Wednesday, May 30, 2007

I'm back, for a moment.

I thought I should tell you that I'm not a falling knife anymore. I wanted to thank you for all the prayers and poetry. I got wonderful prayers and poetry, though I wish you'd have posted more of the poems. Many of you are shy poets and poem sharers. But thank you so much.

I'm not quite myself yet, but I'm still here.

I've been traveling. I've been to West Monroe, Louisiana to visit my publishing home at Howard Books. Honestly, I can't say which place loves me more! They both insist they do, and it's really hard to decide. Both houses are homes, and they're good to me. A girl can't ask for more than that. Exciting things are happening at both places. I've got great people that I'm working with, and I'm excited about the books. Gotta love that.

Tomorrow I'm off to Chicago to the 14th Annual Ancient Christianity and African Americans Conference. It's going to be a family reunion y'all. And it's a multiculti event. You can learn about the ancient African roots of the Orthodox Christian church no matter what race you are. All are welcome. You can learn more at

I'm teaching a poetry workshop and I've been engaged in the Psalms. I love the Psalms. They are poetry. They are life. Whenever I lose my way, and Lord, have mercy I do that a lot, I find they are a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. Psalm 119:105 Ha! I always hear that one in Amy Grant's voice.

As you know, I've battled the ravages Bipolar Disorder brings these past few weeks. A writer, himself bipolar, sums it up this way:

We don't HAVE bipolar. We ARE bipolar, for both better and worse.

In one way, it's akin to being God's chosen people. As God's chosen - the (un)lucky one or two percent of the population - we are prime candidates for God's wrath, but even as God strikes the final blow - as the old Jewish saying goes - he provides the eventual healing. In a way that only God can understand, God has bestowed on us a great blessing. Living with this blessing is both a challenge and a terrible burden, but in the end we hope to emerge from this ordeal as better people, more compassionate toward our fellow beings and just a little bit closer to God.

It's like being in a wilderness. In a way, it's like being a wilderness within yourself. I think David was like that. His own private wilderness. I find myself in the Psalms. I find comfort. Strength. Like Job, I find sometimes He slays me, or it seems that way, but He really doesn't, no more than He slayed Job. But I've come to trust Him. I know my redeemer liveth.

In my times of sorrow I burrow down deep in words like, "Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing; I come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. I am weary of my crying; my throat is dried; mine eyes fail while I wait for my God."

I love that. I love that you can take the fullness of your human experience to God. Thomas Merton says that the Psalms are bread in the wilderness, served by Christ Himself. If you've ever been in the wilderness, you know the pickins are lean. Your soul is always hungry in the wilderness. I don't care what your physical body looks like.

The Psalms are not for cheerful "Job's friends" that insist that you "snap out of it." Or for those that don't think you "have faith" if you're honest about your emotions. You are allowed the greatest portion of your bread of sorrow in this book. Catholics are encouraged to memorize the 13oth Psalm. "Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord."

You are also granted the fullest measure of joy. The psalms are where you may burst into wild canticles of high praise. "Praise ye the Lord. Praise ye the name of the Lord; praise him, O ye servants of the Lord. Ye that stand in the house of the Lord, in the courts of the house of our God, Praise the Lord; for the Lord is good." 135:1-3a

You can be exactly who you are in the Psalms. I can be exactly who I am in the Psalms: a moody, imperfect woman, who loves the Lord, the best way I know how. And sometimes, I don't.

"If thou, O Lord, keep the memory of offenses, Lord, who shall stand? But with thee there is forgiveness of sins, so that thou art served with reverential fear.

I hope in the Lord,
my soul hopes for the Lord,
more than the watchman for the dawn."

This very tired, very sad black woman is waiting, with great anticipation for that pink and smiling, newborn mercy promised with every sunrise. My thirsty soul will drink it greedily, every drop of mercy rising with the sun. Because I need it like that. I'm that woman. I'm that one who needs that kind of mercy.

