"God Almighty created each and every one of us for a place in the world, and for the least of us to think that we were created only to be what we are—and not what we can make ourselves—is to impute an improper motive to the Creator for creating us." —Marcus Garvey
I've written about this quote before and its significance to my life. Just as everything that goes around comes back around, I find myself revisiting it again.
Over the winter, I was in what I like to call hibernation. I'm convinced that having been born in the summer somehow makes me a little less coherent during the winter. I liken it to being asleep or in a state of meditation that lasts for a couple of months before the Mississippi sun kicks back into high gear, and I am able to actually function.
This year's mental sleep-fest, for lack of better words, had me focused on dealing with "what's next."
If you're lucky, a time comes when you recognize that you've crossed the same bridge hundreds of times, but the bridge has gotten smaller each time. One day when you get to the edge of the bridge, you realize that with one skip and a hop, you're at a new destination. Isn't that interesting?
I found that I've spent years on that bridge. I've hopped and jumped and still allowed myself to go back to the start of the bridge instead of exploring the other side.
Afraid? I'd put money on that.
While mentally rejuvenating myself, I began to ponder the most basic questions: Am I happy here? Is this what I want? Why do I feel held back? I wondered if I had loaned my worth and power to another person to make judgments about my future.
I finally realized that I was doing exactly that. I had been laying my power down at the feet of others who didn't want it and, frankly, had no way of knowing what to do with it.
I believe wholeheartedly that if God relinquishes any amount of control over me to anyone other than himself, it will be to me and me only. Therefore, the first lesson I learned was that I had been giving other people too much say-so over what I did with my life and my future.
After I accepted this huge deficiency, I begged for more. I thought, "Well, if I have been waiting on someone else to tell me what to do with my life and if, now, I am in full control of it, what do I do next?"
This is one of those things that I work on daily, still, but I do know the direction I should focus on. The biggest part of my life's story—the part that still hurts or angers me even after years—is the fact that I lived through an abusive relationship with a man I would have killed for. I learned, years later, how to love myself again and I eventually learned how to love someone else. But that, in itself, was hard to accomplish.
I often hear about or talk to women who have experienced domestic violence. Many women don't recognize it because they think, as I once did, that they "did something" to make him hit her. They believe it's their fault, so they internalize the fear, the hurt and the shame, and often, they never tell a soul.
If I had to do it over again, I wouldn't change a thing about being abused. That may sound a bit strange, but I am confident that I went through abuse in my life so that I can help somebody else who is going through it. Maybe I can help them see that they can be whole again. Maybe through my story, another woman can feel good about herself and recognize her own worth.
It's still a tender spot for me, and I am fighting back tears as I write this, but I have learned that it all takes time. The pain doesn't end because the relationship is over. The amount of damage an abusive relationship does to a victim can take years to recognize and even longer to get over—if you ever do. Many women try to separate being a victim of domestic violence from who they are. I think that's a mistake. Instead, accept that you have been weak and vulnerable. Accept that you were hurt and afraid. Accept that someone took advantage of your heart and stole your strength. Do this so that you will never accept these things again. Do this so that you can recognize the next would-be abuser and flee with no hesitation.
It's just the beginning for me. Although sometimes I believe I have already crossed this bridge, I know that I am damaged. I have wallowed in the spirit of fear. I've surrendered to pain and hurt.
Today, I shine. Today, I realize that I cannot be controlled unless I give someone the power to do so. Just in being created, we are equipped to shine, to rise, to succeed. No one deserves to manipulate my power or yours. No man, no boss, no elected official, no family member, no friend should determine the road you take. Be careful to maintain your personal power.
Though I have been broken and hurt, lacked self-esteem and pride, drenched in self pity and doubt, felt worthless and barely alive, now I live. I can see now that my destiny required the tribulations of my life. My path is clear and I am wide awake. I will give every piece of me I can muster to showing every woman I have an opportunity to touch that she, too, is powerful. She is ready to shine.
I will no longer be just what I am, I will make myself into a whole lot more, and I'm taking a bunch of my sisters with me.
Funmi "Queen" Franklin is a word lover, poet and advocate for sisterhood. She has a weakness for reality shows and her new puppy, Shaka.