How to Avoid Everything (Notes on Self Care)

Keeping it real is a full-time job. This truth goes directly against my work ethic. I’m not passionate about much in life except living comfortably without toiling through all of the time-consuming, laborious tasks that usually entitle people to that kind of comfort. Basically, I want to live like a rapper without being a rapper. If you happen to meet anyone who’s never laid down a single track or been taken into custody for disorderly conduct and unlawful possession of a firearm but still lives like Rick Ross, then you may have a better understanding.

I’m not a fan of hard work, but very occasionally, I can force myself to do it. So at the end of June, when I made the commitment to get real and work through the ugly shit I’ve kept cordoned off in dark corners, I thought that a monthlong break would be enough time to address my demons, and I would come back, like, perfect. Allotting 36 days to clear away debris like addiction and anger and depression seemed pretty generous, and I actually made a list of things I might try in case I finished a few days early. I watched a tutorial on how to make an owl zipper pull using the Cra-Z-Loom, and of course that bitch was #1 on my list.

I’m not sure how 36 days turned into 102, but I just want to take this opportunity to mention that if any of the coping mechanisms you use to stay functional involve pushing down grief and pain and rage about your past or your present, and you unlatch the gate that’s been corralling those feelings and they all escape in a mad rush and you have to chase each one down to see if it really belongs to you or it can be returned to the wild, um, you’re not going to have time to make that owl zipper pull. Yeah, I know, it was a surprise to me too.

Since I’ve been going to therapy again and giving it an honest go this time (instead of just sitting there thinking it’s a crock of shit and counting down the minutes till it’s over), I was initially surprised by this overwhelming stampede of emotions because I thought I had been dealing with them. And I was. But it was kind of like when I used to smoke crack and then I would to do lines of cocaine as an intermediary step to come off my binge. Sure, I wasn’t smoking crack right then, so congratulations to me, but I wasn’t really addressing the whole problem.  I was just using stopgap measures to lessen the blow.

In therapy, I was working through smaller issues because I wasn’t yet ready to face my past as a whole. At some point, I realized that the smaller issues existed because of a bigger problem.

I realized this about three weeks ago at Target.

I don’t want to share too much of Cal’s personal business, but I was at Target looking for bras for her. She’s wearing “real” bras now, and prefers the wireless kind, but all the wireless ones I found in her size were really expensive, so I decided to check out Target. Cal is such a good kid, and she’s not the type to complain, so my goal at Target that day was to find a wireless bra in her size and buy the same style to test it out first to make sure it was actually comfortable. My bad for sharing that personal piece, but I think it’s important here.

Until I was a young teen, my aunt sexually molested me. It still causes me an immense amount of suffering just to think about it, and it’s permanently affected the way I handle certain situations. I’m extremely uncomfortable about breasts because my aunt used to touch mine. Being in the bra section at Target started a chain reaction of thoughts that drew me deeper and deeper into a pit of misery.

When I was 11, I finally told my mother what was going on. To simplify what happened between then and when I left for college, I’ll just say that my family didn’t come to my defense. It’s not so much that they denied the existence of the abuse. They just…didn’t think I should make such a big deal about it. To this day, they are upset that I won’t let it go.

I know it’s the compassionate and forgiving thing to say that I no longer blame my family for not protecting me. Or that I have overcome my misery and forgiven my aunt, but I can’t. It’s not the truth. I still blame my aunt for ruining my childhood and I still have trouble understanding why I wasn’t worth it to my mom for her to protect me. I thought that being a mother to Cal would help me understand my own mother better, but I’m the type of mother who can’t bear the thought of my kid wearing an uncomfortable bra (even though that would totally be my fault because I should have just shelled out for the $60 bra, but I ain’t about that life), so my empathy lessens the longer I am a mother myself.

Before I drove home, I sat in the Target parking lot to calm myself. I thought that scrolling through Facebook would be a good mental break, but clearly, I am not that bright. That Monday, TMZ released the video of Ray Rice hitting his then-fiance in an Atlantic City elevator. It was all over my Facebook feed.