And the poetry of the Psalms.

"Our soul waits for the Lord:
he is our helper and our shield;
Therefore in him our heart rejoices,
in his holy name we trust.
Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us
according as we hope in thee!
Psalm 32:20-22

Sunday, May 20, 2007

I'll be back

I'm sick. I knew I was sick. Knew I was getting sicker, but I couldn't stop it.

Once I caught a falling knife.

I was washing the dishes. The dish rack was weighted by a load of dishes that should have already been put away, but I hate washing dishes, and I hate shelving them more. So I was stacking more dishes onto the overburdened rack, and that was so much like my life. My thoughts. My crazy brain. And this knife, this brand new knife I'd just purchased dislodged from from it's snug posture amid the silverware and went on a suicidal mission toward the ground.

Only knives don't die, do they?

But you'd think they did. You'd think knives were most delicate fragile things the way I startled, the way my hand, wet and soapy reached out to save it. And I did save it. I caught that knife in the nick of time but it's sharp teeth bit into the flesh of my pinkie so quickly that for a moment I didn't even feel it.

But I saw a bloom of red spreading across my fingers, dripping onto the floor. I put my hand to my face in horror. And for a moment I couldn't believe I'd done something that dumb! I tried to catch a knife!

That's what I feel like today. Like something in my soul is falling, something sharp and dangerous and somebody's is going to get hurt if I don't shut down right now.

I don't want to hurt anybody.

I can't stop crying.

I used up every bit of happy face I had left and there is nothing here now but this sickness and this prayer, "Will you please take it away?"

But He won't take it away. He never does.

So I'm going away until I feel well enough to come back. I'm trying to catch a falling knife so the people I love don't have to.


Pray for me. And send me a poem.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Tagged: 8 Things You Didn't Know About Me

So, about a gazillion people tagged me for this meme. I'm supposed to put the rules here, but I'm so not going to. But I will play along, and then I will liberate the captives. Nobody has to do this after me. Unless you want to. If you do you can put your 8 things right on the comments. So, here are 8 things you didn't know about me, and I had to really think because darn it, I've told you EVERYTHING! So, you may know all this stuff already. Call me an over-sharer. Lord, have mercy!

1. I have a pathological fear of running out of toilet paper. It gets really bad. I'm talking freak out bad. Once my mother got a financial blessing and sent me a very generous check. She wrote at the bottom of it "for toilet paper." Yeah, I inherited much of my dry wit from Trecia.

2. In the hall of fame of really ridiculous things I have said, at a meeting full of really important people someone said to me, "So I heard you love Brennan Manning." And I said. "I'm his biggest fan." And they said. "I heard it's almost unhealthy how much you love him." And just to get a cheap, and I do mean cheap laugh--I was nervous--I said, in a room full of Christian executives. "I would totally sleep with him." Silence. "Just kidding."

This is why--among other reasons--NOBODY will introduce me to Brennan Manning. Honest to God, I will get to Heaven and Jesus won't even introduce me to him. And I was just joking! But I so shouldn't have said that. I know it. Okay? I know it.

Note to Brennan: I'm really, really sorry for saying that, Brennan. I was just nervous and trying to be funny for the marketing people. Marketing people generally like funny. And I said a lot of strange things that week. It was a bad week. I may have been having an episode. I'm not sure. Anyway, I won't try to seduce you. We won't cause a scandal. I promise if we meet I'll just shake your hand and say, "Hi." If you prefer I won't shake your hand. I won't touch you at all. I'll totally abandon my plan to wash your feet with my hair, or have any other excessive displays of emotion. It'll be difficult, but I'll practice starting right now. I can be safe. Just ask the people here.

Okay. Don't ask them.

3. I love miniature things, especially really tiny toys from my childhood. I had a collection of miniature toy key chains until I let my children play with them. They were toast after that. The keychains, that is, not the children, though honestly, the children should have been toast after destroying my collection within what seemed like minutes.

