular basis. To protect them, I remember getting beat so bad by my dad one time with a hickory stick, ‘til it broke and he started using his fist, that I was out for almost four days. Hell, Jesus was only dead for three before he came back. But, I did appreciate the idea of him placing himself in danger for someone he was supposed to protect. I got that. I related to that. That is where the teacher should have stopped because she completely lost me when she started talking about having to be washed in the blood to be cleansed of my sin. I was ready to find my brothers and get the hell out of there, ‘cause nobody was going to be putting their blood anywhere on me or my brothers, no matter if we were dirty or not.

Of course, later in life I now understand what this teacher had been referring, but to a ten-year old abused waif of a child, I thought Christians were a secret alien race, much like the t.v. show “V”, where they had human faces, but were reptiles beneath, with all their talk of washing with and drinking blood, and eating flesh. I didn’t care too much for religion in my life. On one hand there were ignorant people who called me names, a thief, and a crook for one faith, while another one wanted to save, but not really save because I still had to live and go through all the shit I was going through, and then do some bathing in blood. Nope, I didn’t want anything to do with gods or religion. I just wanted to get out of Casey’s Ridge and get away from my family and become everything they were not. So, I turned to martial arts, gymnastics and cheerleading.

Texas football is serious business, and so is their competition cheerleading. There were trophies to win and scholarships to earn, and a social status to maintain with it. So, for the next few years while I survived hurricanes, tornadoes, gun fights, dog fights, and being an Anderson, the daughter of a drug dealer, I focused on cheerleading. I learned so much for being a part of a team, having pride in something, being good at something. All those things cheerleading taught me were never a part of what home taught me. To some it was simply a social status. For me, it was my salvation. It gave me the tools and courage I needed to rise above, the fight for something, to set and achieve goals. I will always cherish the little time I got to train in martial arts and gymnastics, and I will always treasure the time I spent as a cheerleader. It’s who I was, inside and out, and who I still am. I am still a cheerleader to myself and to those in my life. Casey’s Ridge is still in the same place, filled with a lot of the same people, but I’m not there anymore. I cheered myself out of that place, and developed a strength inside that gives me the power to cheer myself out of any situation.  I may not currently live in Casey’s Ridge, but still often face different forms of chaos. It’s fine. “Ready, Set, Okay!” is strong within me.

This is the story. This is my story. This is my life.

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray ©2017

Categories: author T.L. Gray, Blog Post, Dream, Dreams, Fairy Tale, Faith, family, Health & Fitness, Hope, Hurt, Independence, Inspirational, Instructional, Life, love, Muses, music, Musing, Philosophy, relationship, Relationships, Spiritual, T.L. Gray, Writing | Tags: | Leave a comment

The Whimsical World of T.L. Gray – The Story – My Story – Chick-O-Sticks, Sunkist and Gas Lines

The Story, My Story, Chick-O-Sticks

In life, what you really want will never come easy.  It is full of chaos and a series of moments.  Some days it seems nothing happens. Other days it seems to be filled with more than I can bear.  Some days I feel I can conquer the world and nothing is impossible. But on those “other” days, I fight just to breathe from the weight of the pressure. Somewhere in the middle is the truth. Within those days is where memories are made, nightmares are hidden, hopes are born, love blooms, and dreams are dreamt.

One of those moments that stand out in my mind is an everyday moment. It’s nothing big or tragic, only a simple amber moment in the middle of black period. It’s a sense-memory moment, one where you smell something, taste something, or see something that makes you think of something else, or takes back to a time and place in your amber-colored past. Have you ever wondered why memories are sometimes colored in amber?  I wonder sometimes if that’s a product of our cinematic age, or vice versa.  Anyway, one of those sense-memories has captured a simple day in my chaos-ridden past. It seems to be a good day, a simple day in the life of the early 80’s. This memory is often triggered by Chick-O-Sticks, Sunkist and gas lines.  Come along for the ride.

