On Forgetting

Once, during a conversation with an abusive ex, he looked at me and said, “What happened to us?” Within the year that we had gotten back together, he was reflecting and thinking aloud on what had broken us up for an extended time before. At first, his question left me speechless because I realized in that moment that he had forgotten the things that previously broke us apart. And, perhaps, he had forgotten the things that were keeping us together. For example:

He had forgotten the time that he called the police to have me put out of his house during an argument that he wanted to end; upon ensuring my safe departure, one of the officers said, “I believe you, and if I were you, I would leave and never come back.”

He forgot the time that he threw my things out of his front door because I wasn’t packing them up fast enough upon his demand to GET OUT.

He forgot the time that he slammed the door, and locked the door in my face after throwing my things out of the door onto the concrete roadway at his front door, while I was standing there, left to pick up those things.

He forgot that his weapon of choice was almost always the telephone and, in particular, the block feature.

He forgot the many times he hated me as if I were his worst enemy in one breath, and then said he loved me in the next.

He forgot the many times he threw us away, as if our relationship meant absolutely nothing to him; by the next day he would call to see if I was “okay” and to say “I’m sorry.”

And, he forgot that the most important thing in his life was hanging out (drinking, and smoking); being with me came after he did all those things, and often to the point of complete oblivion.

Most recently…

He forgot the time that we went to the store and he was pacing, fuming, and finally yelling at me in front of the salesperson that he was ready to go; according to him, my transaction was taking too long.

He forgot about the many times that he came over to “see me,” and he pretty much passed out within an hour of being there.

He forgot the time that he hung up on me when I was telling him about the nail in my tire and that I was potentially facing a flat tire or the need for a brand new tire.

He forgot the time that he accused me of sleeping with one of his cigar buddies who I didn’t even know or care to know.

He forgot the time that he was so drunk and boasting to his buddies – with me in his presence – that he didn’t care about those b****** ( referring to the women who had just left a local establishment), and that he was, proudly, “a player.”

He forgot the time that he walked out of my apartment in his underwear because he got mad at something I said (and I have the pictures to prove it).

He forgot the times (plural) that he walked into my apartment, yelling, that if anyone had anything to say about any noise coming from my apartment to come and talk to him (WTF?).

He forgot that out of nowhere on a trip he accused me of wanting to sleep with the housekeeping staff at the hotel where we were staying, because they kept knocking on the door (to check on our need for cleaning services).

He forgot – during that trip – he said (via text from a bar) that he had taken the car and was half way back home without me.

He forgot when he used to say, “Don’t let anybody mind f*** you,” but he tried to mind f*** just about everybody he came in contact with.

He forgot that when I needed to go to the emergency room he was too tired on his day off to get up out of his bed and drive me to the hospital.

He forgot the times that I dropped what I was doing to come and help him, including the time that he had a flat tire; and for the time that he was too drunk to drive home on his own (actually, for that, I was glad).

He forgot – on the day of a recent outpatient surgical procedure – that he didn’t even bother to come over or call me before he went to hang out, smoke and drink with his buddies. And that night his phone died, so he did not – allegedly he could not – show up til five o’clock PM, the next day.

He forgot the many times that he spewed and condoned hateful words and contempt for black women, and thus for me as a black woman on a regular basis (he also harbors hate for many others, but he doesn’t dare say it outloud in public).

On the other hand,

He must have forgotten the time that he said to me, “You’re the best thing that ever happened to me.”

He forgot the time that he took “full responsibility” for the breakup of our relationship.

He forgot that he said “I love you” at least twice a day.

He forgot the time that together we made it through, able to walk away unharmed – for the most part – from a devastating hit and run accident.

I suppose he forgot that he said he didn’t want any other woman in his life, but me.

He forgot that he said we were perfect for each other.

He forgot that he said that he would always be there for me.

He forgot how much he seemed to beam with love when we were out together.

He forgot that we used to make each other smile and laugh from deep within.

He forgot that when we reconciled, after quite a bit of time apart, he said that he would never hurt me again.

He forgot the many, many times he said “I am sorry” for hurting me.

He forgot that he said that the way that people break up says a lot about the kind of relationship they had.

He forgot that he said to me that the relationship would take care of itself; I was never quite sure what that meant for him.

He forgot that he would call to say he missed me when he lived just three blocks away.

I guess he forgot that I would often wait for him for hours when I could have gone to sleep or gone on to do whatever I was doing – without him.

He forgot that when his phone was not operating properly that I would wake up at five in the morning to call him just so that he would not be late for work, and when I did not have to be up for another hour and a half.

He forgot that I loved him like no one I have ever met, and I told him that on a regular basis.

