But You Couldn’t Stop Me, Could You?

Fifty-one years ago today, shortly after 2:00 A.M., Mama gave birth to me. There was no pomp and circumstance, she simply gave birth to a 5-pound baby girl and was released to go home by 7:30 A.M. that same morning.

I was welcomed home by my older siblings, the youngest of whom was 11. My oldest brother was away in San Francisco with his own family. I have two nieces who are older than I am. My sister, Margaret, had already told Mama to name me Trease. I have no middle name. I was never babied. I was spoiled, but I was never babied. Most people who know me say that I’ve always been grown. I have an old spirit.

The past 51 years have carried one lesson after another for me in a constant fashion. I know when some of you heard that, you said, “Yeah, we’ve all learned lessons over our lifetimes.” For the most part that’s true. I say for the most part because in some cases, people don’t learn anything from their experiences. They continue to make the same mistakes. They grind their gears and they spin their wheels.

Here is some knowledge I picked up along the way:

  • In almost all cases, you get one chance to make an entrance. You get one chance to make a first impression. If you storm through any door in a destructive manner, reeking chaos, disrupting the good, folks won’t forget. Even though we’re supposed to, most folks won’t forgive either. Be mindful of what you do when you enter another’s space.
  • Your exit is probably more important than your entrance. I really can’t think of a reason to leave a situation in shambles. Why? Because to do so means that another person has gotten under your skin so deeply and has disrupted your psyche so much that you became someone you’re probably not. Don’t get it twisted — I’ve left material damages in some places that were so bad I should have been charged with the highest level of vandalism. It was bad and it was stupid. I let someone who had mistreated me take me to another level. I’m not coming at you in a “holier than thou” manner. Just don’t allow another person to take you out of character. What I think makes a  more profound statement is to simply take your ball and go home. You don’t even have to provide an explanation or say goodbye. Just go and be at peace.
  • Be extra-possessive of your time. Time is a precious commodity. We don’t have as much of it as we think. Don’t waste it on people who don’t love you fiercely, on a job that you hate, or in a situation that you don’t want to be in. Do life big!
  • Let no man or woman take you for granted. This is a lesson I learned the hard way. My presence — my whole being — was taken for granted by someone I thought valued me. Turns out, he is the most selfish individual on the face of this or any other planet. Lesson learned. The wrong people will take your love for granted. Take it back and give it to someone who deserves it. You’re so amazing. You’re such a blessing. If a man or woman can’t see that – GO! Plain and simple, just go!
  • Love your folks without condition. I’m grateful to see this day, I really am, but I would be lying if I said my heart is not filled with grief this morning. It has been nearly 11 months since my nephew passed away suddenly. The void his death has left in our lives is massive. Cherish your people. Loss is inevitable. Cherish your people.

I’m going to end this by saying that all those things that were designed to stop me from living my best life have failed. An abusive marriage, an aneurysm, unemployment, a devastating breakup — all those things wore on me, but here I am. None of those things stopped me. Nothing will. Trust that. The decision to live is yours. The kind of life you live is up to you. Let nothing stop you from having it all and from being it all. It’s up to you.

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Month Nine

It’s been nine months since my nephew died. At 41 years old, he died in his sleep as the result of a heart attack. The only days he missed working out at the gym was Sundays; however, undiagnosed hypertension caused him to have a massive heartache as he slept the morning of December 9, 2017.

Minutes

Sometimes it feels like it’s been nine minutes since I got that wretched phone call telling me he was dead. I was still sitting on the side of I-20 West shaking uncontrollably nine minutes after I got that call. Or maybe I had started driving again; I don’t remember. Time stood still for me that day and to be honest, I don’t know when it started moving again.

Hours

Sometimes it feels like it’s been nine hours since I got that wretched phone call telling me he was dead. By that 9th hour, I was still fielding phone calls in my sister’s stead, responding to text messages, inbox messages, and emails, and replying to Facebook posts from people across the country wondering if it was true. They wanted to know if he had really died. I didn’t know some of the people who called me on Facebook Messenger, but that day, I wasn’t upset by the fact that they had taken the liberty to call. He was loved so deeply by so many people.

Days

Sometimes it feels like it’s been nine days since I got that wretched phone call telling me he was dead. By the 9th day, we had already had his funeral, but the fact that he was gone was still unreal to me. I sat on the second pew in the center of St. Peter Missionary Baptist Church in Sarepta, Louisiana, so I know it happened, but it was all so surreal. I heard all the beautiful things that were said about him. I heard my family choir sing. I pulled my two cousins aside who were in charge of the music that day and told them to keep things upbeat because I didn’t want any sad songs being sung. We were there to celebrate his life. We sang congregation songs. There was a two-minute limit for tributes to him that day, but who could speak about him for only two minutes?

Weeks

Sometimes it feels like it’s been nine weeks since I got that wretched phone call telling me he was dead. Nine weeks after his death, the numbness had truly set in for all of us. One of my first cousins had died during that time so combined with Arthur’s death, we were all numb. I remember going to her funeral, but for the life of me, I didn’t recognize the woman in that casket. All those years of depression and abuse had turned her into someone her own family didn’t recognize. She is buried near my nephew. I wouldn’t know exactly where because at nine weeks, I still hadn’t gone to the cemetery.

