30 DAYS OF JAYE: Say The Quiet Out Loud

I want nights

That are quiet,

And still

Loud as thunder,

I want storms in

Oceans of sheets

And limbs pulling

Me further from

What I know into

All I want.

I want the quiet parts

Said out loud

And kisses made only

For me,

And all my inner light

Being bother magic

And woman lit

By you.

I want the now

and the present presence

Of what it means to be

Lost and still be found.

From sky above

And Earth beneath

I want to dream

Of setting future

Suns…

Again.

-JBHarris

A Year Ago This Month: Reflections From A Pandemic

This picture is one of the few taken before the onset of the pandemic in the US in early 2020 (this was taken in October 2019). What an odd moratorium–but here we are.

One year ago this week, I was married. I was a mom. I was a healthcare worker in-between jobs, and I was a recent college graduate! I had planned on leaving healthcare and transitioning into education. I planned on pursuing my Masters in English (a possible MFA), and was even recommended by one of my mentors, Dr. Kimberly Welch, to pursue the Doctoral program.

I mean, Dr. Jennifer Harris, sounds formidable, doesn’t it?

And then COVID-19 abducted that future. The fight that would end my marriage completely was brewing, I felt it. There was no where to go, I hated being home, and ‘sheltering in place’ with someone that you have no desire to be with is a different type of Hell. While sheltering in place, I had to confirm my plan to leave the husband who claimed to love me, but had hurt me so badly that I would have rather slept outside than in his bed! I learned just what activities he was up to! All while trying to keep peace for the sake of my children.

What kicked it off? Me doing exactly what I’m doing right now: writing. I was at my computer, and he asked me why I wasn’t talking to him. I told him I wasn’t bothering him, and I was minding my business. Why did I say that? And off it went. We argued. We screamed. And he asked me if I even wanted to be his wife anymore.

I, leaning against the wall, completely bereft said, “No.”

And the month of April was an exercise patience, being stealth, and having to do what you have to do with the world burning around you! I found a new job. I started a new job, full-time, with benefits. I found an apartment, looked at it and my mother got my deposit for it. I lied to the man that is now my ex constantly so he would leave me alone.

I still cooked. I still was gracious! I washed clothes and mopped floors. I still was a mom. I answered questions of children, I muddled my way through the beginnings of this quagmire of virtual learning. I mean, I even remember making Easter dinner last year, and all his favorites. Kill ’em with kindness, right? WWJD, right?

And Saturday, April 25, 2020? He packed his things, and the last thing he asked me, “Can I have my keys?” And I haven’t seen him since. And I am relieved! Relieved! I was able to breathe for the first time in two years! In that relief, I had to mourn what was.

There would be no more 2-parent household. There would be no more grad school, no TA-ing for my mentor. My plans for my MFA were permanently on hold. I couldn’t leave healthcare–I needed the money to sustain myself and kids! I was back to being a single parent, after almost 7 years. I was no longer going to be a married woman. I had to do the dirty work of putting my life back together…while falling apart. Whatever ancestral faith imparted to me, and I forged, I tapped into. I tapped into. The days immediately following his leaving, I barely remember! I had a house to pack. I had to get to work! I had to get back from work!

After being employed for a month, I even remember the day–May 15, 2020–I called off work. A huge issue in health care anyway! I literally felt my body and mind say, “I cannot go on. I cannot do anymore! Whatever you are demanding me to do, I cannot do!” I called my best friend, Tawanna, and told her what happened. She told me to take care of myself–and I did. I remember calling the Nursing Office, and robotically telling them–with proper 2-hour notice!–that I could not make it in. “I have an emergency with my children.” That was all I could muster. I thanked the woman that answered the phone, and I resumed laying down in the dark room with half of my possessions packed up in various rooms. I remember I laid in bed, tears breaking free from the prison of my own strength. I cried. Not loud, but I cried. I have been tired. I have even been exhausted! I have never been the level of tired where my entire being rebelled and shut down.

My children were with my mother and sister, so I could get back and forth to work (this was a lot of ride-sharing, and paying people gas money). A lot of groceries being delivered, and dealing with coming home to my lights being off (because he turned them off! They were in his name!), and him telling the landlord that we (myself and children) were gone! Imagine their surprise when I appeared out of the house after hearing noise in the backyard!

