Renascence (re-NASS-ens), n, revival after a dormant state

As a teenager, I loved to bake. Messy, hand mixer gone rogue, splatters on the counter, every bowl in the apartment dirty but spoons once overflowing with batter and chocolate licked clean, baking. I relished cooking so I could eat pineapple coconut cake, brownies, strawberry shortcake, but I just as much enjoyed the chemistry behind it: adding certain amounts of different ingredients to combine into a specific product. I could measure out the right amount of flour, eggs, sugar, fruit, pop into a heats-too-quickly oven, and smell the anticipation. Peaches and cinnamon would waft through our townhouse, saliva made my lips smack, and an oven mitt assisted me with birthing peach cobbler. Sometimes it would burn, often times I added too much vanilla extract (I love vanilla in baked goods- I stand by that decision), but at the end there was always a tangible product.

I’ve taken this formula with me throughout adulthood. Add right ingredients + wait allotted time = new, better version of product. I believed once I healed from trauma, it wouldn’t disappear necessarily but that I would have morphed into a different version of myself. A genesis of Nique 2.0. I was adding all of the right ingredients into this bowl: have a standing therapy appointment with Hannah every other week (9 am Thursdays- come hell, high water, icy roads or me not being able to get out of bed that morning I was there), had set boundaries with some and blocked a lot of others from having access to my energy, told people how they harmed me and that I was distancing myself from webs of pawning and manipulation. Started, paused, haltingly wrote never-sent letters to create my own version of closure when in-person conversations weren’t realistic. Journaling, grounding when the complex PTSD took over, therapy, boundaries + time. Wasn’t that the recipe? Why wasn’t I healed yet? In the mirror I saw a caterpillar stuffed into a cocoon of its own volition, suspended somewhere in a mulch of paralyzing pain and a transformation. Where dafuq was my pie at the end?

Past traumas needed to disappear so I could burst out into the world, springing forth a new human, bouncing and prancing into society after a faux internal ceremony. Finding crack baggies in a caregiver’s possessions when I was around 4, seeing a daycare counselor masturbate, emotional abandonment, not being seen or heard, physical and sexual abuse in multiple intimate relationships, mental manipulation, having material possessions pawned and thousands of dollars stolen from me to finance someone else’s addiction, who I am seemingly debatable if I deserved acceptance or not (sexuality, hair, body- I’m constantly being dissected). Wasn’t my cocktail of healing going to get rid of it all? No.

I was looking for a magic eraser but that’s a cleaning product.

For years, I had been conditioned to choose other people over myself as they rejected my well-being. I was constantly bogged down and made to feel small at home, school, work. Especially work, where my Black skin was enough of a crime I received a threat of a lynching. Just because they rejected me didn’t mean I had to reject myself.

Still I’m learning that trauma is like a shadow- always there but it’s up to me if I pay attention to it or not. I’ve firmly chosen to not; while I’m not going to deny it’s a part of me my past doesn’t have to control my reality or stop me from feeling fulfilled as I navigate life and relationships. The most radical thing I can do is choose myself.

There’s no one tangible pie I can look for as a sign of completion, a celebration in my mouth that signifies we made it to the end- let’s party. Instead, I have to continuously search for how I create my own sweetness to nourish my spirit.

I’ve moved many times in my life: out of state for college- running from abuse and not thinking I was seen or heard, to my own studio apartment in 2014 to get out of a household riddled with theft and very little security, in 2019 after being given the minimum notice leases weren’t being renewed at that apartment complex (and then learning a handful of long-term residents had been pushed out, units upgraded and rent hiked up). It was difficult for any unit to feel like home or for me to feel safe in my space. Even now, when people ask where I’m from, I have a hard time answering since I haven’t felt an emotional attachment to any location but think of the uprooting that led me there. Instead, I now focus on a different aspect of the narrative: transforming each apartment unit, fusing it with my personality. Deciding on a color scheme of purples and blues from the jewel tone spectrum because richer purple hues are my favorite and because the cooler colors make me feel at peace. Intentionally adorning my walls with pieces by Black artists, who can capture like none other the depths of Black beauty as I want to live in and cultivate an area where Blackness is celebrated and not just tolerated. I keep small, tactile objects within arms reach no matter the room I’m in: fuzzy throw pillows and blankets, area rugs deep with plushness, fake flowers to stroke, a ring to fiddle, or an electric deep tissue massager to plug in. Besides comfort, the sensory experience of digging my nails and palms into a pillow grounds me in my home when I’m trying to stay afloat of the anxiety and PTSD. I choose my well-being.

When I become over stimulated, whether it’s the cacophony of my television and another’s clashing on the phone, or my ears and nose are competing to simultaneously take in neighborhood children outside with leftovers heating inside, I become irritated and have trouble focusing on what I was doing. I choose to focus on things around my apartment to ground myself: what do I know is real? What am I touching, what textures provide comfort, slowly engaging more of my senses after doing a mindfulness body scan.

Despite Black bodies not being respected neither in life nor death, I’m choosing joy and intimacy. Even though I was gaslit to believe my pain was non-existent, that psychological tsunamis were my own fault, I choose to use my lived experience to amplify my voice. Even though some folx require videos of knees to neck, of death and lynching before believing Black pain or recognizing Black humanity, I want to lift myself up on a legacy of story telling and healing.

Something I’m still working on, choosing myself. In random moments of chaos and doubt, when the tornadoes begin to whoosh in my mind again, I pause to think of even the smallest of ways I choose myself and taking control: deciding to fight the depression enough to take a shower and take out a bag of trash, choosing to read and set lunch breaks, giving myself the space I didn’t have before to feel paralyzed, confused, shitty for a moment. Holding space for all emotions. Creating a chosen core crew of people I let into my circle.

Each moment of self-love in this society that insistently sends messages I am not worthy, as a Black queer plus-sized and mentally disabled woman, is a mini revolution. A radical act to make showing up as you are a little easier for the next Black child trying to find their chosen tribe.

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