Silver squiggly lines snaked across the pavement on Highway 1485, just past the bridge that crossed over the San Jacinto River, in New Caney, Texas. It was hot outside and extremely humid.  I wore a flowered sundress, which wasn’t normal for me being as I was the biggest tomboy around. I usually sported shorts, tank tops, flip-flops (if I wore shoes at all) and had my long, brown hair in a ponytail.  But this day I had on a sundress and sat in the back of a Chevy Malibu in a long line at the neighborhood gas station.  The windows were rolled down and I sat with the door opened, staring at the mirage on the pavement. It seemed sitting in a long gas lines was one of the weekend neighborhood get-togethers.  Everybody was there, friends, neighbors and strangers.  New Caney was about a half-hour north of Houston and Trinity Bay at Galveston Beach just along Interstate 59.  It wasn’t a strange site to see cars loaded down with surfboards waiting in the gas lines with everybody else.

On this particular day, sometime in the summer of 1980, I was nine years old, the Beach Boys’ Good Vibration played on the radio, and I was eating Chick-O-Sticks and drinking an orange Sunkist soda.  It was a full time job saving up and scrounging for change for my weekly indulgence as we waited in the long gas line.  I dug in couches, checked ashtrays and floorboards in cars, phone booths, and under the washing machines at the laundry mat just to have the $0.75 cents I needed. My drink cost $.50 and the Chick-O-Sticks were $.05 each and I always had to have five of them.

This was a time right before my mom starting getting sick and losing her ability to walk to Multiple Sclerosis.  She was so young and vibrant and very sociable.  I can still see her standing in front of the Malibu, talking to some people standing outside their Volkswagen, smoking a joint.  She wore cut-off blue jeans, had a bikini tank top, and wore a big sun hat.  I wonder if that’s why I like big hats. I never thought about that.  I remember her smile, she had s distinct smile. I see that smile sometimes in the mirror or in my selfies, complete with the gap between my two front teeth.  My mother had that same gap, the same high apple-round cheeks, and the same thin lips. I look a lot like my mother, at least how she looked then in my memory.  Our differences are her long, thick, dark hair.  I always envied her hair, full of body, wavy, and beautiful. I have baby-fine, straight, limp hair.  This day she wore it in braids that hung down the side of her face beneath her straw beach hat.  She was dancing.  She was laughing.  She was so full of life and energy.  My mother was beautiful when she smiled.

My mother didn’t smile often in my memories and maybe that’s why this one is so special to me. Life was hard at this time, the economy was bad, and my dad wasn’t around for a while. I think this was a time he was away in jail. It didn’t matter we were poor. It didn’t matter what struggles we faced.  It was the weekend and I was happy to be sitting in that gas line, listening to the Beach Boys on the radio, eating my Chick-O-Sticks, and drinking my cold, orange, Sunkist, in my summer dress.  Every time I hear that song, see Chick-O-Sticks in a store, or Sunkist I am instantly teleported to that time and place in history.  Life is hard, and while some days are battle days, other days are Sunkist days.  No matter how nasty, mean, and sick my mother became, that’s not how I want to remember her. I’m hoping wherever she is now in whatever afterlife exists, she’s dancing around in cut-off shorts, a bikini tank top, with braids and a sunhat, and has a big, beautiful, gap-toothed smile on her face.

This is the story. This is my story.  This is my life.

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray ©2017

Categories: author T.L. Gray, Dream, Dreams, Faith, family, friends, Musing, Philosophy, relationship, Relationships, respect, Spiritual, T.L. Gray, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Whimsical World of T.L. Gray – The Story – My Story – Meeting God

 

The Story, My Story, Meeting God

Everyone has their own journey, their own experiences, and their own meeting God moments.  As a human being, there comes a time in our lives when we face our mortality and understand that our time and presence is limited on this rotating rock.  We finally see how small we are compared to the vastness of the universe. Or we finally understand the physics that the world doesn’t revolve around us. Yet “our” worlds do revolve around us, we are at the center of it, and everything that happens to us or comes from us, stems from the center of our being.  We don’t experience what’s going on across the universe – only what is within our scope, our reach, and our influence.  Some of us have a very limited reach, while others have a vast one, but we all have one, even if it’s only within ourselves.

