Category Archives: love

Is there freedom in death?

Is there freedom in death ? Not for the person who dies but for the person who lives.

I vividly remember a student in my 4th grade class more about 15 years ago. This student was a sad, sad girl. It always seemed as though she carried her sadness way down on the inside and only used her half of a smile to camouflage something untouchable. Even in her laughter on the playground, or when constructing some fabulous building in the block area with cantilevers and everything, this student was weighed down by something. Perhaps not by anything tangible– just a weight light as air and heavy as water which seemed to be everywhere and nowhere in her soul.

She wore dark colors, long hair always out and straight down her back, usually not combed (she would tuck it behind her ear throughout the day). She was friendly and worked hard and was (can I still say this word?- smart). really smart. I remember riding  bikes in the neighborhood park one sunny day and her mom rode up to me on her bike and asked me to please take care of her daughter. I remember thinking that this was the first time that I had seen both the mother and daughter happy in a way that you just cannot fake.

A few days later, the mother committed suicide (hanged herself in her bathroom). I don’t remember if the daughter was the one to find her but I do remember the preparations to sit Shiva. Yes, there was crying and disbelief and numbness which lasted as it should.

However, I clearly remember the day when I noticed that the student started to wear bright colors and laugh a hearty, lively laugh from deep down in her gut and I couldn’t help but think if she found freedom in death. It is a horrible thing to say, to write, to even think but I tell you, the little girl no more than 7 or 8 began to transform right in front of me. Was something released with the passing of her mother? Is that even possible? Did she begin to experience a sense of normalcy without  her mother? (My hand are trembling and my heart is beating fast as I even dare write this).

I’ve thought a lot lately about a dear friend of mine who recently lost her father. He had medical challenges, as well as Alzheimer’s. This friend, my sister is an amazingly mature soul with a strong sense of self and selflessness. She is the nucleus of a family with a husband and two children (plus a nephew that she is raising) who were all adept at locking the cabinets and the refrigerator and even parts of the house. I watched her juggle her work schedule since someone had to be with her father at all times. She came to work, did her job expertly, smiled with a slight reserve that you’d only know about if she decided to let you know that she spent the better part of her life caring for and worrying about her father. In fact, she came to meetings as her activist self; strong, determined, focused and calm but with a great worry that she carried under her professionalism and her harried, complicated schedule of caring for her father.

Now he is dead. Will she experience some type of freedom in his death? Am I just being naive and saying things that should not be said or thought about. Of course, he is her father and she loves him deeply but I wonder what life will be like for her now. The African priestess who wore white for a whole year as the embodiment of her beliefs and connection to a higher power. Will she experience some sort of freedom in death? Is this even possible?



I’ve been thinking a lot about resiliency lately–What it takes to keep pushing for and at the exact same time, wait for the yes, when all you are getting is nos and not yets. What it takes to repair a relationship with the one partner that you’ve waited for your whole life. What it takes to get back up on your roller skates when you fall, even when you think the whole world is looking at you.


I’ve been battling myself for my resiliency and I finally feel like writing again.


I’ve often felt outside of the milieu of people who felt defeated and survived the feeling. How did they survive anyway? Would I survive when it was my turn? Everyone gets at least one turn, right? Did I have enough resiliency to go to the brink of desperation and fight my way back psychologically, emotionally, physically, intellectually?


I have somehow been able to avoid painful experiences or push them so far down inside that I was able to go through life on a pretty even keel. I was able to intellectualize how a person got over something when ‘it’ was seconds from defeating them. I even had the gift of being an important part of the emotional support system for one (or two friends) who were at their lowest moments–I was able to do this even though I hadn’t yet experienced my own lowest moment.


I hadn’t really experienced life in ways that made me question my essence.


I hadn’t been forced to seek out the protection of one (or two friends) through phone calls and text messages saying that I was in crisis.


I hadn’t confronted the type of issues that the church ladies say make you cry out and say, “I repent, I rebuke, get back!, what can I do and thank God”.


Until now.


The process of relocating was a bold move in faith. A way to push myself out of my comfort zone-a way to free float off the cliff instead of being constantly afraid of falling off the cliff. A paradigm shift, if you will, a model for risk-taking, an effort to find myself. An effort to find true happiness.


But, I almost lost myself.


The process of starting over was debilitating for me. The psychological and physical insecurity that came with the job search was more overwhelming than anything I have experienced thus far in my 44 years. Better yet, it was more overwhelming than what I could have imagined that I could handle four months ago (and I am a strong person in works and faith).


The process of setting much of my independence the side as I live with my father and regroup has been much, much, much more difficult to experience than I can articulate. I fell, rightly so perhaps, into the role as the victim and lost a bit of my fire each day.


