November 11

Write an open letter to your future self.

Dear Tosin,

Your life has been a whirlwind. Everything in you in this particular moment in history is ready to leave your job, your friends, and yourself behind. STAY. Stay put. I cannot make the promise that the eternal raincloud over your life will go away, but I can tell you not to run away from it. Rainy days are your favorite anyway. Rain washes things away and helps plants grow. Tosin, you need a lot of water if you are going to grow. You’re bamboo, not a cactus. God has not abandoned you; He never does. So stop avoiding Him.

You are more than a year removed from October 5th. I am interested to see how you’re doing. We both know that you will always love deeply, but will you have had moved forward. Will he have. I hope the answer for both of you is yes. If there are kids do your best not to cry about it, but to rejoice privately. Children are always a gift. Continue praying for a changed heart in all three of you when envy or sorrow or love enters your mind. Stop leaving hints. Stop expecting ones in return. Discontentment will steal the joy that surrounds you. Don’t give it the victory.

Continue with Weight Watchers. If you have fallen off the wagon get back up again. You don’t have to be this size forever. Out of love for God and your body continue to pursue health. Continue to let people in. Continue to remain grounded in real hope.

I have no more words for you, but I hope you remember to read me in a years time. I hope searching for a home is going well.

SHKL,

Tosin

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November 10

What does it mean to live boldly?

If you know me from work or school you would probably peg me as a shock-jockey. The nonsense that comes out of my mouth at times is appalling. However, I don’t think that it takes a lick of boldness to say what’s on your mind about something or someone else. In this season, boldness focuses on truthfulness with oneself and being open to share appropriately with others.

When I think of boldness, I feel like boldness is the ability to love (God, others, self) in truth and depth and humility. Being a shock-jockey can be the greatest sign of cowardice. I think it is easy to paint oneself the hero. Constantly, rising above your situations, defying authority, prevailing against the system or machine, and doing it all with a level of sass to hide your frailty. Everyone on Instagram or Facebook reading my blog and knowing my humanness so they can bow in splendor and awe of me. That takes little boldness at times. Painting an illusion of vulnerability or strength is not bold.

Sigh. Y’all, I don’t know what boldness is. It is a virtue, I would like to embody at times. So, is humility, but I am not knocking that one out of the park either.

Readers, what does it mean for you to live boldly?

 

When Monday Makes You Cry

Social services can beat the energy out of you. It clearly did on Monday. Even before, I got into the office, I knew that there was a sad situation awaiting me including scared kids, a hidden parent, and many questions. Unrelenting questions. Questions I had to ask and answer, taking the lead, driving a situation, continual counseling, managing the emotions of children and adults, fear…overwhelming fear, a rush of blood to the head, finding facts, laughter and anger, and sadness. This is social services.

Monday makes you cry and you don’t actually shed a tear. You just feel like you have. It’s like the weight of the world crushing you and encouraging you to pick yourself up again. It is duking it out with CPS knowing they’re your ally and enemy. The all-around badness concerning my 40 is exhausting.

These are the moments crawling into bed are difficult. I am exhausted by the day. At night, I don’t know if I will get rest. A warm body next to mine would be a nice commodity. Yesterday, I needed the assurance that someone was there for the Mondays that make you cry. I didn’t, but I did go to sleep.

November 1

How do you remember and honor loved ones who have passed?

I don’t know. My circles are really small. So, I have never had anyone very close to me who has passed away. Last year in November one of my teens died suddenly, due to senseless violence. On the way back to Houston from Temple, I played Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” to its entirety. I wept. On Green Dolphin Street belongs to Andrew’s; bright and springy, but still sad. I attach albums and playlists to memories and feelings. I’ll probably relisten to that album this month and cry all over again. Andrew was a good kid. I see his cold body in an open casket swollen and cold. It doesn’t even look like him. His curls were so lifeless. I hear his mother howling, the irreverence of his extended family. The humility of that chapel. Hundreds of adolescents became too familiar with death, and I wanted to mother every single one of them. Music helps me remember.