I’ve heard the name of God my whole life. Most often in a damning expression when something went wrong or someone was angry, or when danger was present, which was during most of my childhood.  God was damned about every four to five words that escaped the cigarette or joint-ridden mouths of my parents. The concept that while God gave life to all things, my parents were ultimately responsible for my birth, and they alone had the right to take that life from me should they choose. I do believe the words were, “I brought you into this world, and if I damned-well please, I’ll take you out of it.” Have you really thought about the phrase ‘damned-well’?  That’s an oxymoron.  Nothing damned is well.

I’ve had a few meeting God moments, but one stands out in particular.  It wasn’t when I died after being attacked by a Doberman Pincher at age 5, or when I rode on top of a car through a barbed-wire fence, or when I fell off the back of a pick-up and got ran over, or any of those life-threatening moments. No, Meeting God moment that sticks out to me was a happy moment, a peaceful moment, a vision of beauty and grace, surrounded by nature and probably one of the first instances of human love.

I was about five years old. From my life time-line, this was some time after the burned-down house, the place where my little yellow canopy bed was destroyed and where I was attacked by the dog following my fifth birthday, and some time before we moved to Texas where I started Kindergarten, so sometime before my 6th birthday.  We lived on what my parents refer to as ‘the farm’.  I’m not sure what the farm really looked like because my memories are brittle pieces. I do remember some scenes, such as a log shack with a fold up cot me and my brothers would play in, until we got bed bugs.  This is the place I learned about chiggers, muddy wells, horses, and how to hoe a vegetable garden, and the first time I heard the name William Smith.  I’m still not sure who he was, only that he was on the farm with my family, had dark-curly hair, and couldn’t ride a horse.

Next door lived an old black couple. I wish I could remember their names, but I can’t.  I do, however, remember their hands, and their smiles, and their chickens, and their red-painted barn.  I remember happiness riding on the back of an old Chevy pick-up truck, (my father hated Fords – so it isn’t ironic that I grew up loving them) through bumpy, dusty, red clay dirt roads and mazes of corn. To this day I still love riding down winding dirt roads among corn fields. Our old neighbors had a bunch of chickens that ran around the yard. I loved chasing them, feeding them, picking their eggs, and then running from them as they chased me back.  It was carefree fun. It was a moment I got to just be kid. I didn’t have many of those moments, but that was one of them.  The old lady, who I will call Henrietta, told me stories about the farm, about her animals, about love, and about God.  I remember her telling me that God was watching me, and watching over me, and sending angels down to protect me. It as a nice thought because I always felt danger.

I remember my Meeting God moment.  I was lying in the deep green grass next to Fred and Henrietta’s red barn.  A tin pail sat beneath a water spigot that dripped crystal drops in a constant rhythm, creating a harmony with the universe, with the birdsong, with the wind that swayed the tops of trees.  It was like the universe in that moment was singing a universal song and they had allowed me to hear them, to see them worshipping in harmony with the sun, the grass, the wind, the trees, the air, the animals, all of life and all of nature, and even with a little five-year old girl lying in the grass, touching their cool with the tips of her little fingers.  I turned my head to the side and watched a tiny ant meander through the forest of blades and wondered if he knew he was being watched, if he realized how small he was to the world I knew? Wondered if this was how God watched over me? Then I looked into the sky above me, realized how small I was in the universe, and tried to imagine the world beyond the clouds, beyond space, beyond everything – not in distance, but in reality, beyond deeper than what we could see, and wondered if that’s where God lived and if he could see me on this side of the veil, to see little ol’ me lying in the grass. I can still feel the warm tears slide out the corners of my eyes and trickle down the side of my face as I yearned to know THAT God.  Not the god of my father, not the god that damned everything, not the god that people were killing for, but the God that all the universe was apart, the God that watched over me and sent his angels to protect me. I wanted to know him with all of my being, all of my heart, and all of my hope. I believe I met God in that moment. I believe that He heard me, and He touched me, and He smiled because He loved his creation, and his creation loved him back.