I had to pack a house, raise kids, and move my entire life to get back to where I had to get to. I decided that me was more important than the we! I had to mourn what was dead, and even what I helped to kill! With all that swirled around me, I didn’t die. I didn’t succumb! I didn’t quit! God truly kept me–He truly did!

From those early days of confusion, trying to get masks, and washing clothes every time I went outside–to being an a 2-bedroom apartment that catches the morning and evening light, where I see trees every morning. A pandemic didn’t kill me. A bad relationship couldn’t stop me. An abusive ex couldn’t, didn’t silence me. What this pandemic has taught me is I am stronger that what I thought, and had to become more resourceful that I ever thought.

Now, in this new ‘normal’, I pay my own rent. I am still employed, being an great mom–who keeps masks in her car. I am 2 months away from 40, and looking to buy a house. Is this a happily ever after? No. This is the next chapter being written. For that, I am grateful.

God & Lil Nas X-Part 1: Overview

“The goal of the artist is to disturb the peace.” -James Baldwin

“You can’t live without crossing somebody’s line.” -Lafayette (Nelson Ellis), from TRUEBLOOD

The people I know cross genders, expressions, and religious backgrounds. I mean, my own father told me that there was no God! One of the closest men in my life is actually an atheist—married to my best friend whom is a recovering Catholic (her words, not mine). I, myself, I came to believe in Christ at 8, baptized at 16, called to ministry at 30, and believe in Christ (born of a virgin, crucified and coming again). In the midst of that faith journey, let me be a little more transparent.

I’ve had premarital sex. Been divorced. Had impure thoughts. Stolen stuff. Lied. Lied on people! I have a past and a God that understands! But God that at my lowest points, when I called Him—He answered me. It is with they adage, and familiarity with my own shortcomings that I make it a mission to not “take God” from people. I don’t have that right—neither do I want it!

Enter Lil Nas X.

With full transparency (and age) I had to admit the reason I didn’t listen to him was he took a piece of Nasir olu dara Jones’s name as his. I knew then I would be too old to listen to him! Yet, in the interest of being an involved parent, when my kids starting singing ‘can’t nobody tell me nothing’? I had to know who this child was!

Enter CALL ME BY YOUR NAME.

I saw the video on YouTube after seeing segments of it on TikTok. After watching it, I won’t lie—I was unnerved! I looked at it through the eyes of a concerned Mama Bear. I thought, “This child is really content on going to Hell, huh?! Why?!”

Then, I took a deep breath…and looked closer.

Who buying these? Not I.

As pretty as the video is, my takeaways are here. But let’s get back to these observations.

The video is unapologetic. The video is trolling Christianity and Christians. It is a middle finger to the gospel of Jesus Christ. It just is. However, beneath the trolling, there is more there. And it is indicative of Newton’s third law of motion:

“For every action, there is an equal, opposite reaction.”

This video is just that. Am I bothered by the video? No. Did the video shake my belief in Christ? No. Would I let my kids watch it? No. Lil Nas X is trolling Christianity through making himself a Satan caricature the vehicle/ vessel to do it. Why? Look at what he said (first image)! How would you feel if an institution with so much power and influence continued to condemn you, and others like you, because its doctrine said it could? Conversely, offering grace, love and hope to everyone else—BUT NOT YOU?

I’ll wait.

He got the entire planet pressed in less than five minutes—literally! He, through the vessel of art, is owning all that he is, and embracing the dogma of homosexuality being equated to the only irredeemable sin worthy of Hell! The only one we need to clobber on, be the only concern the church has. He has fully embraced this and declared (through his art!), “If imma go to Hell like y’all say? I’m going to do what I want, and when I get there? Imma take that bitch over!

With that level of don’t careish, he has declared what he wants and marketing it as such (see the the limited edition numbers blood Nikes which are $1000!)! This is game, and Lil Nas X is looking at all these pressed Christians…and laughing! It’s classic rage farming—and trolls do this!

The question we need to ask is, what is the church going to do? Not about Lil Nas X, but how the church treats ALL God’s children we are supposed to love, teach and instruct?

This is bigger than a video.

Week 4: “Is Love A Myth?”