4. I had a madly, truly, deeply, I-want-to-marry-him crush on J.D. Salinger, even after I read most of his works and realized he was a nutjob. That just goes to show you I can't be trusted to judge a man as a romantic interest for myself. If I am ever single again, and God please don't let me be, I will rely on my friends to steer me away from disaster and a certain dangerous man with a name that starts with "J", and I'm not talking about Jerome David Salinger, either!

5. I took band for three years but cannot read a bit of music, nor can I play an instrument. I just went to get out of gym. I wish I'd paid attention. I grieve my inability to play and read music now, but I do like to sing now and then. Band was like high school. A complete wash out.

6. This goes with number 5. High school = washout. I was a high school drop out. Or maybe you do know that about me! If I could go back and do anything, I'd do high school right. I'd listen in history and English composition class, especially. I can't believe what that missing foundation takes away from my life right now.

7. According to my mother, I'm not as black as I think I am. She got mad at me because I was in a really militant phase and I said I was "African". I wasn't even African-American. I was just plain ol' African. She said, "You're more Native American than African." I just stared at her. You can't argue with Trecia. So there. I'm Native American. Cherokee to be specific. At least more Cherokee than African. Yeah. I'm confused, too.

8. I wanted to live in Christian community since I was a teenager and got a hold of Cornerstone magazine. I loved The Rez Band and wanted to be one of the Jesus People USA in Chicago. I just couldn't seem to get myself there. I still grieve that I never lived that way. I didn't tell Lisa this, but when I left Lexington last week, I cried on the plane. I wanted the big crazy house, and the community, all of it. I dedicated Zora and Nicky: A Novel in Black and White to my "Beloved Community" which I am still dreaming of. I am still in deep longing for my Jesus People. Maybe all of you are them. What do you think? Maybe it's playing out in a different way than I dreamed it would.

So that's eight things you (probably) didn't know about me. And you're off the hook. I'm not tagging anybody. It ends here. You are all free! Or you can tell me eight things about you in the comments.

Love ya,
P.S. Ken MADE ME add this post script. He said to tell you--and this is because he was on the RADIO today, on WJLB Detroit, waxing poetic about marriage to me, heaven help him! Anyway, he shamelessly promoted me as an author and that's gonna lead people right here, so he came here to see what I was up to, and as usual he was horrified to see what I actually say here. So he MADE ME tell you that not only did I go back to high school two years after I dropped out, I went to college and got a degree! So, I have a college degree now just in case you didn't know that even though I'm almost sure I said it before. I guess he doesn't want you to think I'm dumb as nails, which is up for debate, college degree or no.

Also, he said my interest in Brennan Manning is "disturbing" and I may not meet him. Ever.

So, that's that.

I hope you're happy, Ken.

>: /

infinite 8 image by David Friedman,

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

We Can't See Jesus, But He's Here

Ash Wednesday.

I'm at a Sacred Listening service at Ypsi Free Methodist Church. I'm not a member here. I'm here because my Spiritual Director is a pastor here. I haven't been to one of the services, but my friend Gina raves about them. I want to be quiet. I want to be with Jesus.

We don't have big honkin' man truck yet. Not the second one. Not even the first one. I haven't had the accident that even now, is the stuff of my worst nightmares. The monkey chatter in my brain hasn't been kicked up to include that level of facing my mortality, not even on Ash Wednesday. I want to be quiet. I want to hear Jesus.

Gina and I find a seat near the back. It's hard for her to walk, and I don't have my glasses. I don't mind sitting in the back. I'm as impaired as she is without my glasses. I can't find them. I can't find anything. I lose things. Everything. It's a symptom of walking too fast through my life.