He forgot about all the food that I prepared, with love, so that he could have a good meal at work and plenty leftover at the end of the day.

He forgot that I often complemented him with words like “Hey handsome!” He rarely accepted those complements.

Apparently, he forgot that he turned and walked away from us when I – rightly – implied that he might not be there for me on the next big thing in my life.

So finally,

While it is convenient for him to forget, I will not. I will remember everything that happened: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Perhaps the totality of these memories, and especially the painful ones, will keep me from accepting the future apologies that will come when he attempts to say “I am sorry” for the umpteenth time without meaning it and without doing anything to address and change his abusive behavior, which only becomes more complicated with each so-called apology.

Frankly, it is a relief that I don’t have to tolerate his madness and hatefulness any longer, yet I am saddened to know that he will be doing these very same things to the next woman who dares to love him. I’m sorry that she – and more likely it will be “they” since he actually prides himself on being “a player” – will be subjected to the anger and abuse that is controlling him and his relationships with women, and all because he has chosen to deny the reality of who he is deep-down under all the things and people he uses to try and cover it up.

He may choose to forget, and others – especially his so-called friends and associates – will both encourage and enable him to continue hurting black women and himself, but I will do my best to not forget: to recall and remember all the things that happened with us; and, because it would drive me insane and make me culpable to repeat and replay this horribly incredible emotional rollercoaster any longer.

There isn’t a cell in my body that hasn’t already told me that I deserve to have a better man and a better life. I know it, and so does he, which, I believe, is one of the reasons why he chooses not to remember.

© 2019 annalise fonza, Ph.D.

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Thoughts on Being There for the Ones We Say We Love

It’s what you don’t do

I know you love me

I don’t need proof. ~ Lianne La Havas

Recently, I learned that I would be hospitalized for a pretty significant surgical procedure. Prior to the surgery, I told a few family members and friends about the upcoming ordeal. The responses were a little bit startling. One person said, “When you have your surgery, you’ll have to go over to so and so’s house,” – meaning – that I should not stay at my own home, or not at his home. Another friend wanted me to come to their house; making it easier on them to be there for me. Neither response thrilled me. My preference, after surgery, was to be at my home, in my own bed. Given the pain that I would probably experience, and the healing that needed to take place, I did not want to be at anyone else’s place, but mine.

Making my wishes known to these persons was not a pleasant thing to do. I thought that it made perfect sense that I wanted and deserved to be in my own home environment to recover from this surgery. I assumed that it was quite reasonable that I did not want to be at someone else’s place. Obviously, I was mistaken, which is why I’m writing this blog.

I wonder how many of you reading this blog would be like those friends who said to me that I should be somewhere else or where they wanted me to be for my recovery? Would that have been your recommendation? Or, might you have said, like a few others did (if we were that close) “If you need anything, call us and we will come over and help you.” “We are here for you.” “We will try to be helpful to you.”?

It is often inconvenient to be there for the ones we love. It gets in our way; disrupts our plans; and, sometimes it costs us greatly to step up and be there for the ones that we love when something has gone wrong. To genuinely be there for others, in both mind and body, it sometimes requires that we stop what we are doing and be present to them. This is what I have repeatedly and consistently done for the special ones in my life. I have been there for them to the best of my ability, and, often, in more ways than one.

When I made it known to both friends mentioned above as to what I wanted for my recovery, it did not go as expected. One so-called friend flat-out ghosted me. He became angry, disappeared, and to this day I have never heard from him (and this he did right after he refused to show me much empathy for an unexpected almost flat tire). With the other friend, I met her halfway; I agreed to stay for one week of the two weeks of my recovery at her home.

Startling and disappointing? That’s what I was thinking, too. But, as usual, I came to realize that you win some and you lose some. Life has a very uncanny way of opening our eyes and showing us what we need to see when we need to see it; that’s if we are willing to take the time to stop, look and listen to the people around us. Because, as the saying goes, actions always speak louder than words.

©2019 annalise fonza, Ph.D.

Leave Hate Alone

I did not fully understand the concept of unearned guilt until I was in a relationship with someone who hated women; and, therefore, whenever I said or did something that reminded him of the women that he hated, he hated me: just like that, as if I had harmed him or taken something from him.

A time or two or three or four, I went back; I let his guilt convince me that I was to blame; and, somehow at fault for his despicable and painful predicament.

But, the best thing that I ever did in response to his hateful outbursts was to leave the anger, hate, guilt, and contempt with him, where it belonged.

I refuse to be with a man who hates women, because, if he hates women, it is only a matter of time before he will hate me

And you, if we let him.

© 2019 annalise fonza, Ph.D.