I feel like the best, I can do is honor him with my life. I have another Andrew right now. I just want to love him better than I did the last.

October: the Longest Month of the Year

I have long held the view that October might be the longest and my least favorite month of the year. As a child–and an adult– I scared really easy. So all the demonics of Halloween never appealed. Life is scary enough. I don’t need to pay someone $15 to be more scared. Let me walk a dark alley and I will be just as scared and probably out of $15. As an adult, October just felt daunting like an massive anticipation to get to the holidays. Like a plot build up for a massive let down. Like an overture that went on for 5 minutes too long.

This October felt no different.

I knew this October would feel like forever by the midpoint of September. The parts of the month I would need to move slowly would race like nascar. The parts that could have sped would drag on like roadkill. Nevertheless, like every year October comes to a close and I think I am grateful.

There are days from this month that I wish I could relive and sadness I wish I could dispense. I am beyond grateful for my counselor who has bared the brunt of my melancholy. I have cried more publicly and privately. I have stepped more fully into being a manager and out of a friendship. I have written papers, completed projects, and binge read books. I have gone to a wedding and a baby dedication. I have authored the longest email that will probably never get sent. I decided I need to outsource accountability if I’m ever going to lose weight. I have decided to let go of dreams of living in Houston, just in case the Lord moves me somewhere else. I have realized that I still struggle with figuring out where I fit in this city and in friendships and in families, but I’m grateful for those who are kind enough to make some space for me and reassure me when I’m ready to flee.

This October is no different, but somehow different. I’m glad it is over. I’m glad that I get three days away from work and people and daily life. I’m glad it ends with tears again and repentance. I’m glad it ends with a long lost friend celebrating love lasting another year in their family. I’m glad I get to look forward to a Waco road trip, Thanksgiving in Atlanta, and concluding another semester. I’m glad for silence.

I’m most grateful for faithfulness. God has been very faithful to me. This month has hurt beyond words and humbled me like nothing else, but the Lord has been with me. I have felt so lost and feel no more found than I felt at the beginning of this month, but there is hope because I know I’m not alone. God has journeyed with me through so much. Underneath it all, I’m terrified and confused, but I’m not alone.

Every blog feels like a lament. So much so that I don’t know why I write and why people read it, but I’m glad October is ending. I hope it is ending for you too. I hope November brings thanksgiving and hope.

A Pleasant Haunting

Pitchfork: Considering you had a distant relationship, were you at all surprised that her death hit you so hard?

SS: Yeah. In the moment, I was stoic and phlegmatic and practical, but in the months following I was manic and frantic and disparaging and angry. They always talk about the science of bereavement, and how there is a measurable pattern and cycle of grief, but my experience was lacking in any kind of natural trajectory. It felt really sporadic and convoluted. I would have a period of rigorous, emotionless work, and then I would be struck by deep sadness triggered by something really mundane, like a dead pigeon on the subway track. Or my niece would point out polka-dotted tights at the playground, and I would suffer some kind of cosmic anguish in public. It’s weird.

I was so emotionally lost and desperate for what I could no longer pursue in regard to my mother, so I was looking for that in other places. At the time, part of me felt that I was possessed by her spirit and that there were certain destructive behaviors that were manifestations of her possession.

The above is an insert from an interview between Pitchfork and Sufjan Stevens. While discussing Sufjan Stevens album, Carrie & Lowell, a friend told me the album was contrived after Stevens felt haunted by his mother’s ghost. He took on her spirit and lived as her in his actions and thoughts.

I feel haunted as well. My normal desires are still there. Nevertheless, I took a bath. I bought peanut butter and jelly for sandwiches this week. I take a hike tomorrow. In all these practices, I am reminded endings are not endings. They don’t feel final nor are they beginnings. Perhaps, they are just transitions and transformations allowing us to move from one space to another. I am fascinated by how my soul has chosen to feel sorrow.