I can't listen to Jesus. My thoughts are racing. My heart is racing. My soul is racing. Money problems buffet me. I think everything is on me. I'm going to fall apart and then everything on me is going to fall apart. The Burney's are going to come down like a house of cards shuffling to the ground. I try to think of books that will be commercial successes. I can't think of anything. I try to think of more high-churchy books. I don't think I can pull it off. I try to think of the kind of literary writer stuff I dream of creating. "In your dreams, Mair," I mock myself. Ideas come and go when I should be sacredly listening. I think of what I can talk to Chip about. I think about Chip bringing my high ideas back to earth. I get depressed. I think it's the end of the world. I feel my mortality all right, and it has nothing to do with ashes and crosses and Jesus dying.

I wish I could listen.

One of the speakers is reading from the psalms, and I love the Psalms. He says words that mean something to me. "I am poor and needy."

He has my attention. Those words, "I am poor and needy," take me somewhere a long time ago.

It was 1996. I was in a mental hospital. It was a really bad day. The night before Ken had stayed out all night. He came home at 6 am. He'd been out all night getting high. I was awake all night getting angry. He came in and my rage converged with his exhaustion. I tried to beat him up. Ken is a man. He's got the tight, wiry build of the Masai in Africa, but he's a man. He tried only to get me away from him, but he couldn't sway me from my anger fueled mission. I fought and fought him until he pushed me away and I turned my rage on myself. That morning I took a bottle of benadryl. Seventeen of them. I counted them. And then I waited for sleep and death to come.

Only I didn't want to die. I was just mad. I told him I took all those pills and was going to die. I don't think he believed me. Or he didn't care. Or something. In any case he didn't respond like I thought he should. I had to call the ambulance and be my own hero that day! That got me a ticket straight way, after the stomach pumping thing, to the crazy house, if you'll pardon my expression. And let me tell you, that is a most unpleasant place.

People scream for no apparent reason, anguished screams like you'd hear in hell. And if you think you see sadness in the world, it's multiplied in a mental hospital. There was a woman in her fifties who carried a baby doll she thought was her child. There were junkies trying to hustle me. A woman who tried to commit suicide every Thanksgiving. There was a woman with multiple personality disorder, tormented by one of her alters. And me, so full of sorrow I could die. Oddly, this was a "Christian" hospital. They sent me waaaaaaay across the world to this strange, Evangelical Christian hospital in Auburn Hills of all the places I could have gone. They did Christian therapy, and had tracts and Minirth Meier materials. It was funny! It was totally a God thing. And they had a Bible.

I could hardly concentrate my mind was so fried. And they put me on medication. I just sat there in front of a Bible, my mind a mess of burned out wires barely connecting. I just flipped pages, my hands flying through books of the Bible like a vulture hunting for prey until I found a few paltry words I could hone in on. "I am poor and needy." They were suddenly there. I have no memory of seeing such a thing in the scriptures before. "I am poor and needy, but the Lord hears me." And wasn't that just perfect.

That was all I needed to know about God. It was Good News in the truest sense of the word--the gospel. The best news I'd ever heard. And now, years later, I'm at a Sacred Listening service and I heard the words again. And I know, once again, God is with me.

My gaze went to the speaker, and though without my glasses I couldn't see him, I could see in my spirit this desert overflowing with blooms. His words began to calm me. He spoke of springs in the desert. Of miracles that don't even make sense. God began to tell me how He would take care of me. He would be there for me. I began to cry as I listened and I felt the sweet presence of Jesus surround me. I put my face in my hands and lay my head on the pew and cried and cried. The last image I saw before I put my head down was Gina beside me weeping too.

Finally I calmed down. When the service was over, Gina said, "Did you see Jesus?"

"Uh. No. I generally don't see him."

Now Gina, she's extraordinary. The veil between heaven and earth is thinner for her. The glass we see through darkly is not as dark to her. She sees angels, and demons, and clouds of glory. She's a sensate. She sees. She experiences God in a way that astounds me. I don't see Jesus. Ever. Sometimes I feel Him. Sometimes He says things that I sense He is saying and I say them, but I get Him wrong, too. I don't have visions. Dreams sometimes. Nothing like what she gets. She amazes me. No, I didn't see Him.