“Reclaiming My Time: I Now Recognize MYSELF!” It’s Why I Write Today

On February 27th, 2019, I was watching the Michael Cohen congressional testimony. As the broadcast got underway, I watched as Congressman Elijah Cummings from Maryland managed a very chaotic start to the hearing. I say “managed” because there were others, namely Congressman Mark Meadows from North Carolina and Jim Jordan from Ohio, who attempted to stop, postpone, or better yet, control the hearing. I was cooking breakfast on that day, so my attention was in and out, but when Mr. Jordan attempted to override the chair regarding a last-minute vote that was taken to table a motion to postpone the hearing per Mr. Meadows, Mr. Cummings, who was chair of the committee, took back the control of the hearing and prefaced his opening statement by saying this: “I am reclaiming my time; I now recognize myself.” Of course, we have heard those words before in other congressional hearings. In the last year or so, it has been a phrase that has been associated with Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who is another veteran congressional figure , and she is a woman who I have respected from afar for her political career.

I am writing this blog because those words – I AM RECLAIMING MY TIME; I NOW RECOGNIZE MYSELF – were like music to my ears. They resonated with me deeply on that day. In hindsight, my response had nothing to do with Michael Cohen, Elijah Cummings, Mark Meadows, or Jim Jordan. I heard them more subconsciously and in relationship to my own life’s journey. Over the past several years, I have written about surviving emotional abuse and the breakdown of an important personal relationship. In my scholarly and professional endeavors, I have consistently written and presented on matters of racism, sexism, heterosexism and many of the injustices that we are living with today. That said, my affair with writing goes much further back than my current academic career in and with matters pertaining to urban planning. I was a United Methodist clergywoman before I ever thought about pursuing studies about the politics of planning. Although every part of my life has brought me where I am today, it was there, as a preacher, that I first learned to speak up and to advocate for myself and for others.

My life as a black woman has not been easy. In the words of Langston Hughes, in his 1922 poem “Mother to Son,” “life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.” Indeed, it has had cracks in it and at times it has been very painful. I never would or could have imagined many of the things that have happened to me. Maybe there were some situations that I never wanted to contemplate for myself. But, it is what it is; life is what it is. The things that have happened to me have made me realize and admit to myself that I don’t control life. And, I do not believe that anyone does. No one controls life. It is unpredictable, random; and, at any given moment, things could change for the good, the bad, or the ugly.

On the other hand, I am responsible for how I manage the persons, places and events in my life. And that includes me: how I handle myself. I am responsible for how I react to the events and people that life may bring. I suspect this is why those words were so powerful to me:

I AM RECLAIMING MY TIME

I NOW RECOGNIZE MYSELF

I believe that one of the greatest things that a person can ever do is to recognize her or himself. And it is an even greater thing when you are in a situation where someone or something else is trying their best NOT to recognize you; to ignore or negate you. Reclaiming your time and your person is a powerful move; it is an action that says: I will see me even if you choose not to; even if you choose to ignore and negate me. Thus, reclaiming your time and recognizing your own presence lets others know that their attempts at not seeing you and not recognizing you are NOT WORKING. Despite their best efforts, you matter, and who you are and what you have to say matters. That said, recognizing yourself is a step towards personal freedom, which could not be more important to many of us today.

When I was a child and an adolescent, and when my parents were upset with me, they would put me on punishment. In response to something I had done or something that I had said, they sent me to my room where I would not be allowed to speak or to be heard. Consequently, I would write out my feelings on paper and post my notes on my bedroom door. I would do it so often that my mother would say, “Go to your room, and don’t you put up any damn notes on your door.” I can’t remember how I responded to her saying that, but, I am sure that it was not good. To lose the ability to voice my thoughts and my feelings, even on my bedroom door, was very, very painful.

I still feel that pain today when someone that I know and love does not want to hear me out. I associate their refusal with the same power and control that my parents had over me as a child. And, back then, when I was a child/adolescent, there was very little that I could do about it. I was a dependent; at their mercy; and, I had to comply or risk being in even more trouble.

However, it is not like that today. I am not a child, and I can do something about it when I am not seen or heard by those with whom I am in relationship, and who claim to love me. I can and I will, like Elijah Cummings or Maxine Waters, find a way to speak: to give voice to my feelings and my thoughts. When someone who says they love me, yet who tries to rob me of my time, my voice and of my very being, I can act. I can set limits and boundaries on their selfish, controlling, abusive behavior; and, I can reclaim my time. I can recognize myself. I don’t have to let their attempts to stop me from being seen and heard go forward. I can exercise my power in those situations and stop their attempts to silence or control me. On the one hand, I am always willing to work with those who want to change their actions and behaviors for the better, but, now, I can also choose to disassociate myself from such people, if need be.

