When I was 6 years old, I witnessed the first time, the cause of the screaming I had previously heard at night when I was pretending to be asleep. I saw my mom’s head hit the floor so hard that I feared she might not get up, but she did. And she did every single time for 21 years more. Halfway through my lack of understanding why she stayed, I left to stay with her sister, the one born after her. At first I was relieved that I could sleep soundly at night and that I felt somewhat safe from the sounds of the 4 to 5 day activity week at my mom’s. But I would later learn of my aunt’s pain, a strange one, I felt, because at least there was no one hitting her. She had just given birth to her 2nd born and her husband, who worked away and came home on occasion, had not been home in over 3 months. 3 months would turn into 3 years and still nothing from him. In the 9th grade only, I remember imagining what she could be thinking. I thought that maybe she is scared that something had happened to him, that he is in a bad way, in a bad place, with some bad people. Or maybe even that he had been killed. But over the time period I stayed there, I also experienced her anger, her meltdowns and hopelessness. I remember mornings when she slept in all day and I remember slit wrists. I experienced what I can now confidently identify as postpartum and just full blown depression. (Her husband never came back, she ran into him 7 years later in a clothing store in town, with his new family, 2 daughters and a wife. It’s been well over 23 years today. And my aunt lives, she wakes up every morning and she lives.)
Time had come for me to move on again, because I had just gotten myself into a better school, which required me to move to another town, but at least I could stay with my mom’s other sister, the 3rd of 5 siblings. She was a refreshing version of the female species, bold, I thought. She worked hard and she was never angry, sad or getting hit for taking too long to bring the food or for just simply breathing a little too loud. She was happy and it looked to me as if she was always blooming. I remember the 1st time I saw her sad, I came home from school early and found her curled up on her bed with a small piece of clothing pressed to her chest. I recognised the jersey as that of her late daughter, taken away from her too soon by a drunk driver who drove through the fence into the yard, where the bubbly overly cute 2 year old Chenny girl was playing. I would later learn from my mom that my aunt had miscarried, the 2nd time since Chenny, twins this time. She would have 2 more miscarriages, her husband would leave her and she remains childless because she eventually had to remove her womb. She is 42 today and her hearts deepest longing, is still just to be able to hold within her arms, a baby born of her body. Yet she lives, she wakes up every morning and she lives.
2nd year in University, I would once again come across the looks and feels of a hurt culture and a type of sadness that I was all too familiar with. My hostel sister, light skinned and very beautiful, shows up bruised and shamed, with eyes and a voice the tone of which reminds me of my mom’s, every now and again. Another friend, I would find in her room, drugged with pills and bloody sleeves, an emotional cutter, I learned, Another, closed up to the possibility of intimacy with other humans because she had been raped by a man whose blood flows through her veins. It continued to seem strange to me that so much hurt would always be so close to me. It felt like it was literally following me. But still, I was always in awe of how life continued, of how everyone lived, despite the hurt and the pain and the damage that was being done to their person. I would wake up and tell God I see it, His grace for my life, that I had never been beaten by a man or raped by a father, or drowned in depression and hurt by the inability to give birth, physically to my own children, this hurt gave me a lot to be grateful for, but in the same breathe challenged me to fight for a lot more women than my own person.
However, at 26, I would get a glimpse into how it’s done, I would experience why and how it’s possible. Adversity had finally found me, personally and I would be at the centre of it. Yes, it felt personal when I walked in on my now husbands, slow beating heart, on the floor body, years ago, but this, this was different. I had just had my 2nd daughter and I found myself highly irritable this particular day, 4 days postpartum, it feels as though Katherine-Zoe is crying too much today. ‘Something must be wrong with her’, I thought. My husband came home to an anxious wife, with a hoarse voice and the shortest of breathe as though she had ran a marathon. Let’s go back to the ER, He said. ‘We totally should’, I insisted, ‘something is wrong with Katie’, I said. I learned that women are beyond extraordinary creatures, who have an instinctive nature to protect, even at the cost of their own wellbeing at times. I got admitted that day, bilateral pulmonary emboli, they said, I would spend 34 days in critical care, I Felt my body get weaker every day, the 2nd week in, I could no longer move around, which meant I could no longer see my girls, as they were too young to go into the CCU. I recall finding it hard to sleep and my husband brought me music, because music was a thing for me, it was words and lots of them and I love words. I recall the night before things would get better, it felt incredibly hard to breathe, but somehow, I burst out into song;
‘You more real than the ground I’m standing on. You more real than the wind in my lungs. Your thoughts define me, You’re inside me, You’re my reality. ABBA, I BELONG TO YOU’
I lay awake sometimes at night and even wake up some mornings, trying to understand what happened that night , how it was possible, Where the voice and breathe in song came from, when I literally found it to be such an uphill to simple take a single breathe. I felt myself letting go cos I felt so deeply wrapped up in something beyond my control, something safe, and something more than the moment I was in.