"He walked right down the aisle," she said. "And he stopped right where you were. He put his hand on your shoulder, and stayed there."

I didn't see Jesus. But I know exactly when He showed up. I know exactly when He touched me. It was when I finally heard His Father speak to me. And I cried. I put my face in my hands and that's when Jesus touched me. I never saw Him, but He was there. Gina saw Him for me.

I guess I'm telling you this story because whether or not you have a Gina in your life to see Jesus, I believe He's there. There were dozens of people in the room that day, but He stopped for me. That isn't to say that He wasn't there for the other people. It's just a little testimony about the time that Jesus stopped for me.

There you are. And there is your thing that has your mind all twisted. Let me be your Gina. Let me say I know you can't see Him, but I assure you He just walked down the aisle, stopped right where you are, and placed His hand, squarely on your shoulder.

And He waited, right there while you cried.

He's still there. Still waiting.

He's not going anywhere.


Saturday, May 05, 2007

On Being Who You Really Are

Today my bud Lisa Samson challenged women on her blog to post pictures of ourselves as we really are. I didn't particularly want to do that, but since she called me out specifically, I didn't think I could really opt to punk out.

So here I am, no make up. I even took off my jewelry, heaven help me. And I'm so full of holes I even sleep in jewelry! At first I was going to post a picture of me with my glasses, but I took those off too. I have BIG glasses. I can hide my crows feet behind the glasses. Oy!

Today I got a haircut. A TWA, or teeny weeny afro. My she is afro challenged! I was feeling particularly wild-minded and unlovely. Plus I have daily migraines, and that's hard. I don't want to always fuss with hair. Not even with afros, and I certainly don't want to fuss with longer hair now, or Don King's standing up on top of my hair Afno or cornrows or anything. Some days I need to keep things very simple just because pain says so.

And then there's that thing about new beginnings.

I needed a new beginnings today with my sin weary soul. Not a whacked out version that will leave me ashamed and hiding behind extensions ala Britney Spears. No, I needed a plain ol' new mercy beginning. I needed a meeting my face again in the mirror, and knowing the proper greeting new beginning. I went to the last salon I went to, where I got my hair cut just before I went to ICRS last year. See, I texturized my hair right after my father died because I knew I'd be around my sisters. They are so lovely. It's like being in a room full of Halle Berrys with perms. I almost always fold when I'm around them and it's a funeral. And I folded. Texturized and then missed my natural hair later. I was going to get sistahlocs, a dreadlock technique, and they said they couldn't do it with any chemical process in my hair, so I decided to cut the chemicals out. Today was the day.

I got to the salon and wonderfully sweet, amazing Darryl, the rapper/barber, the guy who cut my hair before, no longer worked there, but another one caught my eye immediately. He could see I had some hesitation. It took me a long time to grow my ginormous afro braid fro or whatever it was today. I really didn't want to cut off all my hair. I felt a little unloved, neglected and unpretty at home. And he could tell. I just know it.

He smiled at me.

I went to him. He's a big teddy bear man. Calls himself "Big Ray." Pretty, shiny black hair. Nice smile. Smooth as obsidian ways. He asked me what I need. Boy was that a loaded question. I could go on and on, but I told Big Ray I wanted him to cut the perm out. I told him about Daddy dying and the beautiful sisters and the perm. I told him about the sistahlocs. He thought I was afraid and told me how short my hair would be if he cut the perm out.

I said, "I'm not afraid to let you take me down."

He said, "I'm not afraid to take you down."

I like Big Ray.