After that moment there would be many angry times, hurt times, and lots and lots of doubting. There still are because life is hard, it is complicated, and it’s formed with many different levels and layers. But, anytime I stray too far from my faith, I’m always drawn back to that moment, back to that Meeting of God, and I’m reminded of that experience and my faith is restored. I still have lots of doubts. I still believe with my whole heart that we’ve got it all wrong, for the most part, when it comes to God. I hate religion.  I hate the things men do in the name of God. I hate the way humanity treats one another.  But, sometimes I get a glimpse of the beauty of nature, of the universe, and even of humanity and am reminded that God is love – and love (not the world’s version of love, but pure love) is not of this world, is not of nature, but it is something more, something beyond the veil, something I can’t really describe because it must be experienced to understand.  I’m never afraid to meet God, but of man I am terrified.

The Farm was a brief happy moment in my life.  I always think of it with a smile every time I smell burning wood, or see a corn field, or a red barn, or chickens, or a tin pail, or a water spigot, or a horse.  Many nightmares follow the Farm, but that’s another part of this story. This is where I met God.

This is the story. This is my story.  This is my life.

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray ©2017

 

Categories: author T.L. Gray, Blog Post, Faith, family, friends, Health & Fitness, Hope, Hurt, Independence, Inspirational, Instructional, Life, love, Muses, Musing, Philosophy, relationship, Relationships, Spiritual, T.L. Gray, Writing | Tags: , | Leave a comment

The Messes We Make by the Choices We Choose

The Messes We Make

We all have our own story, our own epic tale, and our own journey of discovery. We have a beginning, several inciting scenes, character development, a plot line, plot twists, climaxes, and a resolution, and some of us even have a prologue. But, very few of us have an epilogue. That’s something I hope to gain. Just like the vast array of books in a library or bookstore, there are many, many, many stories, and they’re all original. While some may be similar to others, each is individual and unique in their character and plot. Some of us have short tales, while others have many chapters.

Who is the author of our tale? As a writer, I often feel that my characters write the story and I am merely a scribe. Other times, I feel I’m the architect and creator, set the scene, and construct the plot. Perhaps the truth is somewhere in the middle. That’s the same as with our lives.  While we make our choices, Fate, God, and Karma set their traps and move us across our chess boards. We decide what moves to make, which pieces to act, but they decide how those pieces work, their rules, what spaces are available, and the size of the board.

Oh, the messes we make by the choices we choose. Hey, that’d make a good meme. I think I’ll also make that the title of this blog post.

How much of my story is mine? How much of it is the by-product of another’s story? How much is the mess of my making? How much more do I have? How much more do I want?

Some days I’m tired of my story and want it to end. Other days, there’s not enough pages to hold the tales I want to create, the epic I want to write, or the adventure I want chronicled. Is it a romance, a tragedy, a comedy, a thriller, a horror, a flop, or a hero’s journey? Can I change my course or is my plot set? Will I be saved, or will I save myself? Am I the hero or the villain?

I don’t know. Perhaps I’m just a shitty writer. Oh, the messes I’ve made by the choices I’ve chosen.

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray

Categories: author T.L. Gray, Fairy Tale, family, friends, Hope, Independence, Inspirational, Instructional, Life, love, memes, Musing, Philosophy, relationship, Relationships, respect, Spiritual, T.L. Gray, Writing | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Faith, Hope and Love

Faith Hope Love

Life is hard.  One of the sad realities is that we are often lonely souls, even when we are surrounded by other people.  We are born alone, unless we are a twin, or a triplet, or a quadruplet.  We also die alone, unless we are part of a multiple catastrophe like a plane crash, natural disaster, etc., that takes a lot of people at the same time.   But, you get the point. We are individuals.  Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes… I’ve heard all this bullshit before.  What I’ve learned in my nearly 46 years on this rotating ball of iron is that we are social beings and we need interaction with other humans, with other souls, and no matter what we achieve in this life, gain or lose, it’s our faith, hope and love that matter most.  The rest are the non-essential details.

