“so what, we get drunk… so what, we smoke weed… we’re just having fun, we don’t care who sees”

 

this time of year is usually my favorite—like, i start planning our family christmas parties in the summer.

but it wasn’t the same this year. nothing was the same this year.

and still, i’m excited about 2017. i’m ready for 2017.

the truth is, i’m just barely getting through these holidays…

nowhere i am is where i wanna be.
no one i’m with is who i wanna be around.
none of the things i normally enjoy are what i want to do.

but i’m counting down the hours—it’s almost over.

and a new year awaits. one that i’m looking forward to.

“in the morning when i wake, and the sun is coming through… oh, you fill my lungs with sweetness, and you fill my head with you”

 

…can i be close to you?

my best friend lost his dad today. it was an emotional day—it’s been an emotional three weeks for their little family… my little (friends turned) family.

it’s a bit of a foreign concept to me that their family really only consists of the four of themmy best friend, his parents, and his daughter. when my dad was in the hospice during his final days, we had about 40 relatives in his room at any given time. it was always so loud. it was always so busy.

and spending these last three weeks with my friend and his little family has been generally quiet. intimate. peaceful. and beautiful.

we gathered tonight with a handful of close friends and neighbors at their house to show our support and pay our respects. his mom talked about how they don’t have family nearby… and told us all that we were their family and that was good enough.

that thought sat with me for the rest of the nighti have a huge family. like HUGE. but it’s amazing how even in the crowd of a large family, i can still feel so alone. i can still feel like i have no one.

it’s been an emotional three weeks—it’s been an emotional three years. but i’ve learned that family has very little to do with who you share blood with, but who you share life with.

and as we get closer to welcoming a (long-awaited) new year, i hope i learn to invest more in people who invest back in me.

to love on the people who love on me.

to spend time with the people who spend time with me.

and to be family to those who are family to me.

rest in peace, tito jun. you will be truly missed.

“you’re bad and you’re broken too, but i love that shit… just be open to the possibility of me and you, that’s all i ask… i’ve had the hoes, i’ve got the cash, now i want you”

 

i’ve had multiple conversations with girlfriends in the last few weeks on the same topic—monogamy.

i don’t believe monogamy is natural. and i’ve felt that way since high school.

i’ve always believed—even when completely virgin(ish) and inexperienced—that we were biologically and naturally created to be sexual… basically, to be reproductive. i also considered the animal kingdom and how monogamy and the idea of “mating for life” is rare across all types of species.

“but we’re not animals, gemma”

i know, i know. but my point is that the fundamental concept of monogamy relies on a universal biological characteristic that we have no control over. if we, as humans, lived “in the wild” without all rules and bureaucracy, i think our sexual natures would fall more in line with what we see in the animal world.

“so you’re okay with no loyalty in your relationships?”

of course i want loyalty when i’m in a relationship. i also am very loyal partner myself… when i’m in a relationship.

in my opinion, how i feel about monogamy doesn’t directly affect my ability or desire to be in a relationship. i don’t think they have to go hand-in-hand.

(and this is about where i lost my girlfriends. ha.)

here are my thoughts on monogamy and how it plays out in relationships:

  1. natural desire vs choice: i think, by nature, humans are not built to be monogamous. but that doesn’t mean i don’t believe in commitment. i just think commitment is a conscious choice we make. it’s not something our body decides for us—it boils down to these desires coming from different parts of us. heart vs mind, mind vs body, whatever you want to call it. you choose to be committed. you choose to stay committed.
  2. sex vs love: the sooner we can all get behind the idea that sex is not love, the sooner maury povich will be out of a job. sex is a beautiful and wonderful thing. love, too. but both can live without the other, so yes, it is possible to love someone and have sex with someone else, just as much as it’s possible to have sex with someone you don’t love.
  3. non-monogamy vs infidelity: don’t assume people who don’t believe in monogamy are “cheaters“. i think it’s important (and responsible) to be honest with your partner(s) about your… extracurriculars.
  4. non-monogamy vs promiscuity: not believing in monogamy doesn’t mean i’m out bangin‘ anyone and everyone. i can be (and have been) involved with only one person while still believing that monogamy is unnatural.

that’s all.