Months

Sometimes it feels like it’s been nine months since I got that wretched phone call telling me he was dead. Today, it is nine months since my nephew died. Nine months is 39.133125 weeks. Nine months is 273.93188 days. Nine months is 394,461.9 minutes. Some of those weeks, days, and minutes have been so excruciatingly painful, I thought I would die myself. Not one time have I questioned God as to why He took him because I don’t question God’s will, but there hasn’t been a second of that time when I haven’t wondered how I can go on with him. I know I have to, but I still wonder.

Years

Sometimes it feels like it’s been nine years since I got that wretched phone call telling me he was dead. It feels like it’s been forever since I last talked to him. It feels like I haven’t seen him walk through the front door of Mama’s house for Sunday dinner in nine years. It feels like it’s been nine whole years.

Today

I’m sitting in my nephew’s living room right now and on this 9-month anniversary of his death, I continue to be sad beyond belief. I’ve fallen back into a somewhat normal pattern of living, but I still find myself lost. I still find myself wondering where he went. A very close friend put it best when he said, “It’s like Arthur went out the back door and just never came back.”

Perhaps one day, I’ll come out of the fog of grief and this vicious level of mourning will subside, but today I’m still underwater. I’m treading water, but not on the surface. I can see the sunlight above, but for now, I’m treading under the surface. Today, I’m still treading.

 

“Who Were You Looking For?”

Even before my childhood friend asked me that question, she knew the answer. We both knew the answer. There were so many people at my nephew’s funeral.

he family processional was huge. For every one person who considered him- or herself a friend of his in that church, there were 2-3 blood relatives present. I’m not talking about “play” cousins, sisters, or brothers, I mean the blood-related real thing. I actually ended up sitting on the far end of the second pew next to one of my younger cousins. I ended up there because some of my first cousins sat on the first pew with my sisters. It didn’t matter where I sat. It just didn’t matter. My heart was annihilated so I could have been swinging from the church bell and it just wouldn’t have mattered.

The Question

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Photo credit: www.pixabay.com

A few weeks after the service, a very close friend of mine who had been at the service asked, “Trease, who were you looking for? You kept looking around the church during the funeral. Who were you looking for?” She knew the answer before she asked, but in an effort to help me come to terms with Arthur’s death, she needed to hear me say it out loud. She wanted me to say it out loud so that I, myself, could hear the answer. We’ve known each other since we were children so she knew exactly how close I had been to my nephew.

I had gone to my doctor and asked for something to help me through the service because I knew that at some point, I was going to lose it. It didn’t happen at the service and it hasn’t happened yet, but I digress. My doctor prescribed Valium and told me to start with a half-tablet so that I wouldn’t keel over should a whole one be too strong. I took that thing around 9:30 that morning even though the service wasn’t set to start until 2 PM. By 11 AM, I knew that I needed to take the other half of that tablet because as my family members began pouring into my mother’s tiny house, I found myself getting agitated and extremely upset. Believe me when I say mind over matter is a thing — it’s a real thing.

Nearly every other person in my family is either a nurse or a doctor so I let them know what I was going to do in case something funky happened. By the time we, the family, walked down the center aisle of St. Peter Missionary Baptist Church, I was a little calmer, but I was still extremely agitated. My mind began to wander. I remember looking around two times. My friend told me that I looked around more than two times — way more than two times. When she asked me who I was looking for, I calmly said, “Arthur.” She knew that already.

Only twice before had Arthur and I gone to funeral services without one another. One time had been my uncle’s funeral who passed away in July 2017 and the other had beenScreenshot_20170320-093621 that of a family friend a few years back. We always maintained eye contact during those services in case we needed to come to one another’s aid. I was looking for him on December 17, 2017. I know that sounds crazy, but I was looking for him. I knew he was in that casket, but I was looking for him. I needed to make eye contact with him even though I knew he was in that casket. I just could not fully wrap my mind around the fact that he was in that casket. My friend said, “I knew you were looking for him. We all knew.” Since my little talk with her, three other people have told me the same thing. They knew I was looking for him.

 

Answers, Solutions, and More Questions

I know he’s gone.I know I won’t hear his voice again in the present. True enough, I have a ton of videos of him laughing, making people laugh, dancing, jet-skiing, and other stuff, but I’ll never hear his voice again in the present.

I know I’ll never receive another one of his foolish texts. I know I’ll never get another text asking me what his mom cooked for Sunday dinner then telling me to fix him a couple of plates.

I know he’ll never call again telling me something weird has happened to his phone, swearing he hadn’t done anything to it. I always knew he had.

How am I supposed to move forward? I know I don’t have a choice because, for one, he wouldn’t want us to be sitting around mourning. Secondly, I have stuff to do.I’m going to keep pressing even though there are still many mornings when I just don’t want to get up. I have to, though.

