In 2014 I had reached my breaking point. I could no longer ignore my debilitating bouts of depression, self-disillusion, nor the reality that I was thoroughly unhappy. I had wonderful friends, but at that time, I surrounded myself with toxic foes. I went out 12 nights a week, fully consumed with partying and drama. That was the norm—an escape is what it really was. I loved the life I lived—the life of someone with no self-respect or direction. I allowed too many energetic vampires into my circle and, dutifully, they broke me down. I had grown accustomed to being gossiped about, lied on, disrespected, laughed at, and humiliated.
Let’s give them something to talk about, right?
I had just ended a relationship with a man who routinely cheated on me, oftentimes with people I was close to. And he would refer to me as a ni**er to our mutual “friends” behind my back, and they would spinelessly allow it without objection, just to then gossip back to me for the mess of it all—Y’all can lie and hide your true nature until the ending credits run, none of it bothers me any longer. You all know who you are, and you should be ashamed of yourselves! But in spite, I choose to hold love for you because I know how badly you need it. And I say this with compassion and perspective because I once matched that exact same vibration, myself. Anything one man is capable of doing, I must accept in my heart that I too, under different circumstances, can make those same poor decisions and ill-patterned behaviors out of a lack of illumination—although, I can proudly say I’ve never spoken a single word of bigotry or ignorance into the world; not a day in my life. Confidently, I look in the mirror and see the reflection of God, can you say the same?
That was when I finally sought the light, but it wouldn’t be a path free of resistance. My very first psychologist, Dr. Amanda Skowron, made valiant attempts to break down my walls, but it was difficult for me to let her in. I blindly thought, “this white woman—A. You’re from Virginia. B. That’s a massive rock on your ring finger, he did real good; and C. She got some nerve to sit there all happily privileged and tell me to be silent and write in my diary as a means to end my suffering. Girl, this ain’t Goop!” I had built defenses so high, I couldn’t let her in, no matter how profound her effort! I say “white woman” not as a means to exploit race or division, but to show that, at that time, I saw NO way in which I believed she could relate to me.
And I treated her poorly. I stopped attending our appointments and gave up on the treatment plan we set—I had an excuse to run away from my real demons, perhaps to run back towards them, really. But unbeknownst to me, Dr. Skowron had a trick up her sleeve—Gratitude!
She asked me what brought me fulfillment—writing. Because my friendships and relationships were my greatest upset at the time, she encouraged me to write letters of gratitude to those friends who didn’t treat me like sh*t. The friends who created a true home for me in their hearts…
My response: “Girl, I’m broke! Don’t nobody got time or money to spend on crafts—“flash forward to now, my daily bread is the life of a cooky, spiritual art teacher—but I did it anyway. I went out and bought strips of cardboard card stock and pastels (because crayons don’t glide like I need them to) and I created personalized gratitude cards for each of my closest friends. That year I sent out 11 cards to Brent Klein, Steven Napier, Lewis Miles, Keegan DuFresne, Neil Timiraos, Ramani Green, Justin Lowe, Hussein Lewis…
…And Romolio James, Tony Foreman, and Matt Lichvar.
Creating the cards made me feel so good because it forced me to see that, indeed, I had love all abound but regularly chose to align with people who were civically bereft within. I realized I had a hand in this, a choice—I had the power. My yearly gratitude card became a tradition. The next year, in 2015, the list multiplied to 30 cards.
2016—however, was a bit of a doozy. I was in a relationship with a deeply broken and abusive person who did a great job at pulling me away from the light I so eagerly deserved to taste. I was out of his league in every way and that isn’t an easy pill for a desperately insecure person to swallow. Twice over my birthday weekend that year, in a fit of rage, he beat me up in an Airbnb in Philadelphia; a gruesome event one fair-weather “friend” found appropriate and enjoyable to despicably publicize behind my back to all the land as if my life were an episode of the Real Housewives. I was back in, what felt like, a hopeless place. There I was, a 10—the Rihanna of this music video—stuck in an emotionally, verbally, physically, mentally, and sexually abusive relationship with a narcissistic 2, whose ONLY redeeming quality was that he spoke fluent French and traveled abroad for work; so, I could escape his wrath and ego a couple of weeks out of the month. After all the racial trauma and the absence of monogamy from my first relationship and seeing the way my dad treated my mother growing up; I accepted this as what love looked and felt like—danger.
There were NO gratitude cards sent in 2016. In January of 2017, I dumped him and returned to the grace of being ME!
Update: here’s a secret I’ve only shared with a select few, in August of 2019 I couldn’t suffer the silent mental unrest any longer. I found the courage to take my power back when I officially filed criminal rape charges against him. A difficult experience—one I’m not fully prepared to relive publicly just yet—but one I refuse to let define me. I went from being a rape victim in hiding to declaring myself a survivor of sexual assault. In 2020, I’ll finally have my day in court!
God is good and Vidale is fearless!
Later, in September of 2017, is when my mom suffered a stroke and our lives changed. In December of that same year, I receive word an estranged old pal, Frank, had been murdered in Chicago. He was like a hetero older brother who taught me guy stuff and never let anyone mess with me; but unfortunately, we had fallen out and weren’t speaking at the time of his passing. The finality of the loss is what devastated me most, signaling the return of my other old pal, Depression. Thankfully, this time the fight was short-lived. I was numb still from coming so close to losing my mother a few months earlier. But one of my greatest regrets is not attending his funeral—I just couldn’t see my once-close companion in a box. I kind of glazed over grieving and moved forward. Although, If I’m being honest, I am still processing the very real effects of his death. I’m constantly reminded of him.
That’s what happens when you’ve got love for someone. He wasn’t perfect and I had good reason to distance myself, but I never questioned his heart and he always looked out for me. And I wish I could have done my part to honor the good times he and I shared.
Regardless—I was determined to head into 2018 in a positive headspace, plus I had Beychella tickets to be concerned about!
Won’t he do it? #Beysus!
Last year—I was riding an all-time high! My mother’s health was improving, I worked for a company I loved, I was building meaningful relationships and had rid myself of toxic friends. I created a card to send to my new tribe of light. I felt so blessed to have none of the phantom foes around who sought to harm my joy; and I was grateful to be surrounded by those who matched my new frequency. I sent 120 gratitude cards in 2018—and they were a hit!
2019 has been the hands-down, best year of my life!
Before I left home for the meditation retreat, I’m currently on, I finalized design and production on 250 cards that I can only refer to as a visual opus of my entire existence thus far! Yes—from only 11 people I felt saw me in 2014 to a healthy 250 people I’m so grateful to know, in a five-year span; and all I had to do was surrender all!
Inspired by Vogue Italia’s Black Issue—I lovingly refer to my 2019-2020 New Year’s card as: The Editorial.
I’m blessed to know you all. I vastly appreciate every positive person in my life, whether we’re everyday friends, new professional connections or social media boos—thank you for loving me into my best self!
Check your mailboxes in January!
It’s all love,