I woke up to the whispering voice of a doctor explaining the surgical procedure he was about to perform, because it would allow me to breathe better.” 2 holes, one on each side of your body, slight warmness and weirdness and it would be over”, I remember hearing. Before long it was over and I still felt drugged by a spirit of divine safety. it felt as though I had been reassured by a version of me that I had never met before, that this, is the beginning of the end, and that soon, I get to be Beatrice again, the bringer of joy, and so much more, I get to be a warrior woman, the girl whose fire looks different but burnt just as hot. I get to recite Philippians with my eldest and nurse my new-born from my breast, which continued to produce an overflow of milk despite the fact that we tried medication to assist with stopping the milk from coming in, in aid of my recovery. I get to see love, the appointed anchor and sail to my life`s boat, a God given partner. With every step that I had to remind my body, it was able to take, I recall thinking about babies, their nature, how they struggle to walk, they fall, but they get up because they have to. Somehow, they know that they have to. Every single time, until they can confidently walk. And then they run and hit the wall or fall if they turn a corner too fast, they get hurt, they cry and the get up and run again. And the toddler who climbs the slide or monkey bars and falls, gets up and does it again. The teenager who experiences rejection and heartbreak but exposes themselves again. I think of my mom, who gets hurt, falls down and gets up again. And I start to have an epiphany so big that close to nothing would scare me again, well, not nearly as much as feeling the breathe in your lungs lessen. I realise that Adversity is Inevitable, unavoidable. I realised that just as the river has to deal with the might of the water in order to mould its form, so has humans been built to deal with the complexities of adversity, it is inevitable. But we have been built to get up again, to rise, like a phoenix from the ashes, we are made of the stuff that can weather adversity in any and all of its forms, if we wake up to that divine truth that sits at the core of our nature, impossible is nothing. How we missed this truth put in plain sight, is beyond me.
This realisation would be solidified sooner than I thought. My mom had been fighting cancer well over 8 years, and it had been in remission for over 18 months when it finally creeped back into her life and took her away from me just as I had made a full recovery from my emboli. It took adversity just 2 months to show up again and take another swing at me. This time it brought with it another lesson, ‘experiencing me once or in one way, does not exempt you from experiencing me again, or in another way. I will come at you with everything I have, without mercy’ that’s what it said to me. I knew then, that within me must be a might, the degree to which I had not unlocked yet. Isaiah 54; 17 took on a complete new meaning for me. I understood what was meant by ‘no weapon formed against you shall prosper’. I realised this was speaking to the inevitability of adversity… that weapons will be formed against you, but they shall not prosper. Isaiah 43; 2 ‘walk through fire you will, but you will not be harmed by the flames. I have come to learn that our nature is divine and our purpose is not to define ourselves by adversity, in any and all of its forms, be it domestic violence, gender based violence, genocide, child abuse, racism, mental or general health, loss or despair. Our purpose is to refine ourselves through adversity, in any and all of its forms. To unlock the warrior woman within, the one who wears a different strength each time you face adversity, the one who knows what you don’t and educates your ability to be brave enough to see this world into a better state.
Adversity will always seek to destroy you, fall my sister, it is okay, you are human, it is within our nature to feel that blow. But also, rise up again and again and yet again, for that too, is within our nature to do
Know this, the finest of gold, go through the hottest of fires. Embrace your fire, because you are better gold for it.