Is love a myth? No.

In the space that I am in now, I know two things.

First, Sex is not medicine.

Second, I value intimacy over sex.

Love like I want, and like I have read about, it is something that is special. It is rare. So incredibly rare. I realize that I am precious and valuable, and have no need to reveal that specialness to anyone else. Not right now, anyway. Love is not a myth, it is a power source. You an build with it, take it with you, and it is deep enough to last longer than social media. That is what I want, and what I am looking for. I am looking for something that I am aware that few people will find, or know how to hang on to.

Love is often said, and not shown enough. At this point in my life, I understand that what loving someone means, versus being in love with someone means. If I tell you “I love you” that means that I support you, care for you, and want the best for you whether it benefits me or not. From those three components, I am promising that I will do all in my power to care for you, and being your soft place in the world. Love is a door, window and a mirror. Never a wall. Love, real love, will always make windows and walls–that is it’s nature!

Love is not a myth. It is always waiting. And right now, I’m waiting on it. For the first time, I’m waiting on it to find me–rather than running after it.

Good thing come to those who wait, right? I’m about to find out. What do I have to lose? I refuse to lose myself again.

It’s Love Month, And I Ain’t Worried…

I have been married twice. I have always been in a relationship. So, to be in this position after being with someone almost 7 years, it is strange to be by myself for the first time in almost a decade. But, it’s strange how quickly I have fallen back into just doing me.

Like truly doing me.

I am in a place and at an age that I have become intolerant of my time being wasted, I am not randomly smashing, and have my own money. I can lay out in my bed, and not touch anything but pillows and peace! There is a peace that comes with this level of singleness, with being single this time, it feels different. I am not sure if this is because of me about to turn 40 (I am still in real disbelief about this!), but this bout of singleness feels different. Dare I say it, this feels natural. It feels appropriate to be single right now. I mean, I am in awe of that right now. I am in awe of how settled I am–I don’t take that lightly though. I am at the age now where I would rather be alone than wishing that I was!

I am learning to be okay to be by myself. I am learning myself again, what I like and even who I want to spend time with. I am becoming more me than I think I ever was before. I am…happy. I have peace when I wake up now, and when I lay down. When I have to make a decision, I can do it without thinking about how it will sound to anyone else–or needing their approval!

I am a single girl who has never had a problem getting a date, or laid, whom has called herself an Eternal Juliet; whom in a former life had the nickname, Amoranda (which means worthy of being loved), is single for the first time in over a decade collectively.

And I am now in love, with myself. As it should be.

‘Malcolm & Marie’-Part 2: Woman Thoughts

Reminder: These are my thoughts and my take on the movie.

There is a sweetness to this movie that makes me sick.

I have been in a relationship where I have tried to be a support to a man that seemed to think my presence was only an extension of himself or not needed for the gains he wished to make. I have been Marie. More than once.

When I saw her hit that cold butter with the Chef’s knife to make him macaroni and cheese–that he asked her for? I knew what it was. And I almost started crying. I have been a Marie.

Is this a ‘struggle love’ movie? No, I don’t think that it is. It is a movie that is long overdue to be told from the honest pen of Black writers. The movie displays exactly what it looks like to try to be with someone who may not know what that means; conversely what it means to try to stay with someone that doesn’t think you will ever leave.

The dialogue is honest, the emotions are raw, and several times I wanted to slap fire from Malcolm! There were several times I wanted to snatch Marie and tell her to shut up! There were times in the movie where I thought they both went too far–where I thought for the ‘good’ of the relationship Marie should hush! Yet, in examining that—isn’t that the same feeling that makes struggle love possible? This idea that one has to be lesser than the other for the sake of peace.

She doesn’t let Malcolm get away with talking to her in a way that makes her shrink.

Image result for malcolm and marie
After the bathtub scene, the two are outside, smoking. Marie plays the song GET RID OF HIM by Dionne Warwick on her iPhone. She so badly wants Malcolm to look beyond what he feels–and see her.

He doesn’t allow Marie to talk to him any kind of way either, but he believes he knows her well enough to talk to her like he does. It is this knowingness that Marie calls narcissism. I’m not sure if it is, but it definitely arrogance.

