... on becoming ...
As some of you may know, I had a beautiful opportunity to travel to Prague in the Winter of 2020. It was life changing.
Life had brought me to a place of needing to change everything in the Summer of 2019. Everything around me seemed to be falling apart. And I mean everything. In the midst of this, my Standing Rocks (close friends and confidantes) caught me and loved me in spite of myself and shortcomings. Some therapists may call this a “support network.” I call these people my family.
During this time of chaos, I realized my life was beautifully unraveling. Well, sometimes I forgot that it was a beautiful process! But unraveling it was. All of the head trash I was storing was being addressed. I was able to observe the patterns and choices I made. And, I was able to think about the habits and routines, the structure, I wanted for my life moving forward. How do I live a life that is focused on that which is life-giving, life-affirming, and life-nurturing? How do I both become and unbecome simultaneously?
I began this journey by getting routed in some solid routines. I moved back in with my Pop. Shortly thereafter, I got a new job and a new house. I was going to the gym regularly and just all around in a better place in life. Exhale. I was becoming.
Well, I was becoming until the police officers came for me on a Friday afternoon at work. I had been wrongly accused, again. As they snapped the hand cuffs on my wrists, I knew I was about to enter a process of unbecoming once again. I was not ready. I am never ready! I had done so well to get to a place of stability, of peace, and was just beginning to find my joy. Now, my freedom had been taken away by a State that could only see me as a statistic. And I waited, in the jail cell, unbecoming…
Once released, I had an opportunity to go back home, go back to work, and try to become again. Within a few weeks, I was fired. My boss was also my insurance agent and my landlord. When I returned back to my home from a quick weekend trip, there was leaking in the ceiling from the kitchen. I called, she did not answer. I texted, no response. After she fired me, she barely responded. I had liquid from the roof and fiberglass coming directly into my kitchen. Sigh. When it rained, you guessed it… liquid poured directly into my kitchen. It was true, when it rains… it pours! So, here I was, in between becoming and unbecoming.
And somehow, I found myself, fired and in Prague eating, praying, and loving my life. I was becoming! The world around me was expanding. I was immersed in a new language and culture. I was tasting, seeing, and feeling so many new things. The people in my neighborhood and street were becoming familiar faces. I was learning so much about myself! Involved in a regular, weekly writers group, participating in prison outreach and… filling my life with meaning and purpose. In Czechia, I was not smothered by the heavy weight of oppression like I was in the United States. People just experienced me for who I was. I was liberated. I was becoming.
Immediately, I began to strategize. Life was better in Praha. I was experiencing long walks by the Riverside. It was affordable. I had my own place to stay at no cost. There was meaningful work. It seemed like I could start a program, at no cost, with a stipend, at the prestigious Charles University. I would begin work, immediately, with the Church, and there were more opportunities coming my way daily. And then: Covid-19.
The virus was spread quickly. Americans were being fed mis-information. My friends came to wake me up urgently. I had become very sick in Europe and I would often not sleep through the night. My friends in Praha knew that I was unlikely to be up and mobile before 10 am. However, on this morning, they arrived before 7 am. “Laura, please wake up. You must leave immediately.” What? I was confused.
My friend informed me that her husband in Tokoya who works for WHO was concerned about the spread of the virus. He warned, in February, that we needed to be prepared to “shelter in place.” I was warned that if I did not leave the country soon, flights would be restricted and I would need to plan to be in Prague for the duration of the outbreak. We began to search for tickets home and I realized the severity of the situation. My time in Praha was quickly coming to an end. And I realized the process of becoming and unbecoming, much like healing, is not linear.
Once I finally boarded my flight back to the United States, I tried to settle and self-soothe. The flight was full. American students from all over Europe had received notifications from the State Department, school administrators, and politicians back home: Come home now. My flight was the last of three flights leaving the area and headed back to the United States. The young girl in front of me had been in a program and studying in Milan. The girl next to her had been in Paris, Berlin, Mexico, and all around Europe. She was upset that her trip was cut short. They were young. I wondered if they knew they had likely been exposed to Covid-19. And me, my proximity to them…
I needed to tune them out. Everything. Everyone. It was time for Spotify. Oh no! There would be no WiFi on the plane?! What?! How is this possible? I attempted to not panic. This would be a long flight. What do I have downloaded on my phone? WHAT?! There were only 5 albums and not one was Whitney Houston. How could this literally be? Sigh. Well, I put on Aretha Franklin’s “Amazing Grace” album. If you know anything about Pisces, you know that we can listen to the same song for eternity. It just makes our souls happy for some reason.
