Tuesday, September 15, 2015

New Things, Old things - What I know for sure.

The best part of maturity is putting things into practice that are tried and true. I get a certain sense of satisfaction from watching things line up as I expect. The next best part of maturity is the reliability of expecting the unexpected also known as all things going to hell. I know that particular part of the journey makes life interesting, keeps your mind sharp, and makes for great stories.

I am getting better everyday, which makes me keenly aware of the things that have changed, that are very different. Somethings, thankfully haven't changed and likely won't and those are my reliables that sustain me. A new thing, my body has new land marks and I have learned that healing surgical scars can be painful. When I least expect it, my scars turn into blistering, heat filled, marks of searing, agonizing pain - and 45 seconds later it goes away. So far the only treatment that cools and calms it down completely is vitamin e oil. Not cocoa butter, not fresh aloe, not processed aloe, not bio oil, not honey. Vitamin E oil. Also new, the random chest pains that come and go - they suck.  An old thing is sleep is my bestest friend. I sleep often and my crazy dreams usually don't deter my relationship with my bed. My bed is my boo. No matter how often people tell me I am doing to much I chuckle to myself cause they cannot know that compared to my former normal, I might as well be a teenager on summer break. I rest, barely leave the house, and sleep when the feeling hits me. Truthfully, this is old and true but hadn't been possible in a long, long time.

Another new thing is my decreased strength. I pride myself on being physically strong. That I will take every bag and carry a sleeping child in the house because I REFUSE to make more than one trip type upper body strength. Well, it's gone, dropping my ego down to the reality of needing help to do what was mindlessly easy before. An old truth is that I can get it back. I know that for sure. It will be a humbling journey but I can regain and surpass my former strength. A great new thing is my even greater need for personal security and safety. As a card carrying member of the big chick club, I have always been accustomed to people thinking twice about bothering me. I also have worked to maintain safety where ever I am. After this incident, I think where was my home alarm or my dog? Why did I have my machete by my door and nothing by my bed? Why did I not know how to disarm my attacker? Now, these are not questions to berate myself. To the contrary these are ways to create a new, safer environment for myself and my children. An old thing is that I am stubborn (really) but reasonable. So, I do things that make sense, but I am determined to make that call my self. I will however ask for advise before I decide.

The best new thing is the reality of the magnitude of people and their loving support of me. I know that I make heart connections with people that I meet. That's what I try to do, to truly create love moments wherever I go. I just didn't know how deep that went, or how far. You all blew me away. I mean that. It has only been 9 weeks since the day my life changed. I fully expect these new normals to get old as I take on brand new things to do and accomplish, as well as deal with the regular random things that just come my way. What I know for sure is that, experience is still the best teacher and you might as well get a good story out of the journey.


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

In My Own Words - A Warriors Tale (A Survivors Story)

In honor of those who did not survive, whose stories ended and whose last moments only echo in the minds of their killers, I shall tell my story. I know what you may have felt. I hope my telling releases your tale of vulnerability into the ethers. You were as surprised as I carrying on with your lives, violently interrupted. May my life and work shift into the light the dark energy that senselessly takes life. Your life was not in vain. Ase.

July 9, 2015

It was a great night of easy home entertaining, just like I like it. I'd been building on this idea of survival equals success after being interviewed by a friend and her colleague about the Baltimore Uprising. Eating some home cooked food, drinking water, and exchanging ideas while my daughter entertained us all with her attempts to fight sleep, I would say as Thursday nights go this one was at least 4 stars. I saw them out to their car and eventually found my way to bed where my three year old had already commandeered her space in the middle of the bed. The house was dark and silent and I went to sleep easy.

Throughout my life I've had this uncanny ability to wake up, fully alert from dead sleep. It has always served me well and this time it saved my life. As my assailant was throwing open my bedroom door, I was sitting up in bed with clear eyes and clear thoughts in the blue, black night of shadows cast from the streetlight through my bedroom windows.