They go at each other, and circle the idea of reconciling but then they remember why each of them is mad, and that someone that they love hurt them that badly, and they come out swinging at each other again.

And what is the beginning of this argument about: Malcolm didn’t thank her. He sees that as an excited oversight, but Marie sees it as one on top of another set or slings and arrows! But in an attempt to remind Marie that she is loved, he brings up what he did. Even supporting her through addiction and suicide attempts. The bathtub scene was hardest to watch because you could tell Malcolm’s intent was to truly ‘snap her like a twig.’ He belittles her, humiliates her, and Marie forces herself not to cry. And later in the movie Malcolm tells her how in love with he is, and even tells her this as the movie opens. The one thing I will continuously give Malcolm credit for was being in-tune enough with her know she was not alright.

He tells her how talented she is, but also calls her on her inability to do something else–like go back to acting. In calling her on her own insecurities, he exposes her to what she hadn’t done–and he won’t let her weasel out of that. Which causes Marie to be upset moreso! She wants him to see her, and see all of her. I mean, they even fight about how she didn’t/wasn’t cast in his movie IMANI. Malcolm tells her that he wasn’t going to beg her to audition–even though he said with the right part she would be outstanding!

Marie also won’t give into having sex with him–she doesn’t want to give him the comfort of her body. She wants him to hear her, rather than feel her. Which I thought was pivotal–that goes into the power dynamic of a relationship! Sex is often transactional, and used to diffuse certain situations. It doesn’t really solve them. Is it manipulative? No. If I’m mad, then why should I give you the comfort of my body!

They are truly a mess. But they love each other. Yet, its not struggle love. Marie doesn’t shrink, she refuses to be steamrolled or bullied. Marie tells Malcolm that he steamrolls over everyone because he cannot conceive that someone else is more interesting than him. She tells him as the movie ends:

“Your lack of curiosity is an extension of your narcissism. You never stop to ask, ‘How can I be a better partner?’ ” Marie then says, “I am the last one standing, who is not scared to tell you to ‘up your fucking game’.

As complex and layered as this story is, I am still stewing on it. Even as the movie ends, there is no clear cut happy ending. We don’t know if Malcolm really sees her. We don’t know if Marie has enough in her to forgive him to do better. We are given the scene of them outside, from the vantage point of the bedroom window, and see them together. We are given the illusion of hope. Nothing else.

And that is what all relationships have behind doors, isn’t it? Hope. We hope that we can pull it together. We hope our partners can do better. We hope they see us, and we don’t want Marie’s words to haunt us:

“I feel like once you know someone is there for you, and once you know they love you, you never really think of them again. It’s not until you’re about to lose someone that you finally pay attention.”

After Marie tells him why thanking her was imperative, Malcolm seems to understand! It’s not an oversight–it was him ignoring her for his own gain and ends. Even if he did it on accident. Marie desires to be seen and heard, and demands the man who loves her to do both! Malcolm is a good guy, but he has to understand that relationships are effort. Marie has to understand that you cannot put your life inside of a man–you need to be brave enough to exist without him, or his approval.

Malcolm & Marie will make you think. It’ll make you cry. It’ll make you laugh and remind you that love is a choice. Staying together is a choice. And leaving is also a choice. They stayed together to try again. Isn’t that what love does–give hope? And the hope to be seen? I believe so, even in a place with all windows.

The Life Of A Dangerous Black Girl-Lie #3: If You Would Pull It Back, You Would Have A Relationship.

At this point in my life, the women that I confide in are in two categories: Mother figures and Sisterfriends. One of my sisterfriends is the remarkable, beautiful and completely savage (she describes herself as a ‘manicured pit viper’) Kelly Heflin. I have been a part of her world–happily–due in part to my own wit, love of fashion, and the same substance I believe all women have that have gone through the loss of fathers.

And in that power, with that wit, I call her my sister. Shouts to Kellz!

With that, she never ceases to amaze me with the level of nonsense she reveals from her inbox into the waiting Facebook world. From this, I have seen my sister be called everything that could enter into the heart of a petty, jealous, acrid man. I have seen the messages that she was bold enough to share (because, Kellz–and I love she!). The thing that is so confounding about this, is their reaction to her reaction to not wanting to be treated as anything less than what she was taught she was! Her answer to that, which is my echo, “If you wouldn’t let your daughter settle for it, why would you want me to?”