“sometimes it gets too much… a lot of everything, but no love… just too much… that’s how two hearts crush”

my timehop app reminded me today that the ex and i met on this day ten years ago. my co-worker (and close friend) responded, “and your credit has never been the same since!”

it was the funniest—yet realest—shit i’d heard in a long time. 100% on point.

deep down, though, it really made me sad to put a number to it. to quantify, if you will, the amount of time i spent—and am still spending—rebuilding myself after that relationship.

i should clarify. i’m over the relationship. waaaay over it. sadly, in the six years we were together, i think we were both over the relationship in the first year. like the lyric says, we had “a lot of everything, but no love”.

and by everything, i mean that we tried to check a lot of the “grown-up couple” boxes. got a place, got a car, got a dog. we just didn’t love each other. i ended up leaving without a fight. didn’t want the place. didn’t need the car. didn’t think it’d be fair to take the dog. none of it was worth the additional… time.

after six years, i just wanted it behind me.

and that’s always been me. i’m a rip the band-aid kind of ex.

but the breakup(s)—that’s what i’m rebuilding from. rediscovering my independence. getting used to sleeping alone. having to take out the trash myself. having to make dinners alone. having to do the laundry and the folding.

and yes, to my friend’s point, rebuilding my credit.

i feel like the harder part has been keeping myself from filling that void with someone else—with anyone else. sure, i had a few of those “fillers” immediately following our split. and then again immediately following my dad’s death. but i generally knew those wouldn’t stick. and they weren’t supposed to. i rotated them out as quickly as i rotated them in.

the real challenge has always been in finding… love. because when you’re so used to having “a lot of everything, but no love”, believe me when i say it often crosses my mind what would have happened if i gave up the “everything” to follow the “love”.

and i could have.

i just didn’t.

“i don’t cry cuz i’m strong… i don’t cry cuz nothing lasts forever… i don’t cry cuz the kids are grown… i don’t cry at all”

 

my best friend’s dad was admitted to the hospital on thanksgiving day. and so, for the first time since almost three years ago, i returned to the place where my dad was last… right before we transferred him to hospice.

i felt a sick feeling in my stomach the moment i realized my uncle was even in the same room my dad was in just days before we said goodbye to him.

i never thought i’d be back there. ever.

there was a lot of emotion—it was tough to be encouraging and consoling when my heart and mind were flooded with bitterness and overwhelming sadness. i looked at his dad… and i saw mine.

but spending the weekend with them there was oddly cathartic—as though i’d gotten some closure just by coming around full circle. like i’d graduated to the 418th stage of grief.

for the first time in a long time, i felt something. i was no longer numb.

i didn’t just miss my dad—i was sad. i was heartbroken. i was angry.

i went home and cried—hard—for about five minutes. and that was it.

it’s the most i’ve cried for my dad since he’s passed, and it was about time.

the sun set, the sun rose, and the next day was a new one.

thoughts & prayers for my best friend, his pops, and their fam.

“imma fix you, imma fuck you, imma get rid of them demons”

 

earlier this week, i caught up with one of my girlfriends. she’s been single for a minute and it’s been really hard on her. in her own words, she feels like she’s on the other side of hope.

hope·less /hōpləs/ adj  feeling despair about something

despair. damn, i thought. that sucks.

she asked me if it was true—if i really wasn’t looking for a relationship right now.

oh god, yes. 100%.

the thing is, i just know i’m not in a place to be ½ of something that requires both people to be whole. not yet, anyway.

it’s like rihanna fucked us up by convincing everyone that love could be found in a hopeless place.

ultimately, i think a lot of people go into relationships expecting the other person to make them happy. and i just don’t think that’s healthy. you should contribute to one another’s happiness—existing happiness.

but you both should be happy… first.

maybe it’s because my last relationship was with someone who was so… jaded. so angry at life. so unhappy with himself. so dissatisfied with everything. so cynical.

there was nothing i could do to make things better. no matter how much i tried. sure, i wasn’t the source of his problems. but i also wasn’t the source of the answers. he needed to handle that himself. and i eventually decided he needed to do it alone.

and so, i know what it’s like to be with someone broken. someone unhappy. and while i’m not on the extreme end of brokenness/unhappiness, i’m just now scratching the surface of being happy again. and i want more.

i’m taking my time. don’t rush me—i’m doing just fine.

trust me.