Sex, money, fame, success, the American dream, etc., all of it is bullshit if we don’t have faith, hope, and love.  Sex alone is fucking boring (pun intended). Sex with someone without love, is even worse, it’s empty and does nothing to abate the loneliness inside the soul and attacks the love we have for ourselves.  Money and all the things it can buy is powerless because it can’t buy love, respect, or faith.  I love having money, for the purpose that I can spend it making the people I love happy, or providing what they need, or being there for them if they need me. If there’s no one to spend my money on, it has no value.  Yes, I need a roof over my head, food in my stomach, and clothes on my body to keep me warm or covered.  Basic essentials are important and it takes money to supply those needs.  But, possessing those things isn’t living, it’s surviving.  Surviving is natural, and some of us do it better than others. Some of us are lazy, stupid, and immature and surviving becomes a major importance in life – but what do we strive to survive for?  I’m not living so that I have somewhere to sleep, food to eat, or somewhere to lay my head.  I don’t want to eat to live, I want live to eat.  I want to see the world, but I want to see it with someone who will enjoy all the places we go.  Like Whitney said, I want to dance – with somebody. I want to laugh – with somebody.  I want to cry – with somebody.  I want to dream – with somebody.  I want be someone’s cheerleader and share in their successes.  I want to be a shoulder they can cry on when their world starts closing in on them and squeezing their hope.  I want to have someone I can come home to and share all the exciting or boring things that happened that day.  Life is meant to be shared.  Love is meant to be shared.

I have been hungry, homeless, and in need, but I’ve never been helpless, or lazy, and I know how to survive.  I have loved with my whole heart, and it’s been broken so many times.  I have many people who love me and care about me, but I’m lonely, my faith is weak, and my hope dies a little more every day.  I have to encourage myself. I often feel unnecessary, lost, and unwanted by this world, most often forgotten.  At times I don’t want to be here anymore because I’ve lost purpose, direction.  I’m not wanted or needed and I know the world would keep turning without me in it.  But inside, deep inside, there is a soul that clings tightly to her faith.  Oh, I get angry and feel betrayed by that faith, but don’t you see – those are all evidence that it’s still there. You don’t get angry at what you don’t believe.  It’s because I believe so deeply that I get so angry.  There’s a soul that holds tightly to hope, a hope for a better tomorrow, a hope for peace, a hope for love, a hope for purpose.   And that same little soul is wrapped in love; love for a hateful and selfish world, love for a beautiful  and kind world, love for those who’ve already gone, those who are right in front of her, and even for those she’s yet to meet.

Sometimes I lose focus and allow that loneliness to consume me, the pain of it to engulf me, and I make bad decisions, do rash things, put myself in harm’s way, and fight the thoughts of giving in and giving up.  I want to, but I fight back.  I put on my smile – my armor, my shield, my sword.  I focus on the positive. I give thanks for the souls that are in my life and who take their time to listen, to let me know they care.

Yes, one day I will die and leave this place behind.  The ONLY things that will matter when I’m gone is the love I left behind.  That’s it.  NOTHING ELSE matters.  When James died, all he left me was love, and it’s gotten me through so many years, so many tears, so many times.  Just a little bit of love. I’ve done some AMAZING things with that little bit of love.  Imagine what I could do with a little bit more, fired by my faith, and infused with my hope?

Take all the sex, money, fame and success and all those materialistic and vain things people kill, betray, and abuse themselves and each other to obtain… and shove them up the world’s proverbial ass.  Give me faith – faith in myself, faith in God, and faith in my friends.  Give me hope – something to chase, something to strive for, something of value to achieve. And give me love – the binder of all things.  With these three things I will conquer the world and myself, and the devils that whisper in my ear that I’m unnecessary, unwanted, unneeded, and unloved.

Faith, Hope and Love.  1 Corinthians 13 (NIV)

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, and I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray

Categories: author T.L. Gray, Dream, Faith, family, friends, Health & Fitness, Hope, Hurt, Inspirational, Instructional, Life, love, memes, Musing, Philosophy, relationship, Relationships, respect, Spiritual, T.L. Gray, Writing | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Can You Hear Me?

I’m discovering that people really don’t listen anymore. They don’t really hear what you’re saying, only what they think you’re saying, or even what they want you to say, but they’re not listening.  We’ve become such a selfish society, including myself, where everything we want and do is to satisfy ourselves and our desires.  That’s all good and well, but I’ve learned something over the years – true happiness isn’t wrapped up in what we can do and achieve for ourselves.  It’s often found in what we can do and give to another. Can you hear me?

