As I have been contemplating ancestral work, and what that means in my life, I decided it was a perfect time to reprint a piece I wrote earlier this year. It was originally printed in Sage Woman #86, and is a piece that was inspired by the death of a student that I worked with in my job. It is easy to think that our ancestral lessons come from those who we would typically connect to as those who have crossed over, but what about the ones we do not expect. The lessons that come from those we do not expect are valuable beyond typical understanding.
The power of my ancestors runs through my veins,
It is a power unknown to others, unseen to the naked eye, and beyond a sense of normal contemplation.
The curl in my fro, the sway in my hips, the honey in my skin, and the power in this voice comes from a lineage rich in strength, resilience, and pain.
It is from this place, deep within my spirit, and connected to all time, that I find a love so rich that I am bound to a life full of it.
Granted to me by the sweat and blood of my people’s past.
So, despite the challenge of this day,
My hair still curls,
My hips still sway,
My skin still kissed by honey,
And there is still power in this here voice,
It is from a lineage rich in strength,
Every day is a new day; Every moment is a new moment. The turning wheel brings me to a place of contemplating of what it means to be a consistent version of me, with the ongoing capacity to be reborn and renewed. Every day…. all day.
I was recently reflecting on how incredible it is to live a life like I have today, in this space and time. Having the ability to be a part of a personal and societal struggle that includes carving a place in the world that is just my size; one-size fits all. I acknowledge the growth that comes from being in tight spaces, and the development that can come from the lessons I have had the privilege of enduring. From the tragic death of my mother, to the vicarious trauma of being a social worker, I have been troubleshooting life and hoping to polish my wiser self with those tragedies so that I may grow into the next version of myself.
It is that comfort within our own skin that we all seek — the ability to close the gap between our heads and our hearts, our insides and our outsides, our emotions and our actions, our past and our present. The 18-inches between the heart and the head seem to be one of the longest distances I have had to travel. Mother Teresa once said, “A joyful heart is the inevitable result of a heart burning with love,” and I used to wonder if this applied to me. I feel a lot of pain; I carry a lot of broken dreams. It is a part of the path I chose, and the one that was chosen for me. I am a social worker and a Priestess on the ground floor, a mother in the battle, and a Black woman in the struggle.
The work of redefining my spiritual experience, based on my mundane one, is a journey I have yet to complete, but I have found the trail forward. And if GI Joe was my spiritual mentor, I imagine he would say something like, “and finding the trail is half the battle; Now you have to walk it.”
And so I walk. Sometimes I run; Sometimes I crawl; Sometimes I rest. And then sometimes I just walk this trail towards self-discovery and towards love. I have come to understand that the broken dreams that I collect in my job, and my personal life, are a means of creating something anew. The Gods gave me the skills to take the broken pieces around me and transform them into love — by using that pain to create momentum. I harness the power within me; I embody the meaning of refresh and renewal.
This knowing has helped me to embrace that power: The power that leads to the next moment within my journey. I recently celebrated the anniversary of one of my old students — one that was murdered two-years ago in cold blood, leaving an open wound where hope used to reside. The pain that I experience when I think about what was lost is enormously heavy on my heart; Anguish fills the space that once held a vision of his future life. Within the two years after his death, I have experienced many other deaths in my life, leaving behind another layer of the pain of loss. None of them more important than the others; All holding a special place in my world; All leaving a small void where they once stood.
In walking through this pain with my students — and in my own being — I remember that each day is a gift. Each day is a chance to make a choice to start over — to renew our spirits and align our power to a vision that we want in the world. My vision is a place of justice — a world that is safe and right for all people to thrive within it. It is the wish I whisper every morning, and the prayer I recite to the Gods every night. It is the vision that closes that 18-inch gap between my head and my heart; my insides and my outside; my emotion and my action; my past and my present. It is the future that I am envisioning, and the moment of rebirth that I am embracing.
The broken dreams that I collect in my knapsack are sacred, and I thank them for the gifts that I receive every day. You see, we turn over the soil to bring about growth for the new that is to come. We honor what came before as stepping stones to the next, and we work to start fresh again… all the time, every day.
I walk this path of renewal every day; I harness it within my spirit. It is the hope that springs eternal; It is the wish that continues to dream. I now realize that my heavy heart is full of liquid love. It runs through my veins, sustains my body, and flows from my heart to my head; It sings a personal song of justice. My tears and my Gods prepare my path ahead.
We all find our paths eventually, and if you have not found yours yet, take solace in the knowledge that every day there is yet another opportunity to find it. The idea that we can choose any moment to renew, refresh, and revive ourselves is a beautiful marker for the power of the human spirit; The Gods continue to reflect back to us the power of regeneration. The turning of seasons is just another one of our reminders that all things do grow, all things do die, and all things do return.
*A special note to my old student: In your rest, I remember my passion. You gave me something that has continued to motivate my sense of purpose in the world. My tears are not just sadness, but they are joy. I am forever grateful to you. You remind me that this work that I do is serious, it is meaningful, it is necessary, and it is beautiful. The memory of you — and of all my students — becomes the mirror I look at to see who I am and what I want to do in the world. It is amazing how I hoped that I could have an impact on you that would change the trajectory of your life, when in fact you ended up doing that for me. Thank you.