Declaring My Independence

Photo by Austin Chan on

Today I decide to break free. I have lived a life of self-strangulation, trying to preserve what will die without my breathing. I resuscitate it through trauma and worry. On some level, I thought it would set me free — let me live. Alas, silly woman, fear never let’s go. So, I will make it let go, in the only way I know how. I will speak its name. Fear.

There is nothing more terrifying than having little or no control over your own life. What I mean is, having a life easily changed by the influence of other people. I’ve lived it my whole life. I must’ve missed how to adult day, so, I didn’t get my manual and free t-shirt like everyone else (knowledge is useless, if you aren’t taught how to apply it).

I lived life on the outskirts of myself, trying to ensure I properly place the responsibility of my being into the right hands. I mean, I had no idea what I was doing with it, might as well. Right? I couldn’t, for the life in me, understand how so many people took care of themselves. Awareness came after all my unretractable consequences; it arched over me to protect me. I didn’t realize the malformed shadow hiding away from its light.

I carry my fears in my gut, literally. When pinged, they radiate like the animated images of sound. They knot like a fist. It wasn’t until recently, I recognized my fear as the little feral child inside screaming, afraid it will not survive. None of her survival tactics work anymore. They got us here, but they won’t take us where we want to go. I tried to tell her that, but she just screams. So, I must show her.

This is for “Little Nonie”.

 If reading this gives you the sudden urge to say, “Well. I know such-and-such that did so-and-so and they didn’t …” Stop reading and move on! This message is not for you. 
 This message is for those who didn’t know or couldn’t, but want to. 
 If you feel the urge to judge, belittle, speak condescendingly to, or otherwise show why I am writing this message. Move on. This message is not for you. 
 This is a call to those who are going through it and want to come to the end of it. This is a space for those who want to change, but don’t know what they need to want to change. 
 You’ve found your sign.

This is my Declaration of Independence from my dependence on fear. It’s helped me survive, but little else. Shame, guilt, and embarrassment act as its lieutenants, keeping me terrified to show up, show out, and be myself.

Shame of being on public assistance. 
 When I say, there’s nothing like the shame and guilt associated with public assistance — I mean it. Since I do not perform the stereotype of a welfare recipient, most people do not know. (Right now, I hear my inner child yelling at me not to tell you.) I listen to people spew their hate towards people like me. So, I’ve stayed quiet over the years, fearing the judgements, the ugly words, and the condescending tones. In various ways people have disrespected, looked down on, or attempted a superior act towards me because of the choice I made. They would add to the voices in my head of my deficiency at taking care of myself and my children. The shame tried to eat me alive, from the inside. I don’t ask for what I or my children need or want for fear of looking like a “welfare queen”. I hold my tongue in a group of people talking about “those lazy people”. I cringe in conversations where backhanded compliments are handed out like gum; “But, you’re not like that, Kalonia”
 … Yea. Ok.

Guilt of having 6 children
 Anytime I hear the comment, “What?! No TV in the bedroom?” or, my favorite, “You know how that happens, don’t you?” I want to scream. I have six children, four from my 13-year marriage, two from a 7-year relationship. (I still say this as if it qualifies me to be a good person.) The way people respond to my situation, you would think they thought I had them on purpose (ah! see what I did there?), but I didn’t. I had them through the ignorance of wanting to play out a role in life. I had them because I thought it was what I was supposed to do, first as a wife then as a person who needs to make it right. (The need to look normal to society and family is a helluva drug). Bottom-line is… I had them. They are here. No take backs! The choices I made up to this point, ensures they will have a productive life, if they choose it. I am ensuring they have the guidance to be thoughtful, kind people, on top of good citizens. This work that I do, is my repayment to them and myself.

Embarrassment of ignorance
 What else am I to feel for the choices I’ve made, and the consequences to my life and my children’s lives, but embarrassment? (whoo! she’s screaming louder now.) I’m intelligent. I know how to perform middle class living. So, why am I living below the poverty line? Where are the straps for my boots? I’ve watched my peers living their lives, and it angers me. (Strange emotion, I know.) It angers me because I seem to lack something I still can’t even name. Embarrassed that, of all the things I have, I must somehow lack the ability to gather the resources to help me crossover. Embarrassed that living this life doesn’t come so easily for me, because I lack the bitch switch, thick skin, and validated types of abuse that would make me able to move through people, uncaring and unfeeling. Embarrassed that the consequences of my choices have me living my life backwards, while I’m trying to push my children forward.

Fear (period)
 Fear lives through me. Fear of having the little I have, taken away. (Isn’t that a bible verse?) Fear of needing and wanting so much, I act as if I have no needs or wants at all to succor the feeling of not receiving. Fear of the future, and not being able to care for myself. Fear of not coming close to breaking dysfunctional legacies, in my lifetime. They must break for me to step into my life. I’ve let fear live through the feelings in my heart; telling me not to ask, seek and knock. I let it live in conversations in my mind, of people wanting to see me lose, lack and fall. I let it live. I give it a home — feed it, too. Feed it with all the stories, excuses, and pain of thinking the life I’m living is not good enough to deserve changing. I allow it to show me evidence through people who do not care for me. All these things, make this more than a breakup. To declare this type of independence, I have to go no contact with fear.

I know fear, like anger, is important for balance, but the deficiency in me means I have to keep fear away until I build up enough power and compassion to calm its tantrums. Let’s see how this works. Will I have the courage to post this, and give hundreds of other people who feel like me a voice, or, will I let the screaming child inside me have its way again?

Like what you read? Give Kalonia Jennings a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.