“i tried with you… there’s more to life than sleeping in and getting high with you…”

…i had to let go of us to show myself what i can do
…but that just didn’t sit right with you
…and now you’re trying to make me feel a way
…on purpose

[by the way, i know this track is drake’s, but chance’s cover is the one that inspired this post.]

today is thanksgiving. and i’m not gonna lie, in the weeks leading up to this day, i felt a lot of things… except thankful.

i’ve had a rough year—no, i’ve had a rough three years. i got fed up with trying so hard to make it look like i’ve had all my shit together. like i had everything under control.

for the sake of everyone else.

i lost a lot of people in the last three years—via breakups, death, and stupid shit. even worse, i nearly lost myself.

earlier this year, i realized i was tired.

tired of carrying the weight of other people’s problems…
their unhappiness
their mistakes
their insecurities
their anger
their irresponsibility
their lies
their broken promises…
their selfishness

so, i put myself on a timeout. i just needed to reset. i needed to detox from all the negativity—to free myself of the things that were so heavy on my heart and mind. i stopped seeing friends. i cut off all the guys i was involved with. and i distanced myself from my family. i even hopped of social media.

for my own sake.

the truth is, so much of me is broken… i’m not whole. and i haven’t been for three years. i’ve been working on it, but there’s still a lot ahead of me.

but in the spirit of this holiday, i know i still have plenty to be thankful for. even in 2016. and if you’ve spent any time with me this year, that’s not a perspective i’ve really been embracing. i’ve been over 2016. soooooo over it.

i realized, though, that complaining about it makes me bitter and not better. and that’s where i want to go. i need to go… better. and i have to do it now. i don’t have to wait until 2017.

i’m better than i was three years ago. i’m better than yesterday. and i’ll be better tomorrow. and i’m so grateful for that, i am.

in the meantime, here are a few reminders (for myself) i’ve picked up from this journey and some of the things i’m especially grateful for.

FRIENDSHIPS—what i’ve learned:

  • don’t just be a “good times” friend… it’s the “bad times” friends that make the difference when it matters most.
  • be the friend that is present. and by that, i mean when you’re together, really be present. put your phone away and be there.
  • be open to forgiving—no one is perfect. no one will do right by you 100% of the time. forgiving someone is not weakness.
  • be open to forgiveness—you are not perfect. own up to your mistakes. say sorry. be willing to let your friends know their worth.

FRIENDSHIPS—what i’m thankful for:

  • reconnecting with friends and rebuilding those relationships
  • disconnecting from unhealthy relationships
  • forgiving
  • forgiveness

RELATIONSHIPS—what i’ve learned:

  • your past is your past—stop dwelling in it. also, stop re-living it.
  • there’s nothing wrong with not wanting what everyone else has—or thinks they have.
  • as the lyrics say, “i had to let go of us to show myself what i can do”—and it’s okay to choose you.
  • be happy. genuinely. and god, please make sure you’re happy alone before you try to be happy together.
  • don’t let anyone else tell you when you’re ready.

RELATIONSHIPS—what i’m thankful for:

  • old things… & closure
  • new things… & curiosity
  • rediscovering who i am after practically 16 years of back-to-back relationships
  • not needing a relationship
  • not wanting a relationship (yet)

FAMILY—what i’ve learned:

  • you can’t make everyone happy all of the time. stop trying so damn hard.
  • you can’t—and shouldn’t—feel responsible for financially supporting others.
  • your actions should reflect what you say—everyone who hears you talk also sees you walk.
  • when you’re angry or upset, pause. it’s okay not to react immediately all the time.

FAMILY—what i’m thankful for:

  • change
  • distance
  • understanding

and the process goes on… and on. but that’s the point—this is what it looks like to do me.

and i’m thankful for that. and for you.

“now i’m feeling how i should… never knew single could feel this good, oh… stop playing misunderstood… back in the game, who knew i would”

 

i had an unexpected breakdown yesterday.

it was 7am and i was getting ready for a wedding that i was invited to sing at. mid-blowdry, my power goes out.

i’m scrambling around the house trying to figure out what to do when i realize the power is only out in half the house.

good news: the power isn’t out. bad news: i have to reset the breaker.

it was pouring rain outside, i was running late, i was already in my dress, and only half my makeup was done. and the circuit breaker is outside. in the rain. covered with cobwebs. and it’s still dark out!

i don’t think i’ve ever felt as alone as i did in that moment—realizing not only did i no longer have a partner in life to handle it for me, but i couldn’t call my dad. i couldn’t even call my brothers.

after sulking a little bit, i eventually put some sweats and boots on and handled it. i returned to the bathroom to finish getting ready. i remember looking at myself in the mirror and feeling like i didn’t know who i was anymore.

i know, i know—that sounds so dramatic. but it was true. what happened to the girl who used to change her own oil? the girl who once changed a flat tire in a skirt in the rain?

i used to be so proud of her. and now i was staring at some other version of her.

i needed to be reminded of that girl. i needed to remember that she’s still in there—that i haven’t been stripped away of my independence. i chose this. i wanted this.

it just goes to show how real it is to lose yourself in a relationship… and in life.

and, i mean, that’s okay—it happens. but more than ever, i see how important it is coming out of a relationship to find your footing again before trying to lose yourself in the next new thing.