My new dispositions of despair, fear and insecurity seeped into my relationship with my partner and made it hard for him to remain hopeful and loving when I was giving up hope and becoming unloveable. I was becoming the type of partner that neither he nor I wanted.


Back up against the wall, body sprawled out on the floor, I decided to pay attention to the church ladies and cry out in my car; give thanks, ask for help and move myself out-of-the-way. “Let it go”,  I kept screaming. “Get rid of it!”


I fell with my roller skates on, got up and kept going–pumping hard to catch up to myself and my partner, Larry.  I’m bruised, he’s bruised. My legs hurt, I still cry and I still cry out.


I didn’t know that I could be so resilient in the midst of such a storm.


Until now.
Thanks be to God.


Posted by on January 13, 2012 in life freestyle, love


Yes, No and Not Yet

At times there is a ‘yes’ over my life. At times there’s a ‘no’. And at other times there’s a ‘not yet’.

It is during the ‘yes’ times that I have a compelling feeling that something is right, feels right, sounds right.  My ‘no’ times are often felt with the same intensity as in, “no, this is not right”. For both the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ times in your life, the difficulty (as least for me) has been acting on them and trusting these feelings. I am notorious for making pros and cons lists, I take forever to make particular decisions and generally feel bumped around in life.

I often rationalize through the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ times, by saying something like, “I know this IS NOT right but I can make a ‘yes’ case for it intellectually’, or “I know this IS right but I’m afraid to do it”.  I often have a fool’s wish that I didn’t have to recalibrate my gut each time to determine is my yeses and no’s. I often wish that I was born or raised (or yes, had a crystal ball) with a clearer sense of when a yes is a yes and a no is a no. But alas, that really is a fool’s wish and honestly, I have all of that knowledge inside of me right now.

As I continue to live, think and pray about my experiences, my yeses and my no’s do get clearer …but it’s the ‘not yet’ that is giving me a workout these days.

The ‘not yet’ is where the work comes in for me. The ‘not yet’ is the place where I am clear about the ‘yes’ or the ‘no’ but I need to work to get there. Real emotional, spiritual work.

My ‘not yet’ feels like a house. It feels like love. I have begun to dig under the garden to test the soil, pulled up the carpet to inspect the floor and made holes in the wall to make sure the structure is stable. All of this in an effort to  realize my ‘yes’. All of this in an effort to fully realize, appreciate and reciprocate the love that is in my life.

I am convinced that the life I am recreating has a ‘yes’ over it. This life will hold more love than I can imagine. It will be a life that I can pour into. But, first I need to tear down some things, fix some things and build up other things. I cannot hold onto ‘nos’ or rationalize a ‘no’ into a ‘yes’ any longer.

This is hard work- getting to the essence of myself and starting fresh. It’s hard work but it’s worth it. My relationship with love is worth it. My relationship with my parents, my daughter and with Larry is worth it.

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Posted by on November 23, 2011 in love


Walk with a light foot

I banged and battled my way through life like a ping-pong ball sometimes cascading gently downward only to get kicked up again to a different bell and whistle. Sometimes propelling myself high enough to have no other choice but to land in the gutter and lose my dignity and my confidence.

Fear provided the energy that I needed most of the time. Fear of not being good enough in school, fear of being taken advantage of. Fear of being hurt. Fear quickly turns into anger, which cycles back to fear.

Anger that no matter how hard I worked I still had to carry my student ID at all times, just in case the campus police demanded I (we) prove that we actually were students at the Ivy League school right in the middle of Morningside Heights.

I was angry that I had to evoke a relative’s lineage to be accepted in the Dominican hair salon, thus putting an end to ‘you MUST be Hispanic’ topic of conversation. Angrier still that my dreams of being a part of the fabric of Africa were quickly exposed when kids cried at the sight of me and I was admonished to learn the words, “I am not white” and “I am not from Mali” in order to preserve my safety and my sanity.

As a young teacher, I was angry at the experiences of students in my small progressive school and I was finally told, “Hollee, you are saying the right things but in a way that no one can hear them.”

Fear was also a mainstay of my relationships with men. Fear of being used. Fear of finally having something good led me to angry tirades which no one in their right mind would put up with. Fear led into anger which led to walking in the snow without shoes after an argument, throwing objects (including phones), hurling hateful words, choosing badly and discarding all that was loving.

My fear is still there. Fear of not being good enough. Fear of being too good. Fear of losing what is good.

Yet, instead of banging and battling through life being tossed around hoping for a gentle landing; I make a daily choice to dig deep, gather my momentum and walk confidently with a light foot.


Posted by on November 4, 2011 in love