I’ve achieved a lot of great things in this life.  I’ve accomplished many great things, but my most proud achievements aren’t in the awards, the degrees, the possessions, or in anything or anyone I possess.  My greatest achievements have been those moments of love and inspiration that I’ve been able to pour into someone else.   It’s in love – love given, love received.  It’s in real love; not sex, not affection, not adoration, and not praise, but love.  Can you hear me?

God said that there is no greater love than a man lay down his life for his friends.  That love is patient, kind, etc.  I look around at this crazy, selfish world and I weep because of what has become of love.  I am often naïve to the desires of this world, and I’ll get into some examples of that in a moment, but I’m not stupid.  It’s not that I’m simple; it’s that I put so much of my heart in the hope of what I want to see and receive from the world – that I take chance, after chance, after chance… and keep meeting and experiencing the ugly side of love, the empty selfish side of desire, and the disappointing side of hope.  Can you hear me?

I’ve been honest with everyone I’ve spoken or meet.  I’ve recently had two encounters that frustrate me to no end.  I’m single and I’m lonely.  I have all this love inside and no one to share it. I have friends who love me, but I am missing that one friend that I can share everything inside me.  I had that once, and it was beautiful, and I was so happy despite any trouble we had to face.  With him, I could face anything.  I wanted to give him the world, but he didn’t want the same. He wasn’t in the same place as me. Love frightened him, so he ran, and left this gaping hole inside.  He was my bright spot, my warm sun in a cold, dim world.  He seared me, burned me, and left a everlasting scar, but he also showed me that the kind of love I’ve been hoping for my whole life is still out there, that it does still exist.  I thought it died with James on that Somalian battlefield, but it didn’t.  I again thought it died in a Puerto Rican smile, but I hold onto the hope that it’s out there, somewhere for me.

But, hanging onto this hope in this buffet world of instant gratification and self-indulgence is very hard.  I’m a single mermaid in a sea of sharks.  I’m trying to be open to meet someone, to make myself available to find another sun, another bright spot, a best friend, a soul mate.  I don’t need to be saved, I’m not desperate, and I don’t suffer from low self-esteem where I need the attention from predators in order to feel beautiful, sexy, or accomplished.  But, I am lonely and I’m a natural flirt.  That seems to send the wrong signal to these sharks.

I met a man online recently and was very open and honest about what I hoped to find. He agreed and told me he was looking for the same thing.  So, I gave him my number, believing that I might have found someone who could swim in deep waters.  But, it wasn’t long before the messages turned to sexual innuendo and offers to cuddle.  I cried, probably for an hour, angry at myself for being so stupid and naïve to believe he meant what he said.  When I didn’t respond to his advances, he got defensive and basically told me that if I’m not opened to cuddling that I should enjoy being single.  I LOVE cuddling, with MY man, not a man that hops from woman to woman, to woman, to woman.  Yet, this sentiment seems to be the status quo.  Can you hear me?

I want all those wild, crazy, sexy, kinky, funny, adventurous experiences with a man – one man, My man. It seems men are too afraid these days to put their hearts out there on the line for a woman.  I understand, I see the types of women out there.  But, that’s not me. I want to share my whole heart, my whole soul, my whole being with someone who wants to share the same with me. If it makes me an odd duck.. quack! quack!  And If I end up being a lonely spinster… I’ll get a fucking cat.  Can you hear me?

I’m a mermaid and I swim in deep waters, down where there is no light to sparkle off your hooks. I have to be met where I’m at if a man wants to capture my heart.  If he can hook my heart, my body will follow. My heart is the center of my being; it’s what holds my Siren’s song.  Wound me by trying to grab me or my fins, and you’ll only get a Banshee’s wail, and I’ll disappear into the depths you can’t swim. Can you hear me?

