Comforting Words: Holy Boldness

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Holy Boldness

It’s one of the first things that I do each day as I enter my apartment building.

In fact, it is something that I have always done – long before coming to Canada.

Each day, after parking my car, I walk to the mail box to check if there is anything for me. Back in Jamaica, as I drove into our garage and realized that someone was home before me, I would shout to them, “Posi [meaning the postman] come?”

It was not that I was expecting something special – it is one of those quirks of my personality…I simply enjoy receiving mail and will sit for hours sorting through what others consider junk mail and entering competitions, etc.

Today, Sunday, June 24, 2007 was no different in that after hauling my traveling bags up the steps and into my third floor apartment, I spun around and went to check for mail. Afterall, I have been away five days – “My box must be full,” I thought.

Another thing that I do is that I never wait to get into the house or in this instance the apartment to start opening the letters. So, as I walked back up the steps and along the corridor, I was opening the various pieces.

Nervously, I opened a brown envelope with my and my ex’s name on it only to find that yet another commitment – new and written in black and white – had been broken, not once but twice. My credit rating was being shot to s..t as the non-payment of joint debts were dumped on me and almost every commitment to honour has either been since adjusted and/or broken.

Whitney Houston has this song with these words: “It’s not right, but it’s okay, I will make it anyway…” These words flooded my head and traveled down to my heart and carried me into my apartment.

The words of another song also came to me, it is one I have been hearing since Wednesday, June 20, 2007 as I joined close to 100 women at a Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia. “There must be a God somewhere…” we sang I believe twice every day. I know I sung it each night before my eyes closed.

“There must be a God somewhere,” otherwise June 2007 would not be as glorious as it has been – in spite of and despite the mounting debts, the very recent loss of a ten-year friendship due to the other's expectations that I refuse to meet and my being unemployed.

As I re-read the demand letter from the credit card company, I felt nothing close to panic – something that would have normally been my automatic and reactive emotion in situations like this.

I realize that this was a new memory I was creating – something that two persons had told me would be part of the healing process.

The first person was a professional psychologist and colleague. Approaching Christmas she cornered me at work and asked, no demanded, to know what was going on with me.

At that time, I was trying my best to hold myself together, focussing instead on giving to the women with whom I worked in a season that is extremely painful for them. I needed to ignore my own pain but this woman, psychologist saw the mask that I was wearing. And so I told her about my break-up and the turmoil that I was living through.

Trying to be positive and regain my composure, I said to her, “Anyway, my therapist says that it will be at least a year before things get easier.” She held me with her eyes, smiled and said, “Consider yourself lucky if it is five years before you fully heal from such a betrayal.”

Then she added, “The first year though is the hardest as you have to live through the cycle of memories, the major and minor events that you did as a couple. You will have to create new memories to replace them if you are going to heal and the faster you are able to do that the better.”

The second person who told me that creating new memories was important was one of my current dates.

(A side note here – no, you are not reading incorrectly. I did write “one of…” as I am not rushing into a new “exclusive and sexual relationship.” I made that decision some time ago, knowing that one needs time to reflect on “what was, what did I do right and/or could have done better and most important – Who Am I?” This last question is a major part of that decision, one that I have had to be careful to reflect on and recommit to – as I am not, I repeat not going to waste the rest of my life that that God somewhere gave me.)

Anyhow, the marathon runner, having experienced a nasty separation after an 18-year relationship, told me that a person has to give him or herself one month for every year of the relationship to heal. In my case, that meant 16 months.

With both these ‘teachings’ in mind, there are certain activities and places that I have deliberately returned to – with a new attitude, a new sense of me, with someone different (obviously) – creating new images in my mind of this place or event. Some events, I have completely avoided – such as the Gay Pride Parade in Edmonton, choosing instead to go backpacking and camping with my marathon runner.

As it approached time for me to prepare to leave for this Conference in Vancouver, where I was to present on “The Feisty Feminist and the Ethnic Woman,” my thoughts went to the fact that I would once again be on a plane, going to another city close to the anniversary of my first suicide attempt. It was also month eight – the midway point of my 16 months of healing.

Unsure how I would react now that the reality and significance of the moment hit me I did a couple things differently. Instead of asking my daughter, with whom I am experiencing some challenges again – to look after my angel boy – Angello – I boarded him for the five days at a kennel. He hates hit but life sometimes sucks even for a dog!

Another thing, I chose to do differently pertained to transportation. I recalled the severity of the panic attack I experienced returning from Toronto after my first suicide attempt; due to the fact that that was the first time in my adult life I would be returning from a trip and not being met by my partner. So, this time I chose to park my car at the ‘Park and Fly’ service at the airport.