Eventually everything connects, and for me, I finally made my connections in that parking lot. The years of abuse I suffered while I was a child altered the way I viewed my own self-worth. Which then led to years of abuse as a young woman. I thought about the man I dated who repeatedly asked if he could sell me to his friends for sex. I allowed others to treat me like I was valueless, and I treated myself the same way.

But you know what? I’m too old for that stupid bullshit. I’m not valueless. I can still be a good mother even if it wasn’t modeled for me as a child. Just because something is unfamiliar does not mean it is unknowable. 

When I got home from Target, I booked a photo session I’ve been thinking about for 4 years but never had the nerve to actually do. I’ve been the black sheep of my family for so long because I had a baby before I was married and because I didn’t finish college. Photos like this would mean that I was still just that dirty and dangerous girl. I’m not. And I will no longer allow anyone to determine my self-worth. I got the pictures back yesterday. One day, when I’m old, I’ll look at the pictures and think, “Yup, that homegirl didn’t give a fuck. You go, EJL.”


These past 102 days have been life-changing. Well, most of it happened in a two-hour span at Target, but I still wasn’t making no Cra-Z-Loom crafts on those other 101 days. I’ve cut out a lot of people who have been in my life for too long. It feels strange, and I’m dealing with a lot of guilt about it, but I have so much more space for the goodness I couldn’t take in before. And I understand now that I don’t have to hide negative emotions like hate. I just don’t really give a fuck anymore if my family accepts me or thinks I’m “worth it.”

I still have a lot of hate in my heart, but there’s more room for love and kindness too. If you think about it, I’m the living embodiment of a Coexist bumper sticker. I mean, yes, those bumper stickers are more about religious tolerance and my focus is more about how much I hate people, but get past that stupid detail, and there I am.

Everything I’ve ever let go of has claw marks in it.” -David Foster Wallace

Holler at me:
Flourish in Progress on Facebook: Lots of not-seen-on-this-blog stuff. Sometimes funny. Mostly a waste of time. But who doesn’t love to waste time?

Instagram @flourishinprogress: One more picture from the photo session posted on Instagram. Profile reads:  “Hallmark ornament collector on the outside. Ghetto as fuck thug on the inside.” Not a good match for people who want flower pics and shit.

Mad props to photographer Joshua McCaghren and makeup artist Renee Kim

I Choose Me (Notes on Facing the Truth About Addiction)


Ask anyone who’s ever hit rock bottom about the moment they finally realized the truth about themselves, and they can tell you in detail when they stopped believing their own bullshit. Usually, the story involves extraneous details that take a long time to recount. You start hating yourself for asking and then wonder how you can become a heartless fucker who doesn’t care about anybody so you never have to listen to this kind of drivel again. This has never been a problem for me because as my kindergarten teacher, Ms. Lefever, once told me, my listening ears are broken. Maybe she told me ten times, but my penchant for underachievement has saved me from listening to a lot of shit that would only clutter my pristine, unused mind.

I’m bad at being good to myself. I don’t understand love the way I think someone my age (33) and in my position (mother and wife) should understand it. More importantly, I lack the ability to recognize pain as a sign that something is wrong. Actually, I’m uncomfortable being pain-free. I don’t feel like myself. That weight helps me know that I exist.

Even with a tolerance as high as mine, I’ve been feeling an unbearable amount of pain lately. I thought it was because I lost the sudoku book I got at the dollar store that I refuse to replace because there isn’t another dollar store close by, and the ones at my local bookstore start at $5.95. What am I? A rapper with limitless income?

Instead of buying two sudoku books as I had originally planned, I decided to spend my other dollar on a foldable map of the United States. It’s always bothered me that I’m not able to immediately identify the 48 contiguous states (Alaska and Hawaii are freebies, and if you can’t identify those two states on a map, then you’re totally fucked in life and don’t let nobody tell you different).