Till next time,

T.L. Gray

Categories: Author Appearance, Hope, Hurt, Independence, Inspirational, Instructional, Life, love, Relationships | Tags: , | 1 Comment

The Whimsical World of T.L. Gray – The Story – My Story – My Name

The Story, My Story, My Name

I think one of the biggest misconceptions in faith is that once we accept the concept and authority of God, we expect our lives will to of sudden come together and be perfect, that all our prayers are instantly answered, and when adversity comes God will intervene on our behalf, saving us from the consequences of our actions.  God never promised that we would have perfect lives or that we wouldn’t reap the things we sowed, only that we wouldn’t be alone as we travel through this life and face those consequences.  Nor did he promise that we would be perfect people.  Our hearts, minds and souls are not made perfect by faith, but through the fires and trials of life we have the opportunity to become perfected by that faith; but it’s a life- long transformation.  Just as we are not born to hate, we are also not born to love, forgive, be humble, or to care. These are developed traits made by the choices we make in life.

I live by two concepts.  Number one – I cannot always control what happens to me.  Sometimes bad shit happens that is beyond my control that I did not earn or deserve. Sometimes great things happen that I had nothing to do with.  I can’t control the universe and the decisions of others that affect or directly impact me. However, I have 100% control on how I respond the good or bad that happens to me. Number two – It is not my job to save the world.  God did not grant me the power to save another human being’s soul. It’s not my job to condemn them, either.  It is not my job to make sure they understand the error of their ways, to repent for their sins, or to live their lives in any particular fashion.  God gave me only two commands, and declares that ALL other laws and commands are wrapped in essence of these two commands: Love God, and to love my neighbor AS I love myself.  Many of us forget that last part… and I believe it is just as important as the first two.  Just as God is a tri-part being, so is his Word –   Love Him, Love each other, Love ourselves.  So, my job is to focus on myself. I truly believe with my whole heart that if I concentrate on loving God and allowing His love to fill me, I will love myself, and then with the love “of” God, and the love within myself, I am able to love others – my family, my friends, my neighbors – humanity – unconditionally. That is my heart.

But that hasn’t always been my heart. Throughout many times of my life I was lost, angry, filled with hate and rage.  I hated God, I hated the world, and I hated all the people within it, especially myself. But that hate wasn’t born in me; it was made, forged through the fires of adversity, at the hands of abuse, at the devastation of loss.  Yet, I have survived.  I am not perfect, by a very, very, very long shot.  But, I am working hard to keep that love of God inside me, so that I continue to love myself and love the world around me.  I don’t know where this strength comes from, but I have seen it rise within me during many low times in my life.  That love reveres itself within the many names that I have accumulated through the years.

I’ve already told the story of how I received my birth name, now is the time for the story of how I received my childhood nickname, the name known to my family, a name I have attached to a lost little girl. In my dreams she is always the six-year old me – a cute little tomboy with long, straight brown hair, big hazel eyes, and set of dimples. I don’t have any pictures of me as a child, so she’s directly from my memories only.  I can’t really tell you how I truly got my nickname, only how it’s been used over the years. I’ve heard a few different stories of its origin, but I can’t validate any of them.

My name is Sap.  I was once told it was given to me because my older brother had a speech impediment and couldn’t say the word “sissy” correctly, and it came out ‘sappy’ instead.  Another story was that I was so sassy when I was a toddler that my parents called me “sappy” in reference to the sweet-bitter tree gum.  But, if either of those were true, what was I called when I was brought home from the hospital until I got old enough to talk, old enough to be ‘sassy’ or ‘sappy’?  I don’t know, I can’t remember, and as far as anyone has ever told me, I was never called anything other than ‘sappy’ or ‘sap’.  But there is a memory I will never, or can never forget that solidified the name for me. I was about six or seven and I had just witnessed my father beat my mother, yelling at her about flirting with man named William Smith.  This is a name I would hear many times in my childhood as my father beat my mother.  I never knew a William Smith, but I had grown up hating that name.   Anyway, watching my mother cowered in the corner of the kitchen as my father held her by the hair, hitting her, I grew angry and I ran into the room, jumped on my father and started hitting him.  I knew he would turn on me, but I couldn’t just stand there and be silent.  I only remember how the first hit took a few moments before I could even feel it and the room to grow dark.  I couldn’t open my eyes all the way; they stung when I tried because they had been swelled shut.  But, I didn’t wake up to a mother holding me, telling me everything was going to be okay, that she was going to protect me, or protect herself.  I woke up to meet the glare from another swollen face, one full of anger.