“i need a new outlet, and i know some shit’s so hard to swallow… but i just can’t sit back and wallow in my own sorrow… but i know one fact, i’ll be one tough act to follow”

 

one week to thanksgiving and i’m still feeling good about spending this holiday away from my family.

they’ll be okay, i keep telling myself. everyone will be fine.

i have to tell myself that. i have to remind myself that they’ll be okay while i focus on making sure i am okay, too.

i need this.

“let bygones be bygones, but where i’m from, we buy guns and more guns, to give to the young… i’m living the life of a nigga trapped nigga”

 

dear nieces, nephews, and godchildren

the world around you is an absolute mess. i’m sure many of you are feeling disheartened, disappointed, disturbed, and disgusted with what you’ve seen occur in the last 7 days.

it’s easy to dwell on what we hear. maybe even on what we expect. but especially on what we feel.

one of the things i’ve always encouraged you guys to do when things are ugly is focus on truths—things you know without a doubt will always remain.

so i thought i’d spend a little time, in light of recent events, to remind you of some of these things.

  • you have a voice—regardless of how things ended up, you don’t give up believing in what is important to you. we don’t always get what we want, but we don’t stop trying.
  • the people who love you, really do love you—politics can be very personal. when we feel strongly about something that is so close to us (e.g. women’s rights, same-sex marriage, guns), disagreement can be painful. but know that the people who love you—regardless what their perspective on these topics is—came to this country so that you could have the right to disagree. this is part of the exercise. this is the point.
  • the grass is not greener elsewhere—america is not perfect. far from it, actually. but we still live in one of the greatest countries in the world. racism, sexism, misogyny, scandal—we’re not exposed to these things because we’re american but because we’re human. these things exist everywhere. and sadly, they existed long before this election and were not limited to only one name on the ballot you filled in. don’t let the media confuse you. it doesn’t make it better by any means, but it’s the truth.
  • things will get better… then worse… then better—highs and lows. peaks and valleys. this is life. today is no different. hold tight, stay positive… and grow. always focus on growing.

that said, here are some of my thoughts on the next four years… and beyond:

  • stay educated—don’t be swayed by what you read, what you hear, and what you’ve been told. do research, listen to both sides, make decisions because they feel right to you and not because they’re popular.
  • labels are irrelevant—and i don’t just mean male vs female, queer vs straight, white vs black, old vs young. i also mean republican vs democrat. when you think about your stand on current events, look beyond what your “party” supports and consider what YOU think and feel. don’t confine yourself to the positions and opinions of your party. there’s no rule on that.
  • make progress, not history—the last decade has been exciting because we’ve experienced a lot of “firsts”. first black president. first female presidential candidate. but let’s not forget what’s important. building a future is far more important than making history. make sure that you remember that. building a future while making history would be amazing. but don’t focus on making history just for the sake of it.
  • don’t give up—if things don’t go your way (and this year’s election proves this can happen), don’t give up. don’t whine and “threaten” to leave the country… (insert lots of fucking eye rolls here). don’t contribute to the hate and negativity. don’t keep sharing angry articles that aren’t encouraging or that don’t propose realistic and substantial solutions. stop focusing on what can’t be undone. don’t tell me obama was the best thing to happen to this country and turn around and not be willing to “be the change you wish to see in the world.” stop talking, start doing. it’s your future.
  • choose your battles wisely—there have been a lot of protests since the election. contrary to what many people say, protests are not a waste of time. riots are another story. if you feel inclined to stand up for something you feel strongly about, do it. just do it legally and in a way that doesn’t drastically and negatively affect your future. use good judgment.
  • love, laugh, live—life is too short to let this drastically change how you live your life, especially still being as young as you are. for the last 7 days, the sun has risen and the sun has set. take it one day at a time.

and when all else fails, disconnect. take a break from social media. re-center on the real and tangible things around you. things that matter every day. things that matter now and will still matter in four years.

i’m sorry the cards we’ve been dealt are less than perfect. but i’m counting on you guys to make the best of it. not for america. not for our family. not even for me.

for you.

i love you, kids. always and forever.

-ATGM.