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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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.

A Cautionary Note on Surviving Abuse

Careful, that you don’t become just like those who failed you with hate, anger, and abuse.

You deserve a life that is truly free from their madness and confusion.

Just getting away from them is not enough.

Letting them go and surviving the trauma is also refusing to carry your abuser’s self-destructive thoughts and ways around inside of you.

© 2018 annalise fonza, Ph.D.

Misogyny: A Definition

Anger and hate from the past destroy relationships of the present

Because everyone else is to blame but the one who numbs and denies his pain from women who are dead and gone, no longer a part of his life or able to hurt him

He fills his mind and body with angry and hateful messages spoken by angry, hateful, incredulous others who make women their loyal servants and concubines

Some of the women he hurts manage to go on to the future and recover from his hatefulness and angry acts

While he stays painfully and tragically stuck in the past, haunted by the women who undoubtedly hurt him

He is bound to be angry and hateful again

He will hurt other women again

To subconsciously make them pay for the hurt he endured in the past

And this he thinks this is normal or even acceptable

Worthy of of his own life – that he is willing to sacrifice to the ones who didn’t have the capacity or the courage to love him so very, very long ago.

When with conscious, thoughtful work and support, he could be free to love himself and others, without destroying his own hopes of happiness and those of others along the way.

Instead of unfortunately believing, due to his own angry and hateful actions, that he will never find the happinesses and peace he so desperately desires. 

© 2017 annalise fonza, Ph.D.

You Call Me Out of My Name

You call me out of my name every time you ignore me or my calls

Every time you walk out and act as if I never even existed

Every time you accuse me of owing you for what you allegedly gave to me out of love

Every time you pretend that what you said and did were not intended to hurt

Every time you threaten to strike me with your hands or your words

Every time you dismiss me and my feelings like they mean nothing to you

Every time you refuse to acknowledge your part in destroying what we built together

Every time you put what we had in unnecessary danger or jeopardy by neglecting to take care of yourself

Every time you let your anger and self-righteousness demolish the trust we came to cherish

Every time you negate the love that some black women have given to you, including me,  because of the actions of those who did not

Every time you despise and hate me for what others did to you

Every time you blame me for your fears, shortcomings and failures

Every time you fail to understand the difference between the past and the present

Every time you assume that you know more than me or are better than me because you are male

Every time you forsake your own integrity and happiness

For a drink.

© 2017 annalise fonza, Ph.D.