I agree, Sis. I agree!

I should not–will not–lessen myself to the point of being gaslighted for the sake of ‘having someone.’ Why should I? Who is raising these men-impostors?! Who started this lie that in order to have the woman you want you have to break her like a wild mare? Why is a woman to be broken, to be made whole to and for a man? Let me give you some Bible, because the I know the Hoteps are trying to formulate a way to ‘check’ me.

Note: I write and sign checks; I am never to be checked.

Or, as my ex-husband said: “You can’t handle when a man like me puts me in your place.” My retort, like a reflex, was “Where is my place? What is my place?”

Women are the last divine thing to look God in the face. Think about this! So, if I–like you–am a divine, sentient creature, why should I not be treated as such? If we go through Genesis, and really read it, Adam was in charge of naming all things in the Garden of Eden. And it was he that named the being that came out of him–and praised God for it. And named it. Anything you honor, you care for and name! So, if my job is to be a complement, a help, and source of support, why should have I to dim or become less in order to be suitable? Please, make this make sense.

There is a generation of women before us whom we, the women whom are those late 70s-80s babies entering into middle age, are looking at and wondering–Why was this treatment of okay? Why is my ability to endure, to soldier on, to cry in showers and in pie or cobbler filling the proof by which I am to be chosen? Now, I was taught charm and class by my mother. I know how to handle myself, and be a lady–that is second nature. My father is one who taught me game–who said to me that ‘No one can feel your brain.” Let me translate: it’s not good enough to just be smart; keep yourself up. I, at 39, and examining these conversations my sisterfriend had in a new light. They are hurtful. They are demeaning. They are gaslighting at its finest! The most outrageous one that I have ever seen was the one she shared from a man who told her–unprovoked! No one sent for this dude!–who decided to tell her that she needed to be more humble. That she just needed ‘a good man’ to ‘humble her’.

Let me say this: If you feel you have to humble a woman, in order for her to be suitable, you will never have her. As I say often, “If you have to hold her with a chaser, you don’t know how to run!” What does this mean? It means you are not ready for what it is you want–and you need it to be more palatable to be able to handle it. You just not ready, son. He told her that she was too ambitious and it is intimidating to men. I, like my sister Kelly, thought none of these words strewn together into what he believed with all his strength would make sense–do not, in fact, make sense.

This good man by which homeboy spoke of could handle and support an ambitious woman! A good man would see that the woman he wants, has a life outside of him, and is not defined by him only–and he wouldn’t want her to be! A good man would know his girl to the point she would never have to humble herself: he would make her feel safe enough to submit to his leadership (that is the key to submission: Can you make her feel safe? And care for her? Can she rest with you? But that is another conversation–isn’t it?). A good man would know how to lead, guide and protect his woman without believing he has to break her, hurt her, in order to have her.

Y’all need to check your boys…they are surely not men.

The Affair With Struggle Love: Part 2-How Did We Get Here?

*-not his real name

“So many people want a wedding but no one wants to be married.”

My parents, had my father lived, would have been together 45 years this year. By the time he died, they had been together about 20, 25 years. When I think of all the things they had experienced in that time, I am overcome. I cannot help but think how my mother managed to hold herself together in the midst of what she needed to do, on top of whatever my father and her got into. It is the backdrop of their love affair, that I try to find a map and a light to all of this here.

From my mother’s recollection, she and my father met in the late 1970’s, like 1975 or so. I was born in 1981, and 2 siblings followed. In their 20-some year relationship, I had seen my mother cry over fights they had. I saw her tend to us, her extended family, and work. Somehow in there, she completed her BSN.

I still really don’t know how–until I became a working mother trying to go to school. Yet, that is another matter…

What I saw, and what I know is–my father loved my mother. He loved her with all his might! He, and how my father loved my mother, gave me the blueprint on what to expect from a man that said he loved me:

I expected to be treated well. 

I expected to be valued. 

I expected to be cared for.

I also expected to be heard, not ruled!