She threw a cold rag at me and told me to put it on my face and her voice was cold and she said, “You’re so stupid.  Do you know why I call you sap?  It’s because you’re just like tree sap, that nasty, sticky mess that impossible to wipe off.”

That was the moment I began to hate to my mother. I hated her for not protecting her children. I hated her for not standing up to my father. I hated her for not saving me, for being weak, for being a coward.  She didn’t protect me. She never did. For many years she would remain silent and look the other way, and teach my brothers to look the other way. It took me nearly 40 years to learn to forgive her weakness.  It took until the birth of my oldest daughter for me to see her as a victim.  From that day I saw her just as much as my abuser as my father. I believe I blamed her even more than my father.  I believe even to this day, because of her, there is an anger that rises within me when I see a mother neglect her children, acts cruelly toward them, doesn’t put their needs first, or doesn’t protect them. It’s definitely a weak spot in me.

When I became a mother, I didn’t know how to be a mother, not realizing I had been born a mother – a mother of my five brothers. Needless to say, I was confused.  I was lost.  But, the day I put the needs of my children first, and made the decision to leave my old family behind – to walk away from them, was the day I shed the name Sap. I don’t think my brother’s ever understood my decision to leave them, to walk away from that family, to separate myself.  They felt I abandoned them, and I suppose I did.  But, I chose to be the mother I never had, and my first true act of motherhood was to protect my children from that family.

I had always hated the name Sap, but for a long time that was the only name I knew, not until my first day of Kindergarten.  Mrs. Bonnet was my teacher. I can remember she was tall, skinny and had this beautiful long, black hair.  She called my name, but I didn’t recognize the name she called.  She called my name again, looking right at me, but I still didn’t answer. I was confused.  She walked up to me and said, “Tonya, dear.  I’m calling your name. When I call your name, you’re to answer Present.”

“But, you didn’t call my name,” I replied.

“Are you not Tonya?”

“Tonya? That’s not my name.”

“Yes, dear, it is. You are Tonya Lynnette.” Mrs. Bonnet pointed down to the name on top of a packet of papers on the desk.  “This is you.”

I already knew how to read and write. I was an early learner, having started reading the newspaper at age four.  One of my earliest memories of reading the paper was reading about the death of Elvis Presley, I had just turned five. My name written in neat blocked letters never looked so pretty in all my life.  Tonya Lynnette was a beautiful name. I don’t know why it was so beautiful to me, but I loved it in that moment, and from that day forward, when I went to school, away from home, away from my family, I was known as someone else, I was Tonya Lynnette.  At school I wasn’t a sticky mess someone hated.  I was praised for being smart, being sweet, being kind, and being pretty. I was the little girl that had lots of friends, and I was the pretty little girl Chris Brown kissed under the table in art class and said he was going to marry someday.  I was the girl that played marbles with the boys on the playground.

Names are powerful. Their meanings are powerful. All my names have power over and within me.  God has given me a new name, a name even I don’t know, that is written in the Book of Life. I have a feeling the day I see that name written in that book it’s going to feel as pretty as the first time I ever saw the writing of my name Tonya.  Tonya means “priceless – beyond praise.” Many times throughout my life, people, even strangers, have approached me and told me that I was precious, priceless.  Prophets have spoken over me telling me God says I am precious, priceless.  Lynnette is derived from Eluned which means rescuer, image or idol.  In the Arthurian tales she is a servant from the Lady of the Fountain who rescued Owain.  I have spent my life rescuing.

All I know is that a name is powerful, but as I stated above, it’s not about what happens to us or what names are given to us, it’s what we do with them and the choices of how we respond that make us who we truly become.  I choose to forgive. I choose to be kind. I choose to love.  I choose to protect.  I choose to fight. I choose to be Tonya, to be priceless, to be beyond praise.  I don’t believe it was an accident that my grandmother chose that name for me, or that it was nurse I was named after.   However, Tonya is not the only name I have, there are few more and I will eventually get to them, too.

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray ©2017

Categories: author T.L. Gray, blogging, Faith, family, friends, Hope, Hurt, Inspirational, Instructional, Life, love, Musing, relationship, Relationships, respect, Spiritual, T.L. Gray, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Blog at WordPress.com.