On this occasion, “Mary Don’t You Weep” spoke to my soul. It was raw. Authentic. My people. There’s a point where ReRe (Nope, totally don’t know her) is screaming to the Rev. James Cleavaland and crew, “LAZARUS.” She is referring to the point in the song in which Jesus calls for Lazarus to rise out of his tomb. It is a crazy proposition. Jesus. Calling to the Dead Man. To Get Up. Nah, fam. That doesn’t happen everyday! Mary, Lazarus’ sister, friend of Jesus, is crying. Her beloved brother, dead. “LAZ-AR-US!!!!” Aretha hollers again, imitating Jesus calling for his best friend to return from life. The background singers are cued. And at that moment, we are to use our prophetic imaginations to imagine, Lazarus becoming again. Lazarus unbecoming what he previously was. Becoming what he is called by Creator, Spirit, Friend, Aretha to be. And walking confidently into that new direction. Just by the calling of your name by Family. This is the process of both becoming and unbecoming.
And while I was on that plane, crossing the Atlantic ocean, I was becoming and unbecoming. I was unbecoming the parts of my self that needed to be locked in a tomb: self-doubt, fear, anxiety, head trash, trauma tapes, self-sabotage…. I was unraveling at the center of my being. I was crossing the water that contains countless Ancestors. I was unbecoming the version of myself that called forth deep healing… the parts of myself that were broken, fundamentally.
And in that moment, somewhere across the Atlantic ocean, I realized I was becoming… me. I was becoming a version that has been waiting to be birthed. I was becoming a version of myself that focused on healing, self-care, individual and community wellness… the liberation of my people. I was becoming a version of myself that was clear about purpose and alignment. I was becoming anew. I was becoming full. Overflowing. Joy. And in that moment I had a praise break...
For years, I had lamented all that had happened… I had and lost a business, had and lost homes, struggled with depression and complex post traumatic stress disorder…. Friends came and went… it was a rough patch if I’ve ever seen one. Honestly, it’s the stuff that makes great dramedies, sitcoms, and Tyler Perry movies. But, somehow… there would always be a Way made out of No Way.
And on this day, suspended thousands of feet in the air, crossing the ocean containing Ancestors, fleeing outbreaks of a pandemic that would change our lives forever… I was becoming.
I realized that in the process of becoming, I had to understand the process of unbecoming. It contextualized my life, my pain, and suffering, in such a way, that I could connect it with the reason that I was becoming the best and most refined part of myself.
See, what I learned and realized was that not only did I have to go through the fire but it often gets the hottest, geologically speaking, right before the finished product. Just before, just months before getting on the plane to Prague, I sat in the Baltimore City Jail. I was arrested with three felony counts and several other misdeameanors for crimes I did not commit. It was a flaw in the system. I was learning to unbecome in that moment. Becoming taught me, according to the Rev. Christin C. Green, that my life, my very living… my own context… were sacred text.
Using that knowledge, my life as sacred context, I understood, as I was suspended in the air, that my life was context for my unbecoming, for my unwellness, for my dis-ease. But, the Good News was that my life was also sacred context for my healing, my transformation, and my wellness.. My Becoming. The intentional and revolutionary act of radical self care was the key to my transformation and healing.
In that moment, I connected with the spirit of the man who was left for dead in a tomb that was given new life. In that moment, I connected with the young women on the street whose bodies are walked over because they are suspected of overdoses… but someone gives them, through NarCan, a new life. I am connected with the young person whose parents gave them away, or sent them down a river of despair, without concern for their future…. But someone found them and gave them new life. I am connected, on this day to the addict still struggling… I see you and am with you on this day as you are Becoming. We love you in the places and spaces between and inside of becoming and unbecoming.
Even though I was trapped in the Winter of 2020… The Winter of the Pandemic…. I was Unbecoming…. And we didn’t know how long we would Unbecome, or when we could come out again, or if things would ever go back to normal…. But you can’t STAY in a state of Unbecoming….
Because after the winter… always follows the Spring…
Which births forth