I expected to be given the respect of a difference of opinion! I expected to be valued beyond by ability to cook, keep house or rattle sheets! I knew that when grown folk get together, it’s not always smooth–people are different! In relationships, we can have some similarities, yes. But we were not to be the same person. I knew relationships would have disagreements, arguments, slammed doors every now and then! I knew that there would be struggles to preserve us in the midst of the chaos in the world. But, I knew relationships weren’t supposed to be more chaotic than the world outside!

Yet, I knew this one thing: that if a man hit you, you were supposed to leave. I knew that abusive behavior and addictive behaviors were not to be tolerated. I knew those things were deal breakers. And from the template of my parents, I think I can pinpoint what it means to be in ‘struggle love’, and just how one gets to any point of accepting this.

I truly believe this idea of struggle love comes from the need to be loved. The desire to be chosen, seen to be something special. From that hunger, from that want to be loved, we (men and women) will accept anything! We say to this person–through our accepting/accommodating behavior–that the want of being chosen is more important than a real working relationship!

Let me tell you about me and mine. It was this this guy named *Darius. I met Darius when I was 19. I lost three years to this man, to this relationship. After being with this man, sleeping with this man, and having an abortion after this relationship–at 22, I was hurt. I was angry. But from this vantage point of age, I can deduce why I stayed. From that, I believe you can have some idea of how it start–and continues.

I wanted to be loved. I loved Darius. I stand 5’10” and he was 6’8″. No lie. And I felt so safe when he hugged me. In the words of Toni Morrison the sex ‘was as good as it could be from never knowing any other before.’ I loved how I felt when I was with him! I was his girl! I had someone that wanted me! He was there, there for me, and after the loss of my father 2 years before? It was a nice escape to just go and be with him…and be his. No matter what time of day (or night) it was.

I wanted to be special. I wanted to show Darius how good of a woman I was. He was a dedicated weed smoker, and I would put money into my working budget to buy weed for him. I helped him take care of his son–that he barely saw! He disappeared on me twice–leaving no phone number or address. He didn’t work, and his life was a constant source of stress! I wanted him to see that life with me would be easier! I wanted him to see that I could hold him down, lift him up and be that superwoman I knew I could be to him.

Being with him, being in his life, was more important that tending to anything that I wanted. I was going to be with him, because I wanted what he said we were going to do together. Regardless of what that meant. We would make it through anything, if I would just be there.

FULL STOP. This is where the cycle of “I’ll take anything, because he is my everything starts.” RIGHT. HERE

I dealt with him not working. I dealt with him not acknowledging how hurt I was being pregnant and sneaking off to an abortion clinic. I dealt with having to pay or everything. I dealt with it, because he told me I was his soulmate. I dealt with it, because he said he loved me. It was because he loved me, and I felt special when we were together was enough.

I wanted it all to be real. I was in love with him. I loved him as best I could. And I wanted to hang on to him! I had given him my time, my body, my familial relationships–and lost a child. By the time it was over, when I really knew it was over was him being more concerned about how he was going to feel–rather than me crying while I was at work. At work. Let that sink in. I had worked all day (from 6 AM!, and wouldn’t be off until 8PM!) and he said, “How can I go the rest of the day like this?” I cannot even my remember what I said in response to this. But it was over…and I cried in a locker room. Before I had to go back to work.

I fought to make him pay back my time, my tears and my love with becoming the man I wanted him to be. I stayed with him 3 years. I endured this for three years. Three and a half, really. But what I really wanted was validation. I wanted the same love I gave him–to be given back to me! And it wasn’t happening. I stayed with him, because I wanted a return on my investment. He was my investment! Of all I gave him…I left with nothing of the woman I was before.

Nothing.

This is the price of struggle love! It costs you everything! It will convince you that to work for something that should be given to you–freely. Struggle love will always COST you something. Love is never a debt–love pays! It pays completely! I paid for this love, and was left with debt and heartbreak. I was left thinking “What is wrong with me? Why didn’t he want me?” See how crazy that is? Struggle love will have you thinking that you–the person trying to hold something together–is the problem. If you would just do something else better, sexier or faster, it would be better. Struggle love is gaslighting!

The bad thing is, once you see this happening–once you know what it is–it is often too late to redeem what you invested.

Guard your hearts, dear ones. Guard them from the world that wants to break them–or the wolves that will eat them.