Since I’ve been going to therapy again, I used my session the week I lost my sudoku book to lament about my haphazard organizational skills. I don’t know what you consider a good use of time with a therapist, but my heart felt a lot lighter after spending 20 minutes recounting all the special items I’ve lost over the years, especially the Louis Vuitton bracelet I lost in New York while I was not sober.

The session started out with a list of lost items and moved into my therapist claiming that I was an addict. I’m not one of those people that lets anyone with a mental health workbook and a feelings chart tell me about myself, so I regularly dismiss any label I’m given. “I’m not an addict, you stupid fuck. I can stop any time I want.” Actually, my mouth said “Ms. Dee,” but my eyes said “stupid fuck.”

It’s been difficult to face the truth about myself. I just kept pretending that I was fine. I would smile and make little dry jokes and turn the attention back on the other person so I wouldn’t have to answer any questions.

I was also confused for a long time because people told me that I looked “so put together” and happy, so if I felt any other way, I chided myself for being delusional. I learned not to trust my feelings. Since I’ve been told countless times that my thoughts aren’t the truth either (especially ones that involve self-hate and self-sabotage), I began to believe that every single thing that went on inside of me was a lie.

I lean on my addictions when the pain becomes overwhelming, and it takes my breath away every time I try to deal with it. Now, after all this time, the one simple truth I know about my weaknesses is that they don’t even really mask the pain I feel. They amplify it. My addictions bring in a new level of agony that I can only reach when I am knee-deep in my secret habits. Being in therapy has helped me realize that many elements of my day-to-day routine are actually addictions.

Yesterday, on the Flourish in Progress Facebook page, I wrote:

I was scrolling through my FB feed just now and saw these words from my friend, Laurie White: “I recommend asking for the help you need to do the things you think you cannot do. That’s the part I was missing.”

 I hate crying because it makes me feel weak and I refuse to do it if at all possible. But Laurie’s words made me cry and just this once, I knew that it wasn’t because I was weak.

 I hate that being an addict is something I’ll never not be. (That probably didn’t make sense, but y’all know I struggle with my English on the reg.) Addicts are either letting their addictions take over their lives or running away from them. Both are exhausting and sometimes I feel like a loser. Asking for help in either phase is what usually makes the difference for me. I hate asking for help though. Because that makes me feel like I’m not capable of helping myself. Which cannot possibly be the truth because we all know that I’m pretty goddamn perfect.

I am finally able to face the truth about my addictions, and I’m going to spend some time getting help. There are some things that I just can’t do on my own. I can choose to let my addictions flourish or I can choose me.

I choose me.


P.S. My ability to estimate the amount of time anything requires is real, real bad, but I hope to be back on the blog before too long…fingers crossed that with some serious effort in July, I’ll be back in August. In the meantime, I’ll occasionally be rolling by Instagram (@flourishinprogress) or the Flourish in Progress Facebook page. I’ll still be posting Rap Lyrics + Tree pictures on my passion project, Hood Plus Good on Instagram, though not as often. Y’all be good. I done enough bad for the whole lot of us. Thank you for being so kind to me.

tupacbox(flourishinprogress on Instagram)

P.P.S. Creating something has always been therapeutic for me, whether it’s a string of words that convey a thought or a scrapbook (my scrapping skills are fucking legit). I started making these boxes again. I make each from fine silver which is 99.99% silver (vs. sterling silver which is 92.5%). Each box starts out as a lump of precious metal clay (fine silver particles and binders) which I shape, mold, carve, and assemble, then I throw into my kiln at 1,650*. The binder burns off leaving just the precious metal. Since silver is a market commodity, the price of this clay fluctuates all the time, and it’s gotten expensive as fuck to make each one. But, like, YOLO. This one was inspired by Holler If Ya Hear Me, the Broadway musical based on Tupac’s work, that I just saw in New York last week.

Did u hear about the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete  -Tupac Shakur

I’d like to try creating other objects besides boxes. Any thoughts? The box pictured above is only about the size of a quarter (due to precious metal clay prices), so I’d like to keep other projects about the same size. Thank you for your help.