Both decisions gave me such a deep sense of liberation it was unbelievable!

I think, however, what got me through this week without shedding a tear, convinced that “there is a God somewhere,” was the stories of the women I spent almost a week with in song, story-telling, dance and prayer.

Entering the hall of the Conference Opening Session, my eyes were caught by a striking black woman with completely gray hair. Something about her drew me to her and without a sideward glance I went and sat beside her. She turned and gave me the most welcoming smile I have experienced in a long time.

From that moment, except for bedtimes, I never left her side.

It turned out she is one of the most prominent (and powerful) black women in Canadian history. Here is an excerpt of what has been said about her, which is available on line…because I did not ask her nor did I tell her about my blog, I will not use her name:

DW is one of the leading national figures within the Canadian Black community. She was a founding member of the National Black Coalition in Canada in 1969. DW along with Howard McCurdy, Clarence Bayne, Joseph Drummond, Gus Wedderburn, Ed Clarke and Stanley Grizzle, founded the Conference Committee of Black Organizations which later became the NBCC. During her period of involvement, the NBCC successfully integrated the Diamond & Lasalle Taxis industry in Montreal and tested the Quebec Human Rights legislation with a case against the Queen Elizabeth Hotel, Montreal, for employment discrimination. She served the NBCC in a variety of capacities including National Chairperson, Executive Secretary and Public Relations Officer. She has also served in executive capacities for other community Organizations including the Negro Citizenship Association and the Quebec Board of Black Educators.

She was Montreal delegate to the Sixth Pan African Congress in 1973. As the Canadian co-ordinator she represented Canada in Lagos, Nigeria, at the Planning Meetings of the International Festival Committee for the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture in 1976-1977. Mrs. W has been very active in the philosophy and promotion of multiculturalism. She was a delegate to the first Federal Conference on Multiculturalism in 1971 and served as the Research Associate to the Parliamentary Committee, Participation of Visible Minorities in Canadian Society in 1983-1984. She was also a member of the Canadian Consultative Council for Multiculturalism in Canada from 1981 to 1984.

DW received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Concordia University in 1989. That year she was also appointed Member of the Order of Canada.

She did not tell me much of this throughout the Conference for visible minority and aborginal women. Instead, I guess she sensed my need to be under the wings of a strong black woman to get through this ‘dark anniversary’ of my life, so she teased me, fixed either my blouse or skirt, challenged me when I shared stories of my ‘battles’ in my own neck of the woods on multicultural issues. She watched me intensely as I cried when sharing about the work that, along with a group of other strong women, I have initiated on behalf of black women dying of AIDS without notice in Canada.

She praised and acknowledged my ‘teaching’ abilities after some other women had told her about the presentation I had made. This was particularly touching for me as I have in the past been the burnt of sarcasm and criticism by my dearest and her family members for this propensity to “teach and preach.”

At the closing worship service, those who wanted to make public their commitment were invited to come the microphone. I went up on behalf of a woman who had to leave early but as I was about to finish speaking on behalf of that person, my spirit told me there was more to say.

Halting and with tears flowing down my cheeks, I thanked DW and all the other senior black women at the Conference, for allowing me to sit at their feet and feed on their love and wisdom. As I returned to my seat, beside DW, she hugged me and said, “God bless you and I will be watching you.”

This morning as we parted company after having breakfast together at the airport, I watched as she walked to her departure gate and quietly prayed, “Thank you God for taking me this far…I now know for sure you are here.”

A thank you card that I received from the Conference planners for my “leadership," had written in it "..and for your Holy Boldness.”

It is that “Holy Boldness” that the sister who wrote that phrase, all the women at the Conference and DW imparted to me.

It is that “Holy Boldness” that allowed me to not scream in anger and fear as I read the demand letter for a debt that is not mine alone.

It is that “Holy Boldness” that led me to seek options to deal with the predicament that I was thrust into, including soon to be welcoming a roommate - a necessary option that will help to prevent me from being homeless.

It is that "Holy Boldness that is causing me to patiently await word that will move me out of unemployment and into the job that has had my heart singing for over nine months. In the meantime, it is the same "Holy Boldness" that keeps my head up while I do menial tasks to pay my bills.

It is that “Holy Boldness” that have me confidently singing, “It’s not right but it’s okay…I will make it anyway.”

Blessings,


Claudette

P.S. The photos were taken in early June in Jasper, Alberta where I was supporting the marathon runner. The second photograph shows me about to strip to cool off in that lovely stream in the mountains.

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