The whole time he cut my hair he told me I am beautiful. He told me I have "God given" beauty. He was shameless in his flirting, but not obscene. He talked often of God. He told me he could not imagine sisters more beautiful. He touched my face delicately. I could not remember the last time my husband touched my face. I felt vulnerable and delicate and special. I let Big Ray be Jesus to me. Telling me I am beautiful. Telling me I am going to be all right. He told me I'm fine in that way black men mean good looking. I let Jesus mean that I am fine in that way that means I will not break in a million pieces. That I will not bleed all over the chair. That He will hold me together. He says it over and over, Jesus in Big Ray saying I am fine.

I am fine.
I am fine.
I am fine.

And for good measure.

I am beautiful.

I take it. I file it away inside of my heart. It makes it possible for me to forgive Ken his debts. It makes it possible for me to ask to be forgiven mine, and to go home and try marriage again.

New haircut. New mercy. New day. New beginning. New grace that comes in the strangest places. Sometimes you take off your hair. Sometimes you take off your make up. You may find what is underneath surprisingly beautiful (fine) despite the wrinkles and the crows feet. You can't be perfect, but you can be what you are with great mercy. With great love and grace. And forgiveness. Forgiveness in spades.


Friday, May 04, 2007

The Really, Really Bright Sunny Incredible Day of the Soul

Okay. I've talked to you about the Dark Night of the Soul. Endlessly. Till even I was sick of talking about it, but for people who are bipolar, and that's me, even though I love to pretend I'm not. I like to think I'm "quirky" or "edgy" or "eccentric." Well, for people like me there's a polar opposite to the Dark Night, and that's the Really Really Bright Sunny Incredible Day of the Soul.

And it's a great day. A wowza, this feels so good day! At first.

You may feel like you can do anything. You may find yourself wildly, unrealistically productive. You may devour books--even though you can't pay attention to them--finish novels in record time, crank out poetry, make artwork, take an untold number of pictures of yourself with your new computer "blknsexy", write letters--many of them sounding like a Robin Williams improv. You may be witty and winsome and even wise. And you may believe yourself to be quite brilliant. At first. Might I add you will do all these things while completely neglecting other things you are supposed to be doing. Those things may become completely unimportant to you.

And then you may turn irritable. You completely over-react to everything! Good or bad. You may drive too fast and almost rear end the poor souls in front of you. You may lose everything. You may not be able to find a single pair of matching shoes. You may forget appointments. You lose all sense of the concept of "time". You may lose words--lose confidence as quickly as you passed it out before, lose heart. You think of people who shouldn't be on your radar. You call them. Three times in one day. You follow your three calls with an email you never should have sent after the three calls you never should have made. You cuss too much. You even say the f-word and you don't say the f-word. You think you are not a Christian. You say horrible things to people you love and have to apologize. You have an insatiable sexual appetite that's way beyond your normal insatiable sexual appetite. You think you are not a Christian. You think you are not a Christian, and worse, you think you are not a Christian. This is a classic hypomanic episode on the way down to the depressive episode.

You stay in bed all day thinking you are not a Christian. You don't shower or brush your teeth, or put on clothes. You want to cry, but you are way too tired. You want to rage, but you are way too tired. You want to die, but you are way too tired. You think you are not a Christian, even though you keep telling God you are sorry. Your curl up in a ball and you think Lord have mercy, not even having the wherewithall to say it.

Lord have mercy.

It's just a thought.

That's where I am today.

I hate this. I hate that my mind rises and converges and these wild fires burn inside of me. I hate this.

There are times that I just want to be the really nice lady. The one who doesn't blurt out inappropriate things. The one who doesn't become "too much." Sometimes I just want to be blessedly normal. And I'm not normal, and I hate it.

But you know, Jesus loves me, whacked out brain and all. This is the only brain I have. Whether I medicate it, feed it herbs, exercise, whatever! I still have to follow Jesus. I still have to give him my life. My brain. My sins. I still have to love and be in relationships and love Him. We ask Jesus to come into our hearts. Today I need him to come into my brain. Clean up the place. I need him in my heart, too. There's a lot of bad stuff going on in there along with the crazy brain, and God I'm just tired.

I really am.