Tears are too much to muster in absence. It’s a fool’s work to try to recreate a presence. I just cannot separate so quickly. I will not destroy myself; the Transcendent Giver of Mercy will not allow it. I just may ritualize baths, only eat PB&J’s, and take long walks until I can run. Might not know just who I am, but I’ll pass the time.

Words & Meaning

Death took me by the hand in an entrancing fashion and led me down a boulevard turned alleyway. I would have never expected it. Beat up by a bully, I was too blind to actually see. Beat up by my own broken hands. How would they ever shape themselves to praise again? Clenched fists and middle fingers never get praised from the pulpit. Upwardly raised palms are preferred, but this year the only time my palms were raised to the sky were as I cowered on the ground begging for mercy. “I cannot take another blow”. 

I am not a victim this year. As I author my autobiography it is too tempting to cast myself as the victim, too superficial to cast myself as a hero, and too simple to cast myself as the villain. I have played all three and play all three poorly. If I were to leave another year of life (and in three hours I will), it would be with the understanding, I am profoundly human. I am not better or worse than others. I am just Tosin. Simple, Tosin. And, that it wholly okay.

I am no Peter. Nevertheless, something within me resonates with the humility he found in failing God, himself, and his community. I never thought I would know about it; I don’t wish that others would. It is lethal.

I wanted to run from the face of God. The fear Israel must have felt was guttural, living with laws knowing failure was imminent. YHWH sees all and knows all. Sounds like something from 1984. How does someone sinful come before a Holy God? To know the character of God was a help. To know “The Lord. The Lord. The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast compassion”. To know, ten years after my salvation, God knew I would fail. “My God. My God, why have I forsaken Thee? Why hast Thou took me once more?” I don’t understand God. I am okay with it. I am learning to be okay being forgiven without the expense of being forsaken, even though all I want to do is self-flagellate. God keeps grabbing whips out of my hand. “There has been enough bloodshed. I don’t need yours.” 

Failing myself dismantled me. As my heart grew hard, a mallet came down and exploded it into fragmentations. I was dissociative. My body didn’t feel like mine. Writhing felt normal; breathing felt hostile. My face was not mine. My soul was not mine. They were for hire and would cash out at whatever made me feel good. Standards, I set for myself dismantled in a moment. I was a worm hoping to be crushed underfoot. Many a Saturday night, I spent weeping and wheezing hoping God would have mercy and dismiss me from these moments–either temporarily or permanently. Five months later, I still don’t know who I am. There are fragments, that will never fit again and some that will fit awkwardly. I am here. I am alive. I believe that is reason enough to rejoice.

The church has hurt me. The church has healed me. I cannot hate the church for they have loved me. I could not imagine the sorrow a once proud Peter felt returning to the 10 others who knew. They had all heard of his denial. They made it safe for him when casting him out would be more appropriate. I have taken the bread and the wine many times. Never in such significant ways as this year. What follows is an excerpt from my personal journal:

The bread and the wine had never tasted as sweet as yesterday. There was no change in the quality of the meal. Rather it was the posture in which it was received. There is a special humility in confession. It is the humility that despite failure, I am still a part of the body. Despite my deserved amputation and my attempts to self-amputate, broken bread and crushed wine restore me to God and others as well.

Communion is not just a dull common meal, but a weekly grace. I imagine the best fish Peter had was when Christ restored him too.

I have no words for the way The Body has bandaged my wounds, changed the dressing, poured the salve. I am still broken, but far less than I would have been on my own. I’m in despair, but not depression. At times, I feel disregarded but never thrown away.

He comes for me. He heard my weeping in the alleyway. As I plead for mercy I don’t deserve, He gives it. As I tremble, disoriented from the setting and the beating, He grabs my hand and sits beside.