What stood out in mind through the very quick deluge of thoughts was I don't know him, he has a knife, this was real, and I didn't want to die. I immediately began unconsciously deploying every skill that I knew. Pleading - don't do this it's just me and my baby. Reasoning - you don't have to do this. Tracking - following every movement he made with my eyes and hands. He demanded money and I offered him everything I had. Then he demanded sex, and things got tricky.

With my life and the life of my daughter on the line, I had to make some raw decisions. I am an Angoleira. My martial art of choice, capoeira, involves using cunning to gain the upper hand or simply survive when necessary. I was commanded to go from my bed to my knees. My compliance allowed me to find the only weapon immediately at my disposal, an iron lit by a little red light at the head of my bed. I asked if he had condoms, he checked his pockets and said yes. I bargained for time around having braces and was only met with the death threats, if I harmed him. Honestly, this is when I almost came undone. Having survived incest and rape, I almost lost it here, until he threatened my sleeping baby again and as he said for the last time. 

Many survivors of sexual violence understand the check out. When you detach from your emotions and your body and your soul kinda flies free while the violation takes place. I had to do this to a limited extent. I had to be close to this man and hold it together. I knew that if I could get my hands on that iron by my bed I was going to try to bash his head in, but I had to survive to that point. That required enduring and complying and appearing broken. When he made me stand in front of him from a kneeling position, we both saw how much bigger and taller than him I was which I had not recognized from the bed when he first came in. That knowledge gave my heart courage. I looked at as much of his uncovered face as I could while he made me reveal my breasts and he began groping me. I had to stay broken though I was rebelling on the inside. Giving him my full attention while simultaneously monitoring the energy of my baby girl who was moving about in the bed, fitfully she seemed to still be asleep.

"Bend over" he said. As fear ran through my body, I hesitated. He raised the knife higher. "I will kill you, bend over." As I turned my back to him becoming totally blind to my attacker, I don't know if I was thinking at all. I know that all became still in my mind as I turned my back and again saw the red light from the iron that was at the head of my bed.

The rest was a blur as I turned around and swung that iron at him hard as I could. As he fell back then brought the knife up connecting with me wildly. As I swung again, and I heard myself yelling and saw him running. As I told him, I was going to kill him, I ran grabbing my machete from the foot of my bed, unsheathing it, and running after him. 

I turned on the hall light and stopped at the top of the stairs. I saw the darkness at the bottom of the stairs, I saw blood dripping unto the stairs, and I saw that I'd been stabbed in the chest and fear grabbed me.

I ran back into my bedroom, turning on the light, finding my phone and stood bracing my door. I called 911 while trying to calm down my baby who was talking to me as I spoke to the dispatcher and I noticed it was getting harder and harder to breathe. I explained as much as I could to the dispatcher and refused to walk out my room until I was assured the knocking on my door was the police. The rest was answering questions, waiting for the paramedics, and trying to hold it together with a group of police and firemen staring at me. Maybe because I was so calm, or because I was in shock but it wasn't until the medics appeared that I seemed to wake out of the fog. July 10th, 2015 my life changed irrevocably. I learned later that centimeters were all that stood between immediate death and a chance via surgery to live. (I was stabbed in the heart).

Within an hour, I was going in for open heart surgery. I am alive today and I do not take it for granted. To raise my children, hug my mama, sing a song, and eat a mango. I can dance, laugh, and love. I can embrace life even more than I had before. Mostly, I am grateful for this day and each one that comes. The love of family and friends and the generous outpouring of support to rebuild my life, have anchored me in the certainty that my life has value not just for me and my little ones but for the world.

A major part of the financial support that has come in has gone to create a non profit organization called One Love One Heart Inc. To support victims of violent sexual assault and I am the first beneficiary. More information will be forth coming about the non profit and our programs and activities for prevention and education.

What I wish to say in closing is that life and death is normal and I am not afraid of death. However, it is not that time for me yet. I have been given the chance to live again and I plan to use this gift to impact the world in a meaningful way. Love is all and enough. I still choose love as I demand justice. I choose love and life until the end of my days.

- Ama


My first public appearance 5 weeks after surgery and 2 significant hospital stays. I speak and sing at the 1 hr 14 Seconds mark.