I suppose that my childhood experience with being punished and silenced is central to why I write today in public spaces. There are many people who write and who put their voices out in the world. When I consider all the great African American thinkers and activists, I need not look far to see their written works and thus their legacies. They wrote about their lives when others tried to keep them quiet; and, because they resisted in print, it is much easier for people like me to write freely today. I am grateful for their dedication and their sacrifices to the written word.

In conclusion, I do not suppose that those great writers wrote their poems, stories and books because others would read them. The more that I write and the more that I consider my own relationship with writing, I believe they wrote in resistance to being silenced and ignored. For example, I believe that the Harlem Renaissance was grounded in that idea. Simply put, they wrote because they realized their own worth, and they knew that they had valuable things to say. They also wrote in protest, and in spite of the many attempts to stop them from being seen and heard. They wrote, as I write today, to recognize themselves.

© 2019 annalise fonza, Ph.D.

When They Don’t Care About You: Love Yourself

When someone tells you that they don’t care about you or what is going on in your life,

They show you with their actions and with their words what they really feel.

If they run away when there is trouble or pain in your life,

If they refuse to be with you in mind and body when it matters to you,

Realize what is happening, and who they really are in content and character.

They are gone, unavailable, and unable to be by your side, for you and with you.

In cowardice, they cannot look you in the eye and say that they will not be there and that you do not matter to them.

When this happens, you will have a decision to make.

Will you be there for them when they return to offer words of regret and sorrow?

Will you forgive them for not being willing or able to be there for you as you were there for them?

You don’t have to be empathetic or present to anyone who intentionally and repeatedly fails and abandons you in mind or in body.

There are many other people and causes that you can care about,

And they will want to be with you,

Perhaps they will even love you in return.

In the meantime, when someone you once loved fails to love you and chooses to leave you, let them go (back to the crevices and faultlines from whence they came);

Love yourself, first and foremost;

And, you will know the power of love.

©2019 annalise fonza, Ph.D.

First Impressions of #SOTU2019

Many years ago now, I was teaching a course at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. The course was Black Feminist Theory.

Many women in the room, including an equal amount of white and black women, said that they were interested in feminism because they “want what men have.” Glad that I was teaching the course and could help them understand more accurate and historic underpinnings of feminism, but, it was sad to see and learn that many women desire to mimic and reproduce the adolescent behavior of men.

That said, last night, when we saw so many of the women chant “USA” at the #SOTU2019 (e.g., white, black, red, yellow, and brown) just as the men did, it was very, very disappointing to me.

Indeed, the Democrat- Republican dynamic is not getting it.

©2019 annalise fonza, Ph.D.

Respecting Aretha: Respecting Ourselves

Today, I am hopeful that Ariana Grande knows what to do, after she was disrespected,

While many were watching.

There are times when apologies don’t mean a damn thing,

But I know what will work,

And Aretha Franklin knew what worked.

We can talk all day about what it is to be a queen,

But to be a queen, to behave like a queen, haven’t we learned that we MUST demand respect?

In this world, where disrespect and hate is all around us, we MUST stand, and fight and be heard;

A queen stands up for herself and for her people, even when it is clear that the fight could be lost.

As the “Queen of Soul,” Aretha Franklin taught us how to stand up and be heard; she showed us, like so many other cultural leaders have shown us, how to respect ourselves.

To know respect, WE must say it, sing it, and believe it;

We must tell the world that respect is ours.

And, we must first own and embrace the respect that we desire from others.

Sometimes, we must spell it out,

R – E – S – P – E – C – T

Because until we can embrace what respect actually means, for ourselves, as individuals and as a collective,

Ain’t nothing gonna change.

When we know respect for ourselves,

When we show our loved ones and the strangers that we meet that it is their responsibility to “find out what it [respect] means”

When we make our boundaries clear,

When we stand up for ourselves and fight for ourselves in our own lives and in our own kitchens,

Bathrooms,

Bedrooms,

Garages (Marissa Alexander),

Conference rooms, classrooms, and boardrooms,

And in any of the rooms that we occupy,

That there will be respect for who we are and what we are.

When we refuse to accept the unwarranted and violent advances that the world and others try to place on us in private AND in public,

Then we are respecting Aretha,

Just as we are respecting ourselves!

This I have learned, and it was not easy.

So, now, Ariana, you’ve got the mic,

And it is okay to use it as Aretha once did.

Some of us are with you, but you must stand up for yourself. We cannot do it for you.

And, please remember, that what you choose to do, or not, will show others how to respect themselves, or not.

© 2018 annalise fonza, Ph.D.