Handling the death of a loved one is never easy. If it’s someone you’re extremely close to, it’s even harder. The heart will mend, but the pain will remain.

How Much Can You Handle?

My tolerance for pain is different from yours. Yours is different from the person’s you sit next to on the train. That person’s tolerance for pain is different from the person in the cubicle next to his at work.

 

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Photo credit: Photo by Rodolfo Clix from Pexels

 

We’re all susceptible to pain — physical, mental, and emotional — and how we decide to deal with those things is just as different from person to person as the actual levels of pain we experience.

The Physical

Before July 21, 2009, I thought I had experienced the worst physical pain imaginable. At 4:53 AM on July 26, 1995, my son was came barreling through into this world and my body was traumatized, I shook. The pain was so intense, I couldn’t hold my baby for several minutes after he was born.  As the saying goes, though, I forgot every single second of the pain I’d endured over the previous 36 hours when I saw my little bundle of joy. I would be reminded of everything I went through when it was time for me to use the restroom for the first time after giving birth, but that’s neither here nor there.

 

Will at 7 weeks
Photo credit: Trease Shine Hinton

 

The next most excruciating level of pain I would experience came when I had to have emergency surgery to remove my gallbladder. Anyone who’s ever had a gallstone knows the pain I speak of. Well, magnify that by at least 200 and you’ll know what I went through in April 2008. The doctors and nurses asked a million times how I had been able to function with that much pain. I couldn’t answer them. To this day, I still don’t know.

Those two experiences pale in comparison to what I felt on July 21, 2009. Y’all know the story about the aneurysm so I won’t go into it, but let me just say that I would rather give birth to my 6′ tall son at his current weight of 232 pounds than to be hit with that level pain ever again.

I can handle physical pain.

The Mental and Emotional

A large part of my story involves the mental abuse I sustained and lived through over those 19 years of marriage. The belittling, the lying, the constant put-downs, being told that I was worthless, hearing him tell others he made the biggest mistake ever by marrying me, being disrespected on a consistent basis — those things finally took root in my subconscious and set up home.

One day, I started to believe that I was too much trouble. I began to believe that I wasn’t smart. I believed that I couldn’t make it on my own. He had me just where he wanted me. That level of control is reserved for abusers. Believe that.

 

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Photo credit: www. pexels.com

Then One Day…

 

…I woke up. I had to. I had to draw on the strength of the woman I was before the mental, emotional, and verbal abuse overtook me and swallowed all of me.

I also had to form an image of the woman I wanted to be in the future in order to have something to strive for. It’s taken me a minute to get there, but I am so happy to say, I’ve made tremendous strides.

I filed to register my writing business with the state of Louisiana on June 22. It became an official L.L.C. on June 25. I am working on the website now and building my portfolio. I’ve been writing for a very long time; it’s time for me to share my knowledge with the world. For the first time in my 50 years on the earth, I will do what I love to do and that’s put pen to paper.

The Moral of the Story?

Whatever the cause of your pain, use the experience to grow. The worst thing a person can do is allow the pain they feel to consume them and cause them to hurt any- and everyone that crosses their path. To hurt another person because you’re hurt is the ultimate expression of immaturity. It’s out-and-out childish.

Getting hurt is nothing new nor is it unusual. It can happen. It likely will happen. Be a grown-up about the thing and go somewhere and heal. Don’t spread that pain. Take the time you need to fix you. Don’t destroy the lives of others because someone did you wrong.

No one has time to deal with a hurt person who’s out to hurt others.

 

In This Time

It’s been just over 28 weeks since my nephew passed away.

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Photo credit: Trease Shine Hinton

 

So many things have happened since that time. My son has been home since school let out in early May. My granddaughter has been here since that time, too. We needed this time together. We needed this time together so desperately.

We needed to love on each other. We needed to lean on each other. We needed to bump heads. We needed to make up. We needed the tears. We needed to laugh.

With my nephew’s death came many lessons, not the least of which is that we have no time to waste on things that don’t matter or on people we don’t matter to. My best advice to you: get out of the way of toxic people. It’s true that hurt people, hurt people, but that is purely by choice. Hurt people don’t have to hurt people, they choose to. You, my friend, must choose to get out of their way.

One of the best things I’ve done recently is starting my own business. I’m not talking about reviving my Mary Kay business; I’m talking about a business of my very own. I’ll be writing and editing full time. I am also working on attaining my notary commission and am very excited about that. Every single thing about my life will be different by December 31, 2018.

My quest to become a speaker on the atrocity of domestic violence is neverending. I have some engagements coming up and will be sharing those things with you guys.

Know that your time and energy is precious. Don’t waste it.

 

The Color of My Pain

Bereavement. Grief. Pain. Loss.

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Photo by Kat Smith from Pexels

At 50, I’ve felt all of these things more than once. I have felt them all in varying degrees. I have experienced them all on a variety of levels. I’ve felt them all in a variety of situations.

For the most part, bereavement, grief, and pain are the things you feel after the loss of a loved one. I’ll talk about that level of loss in a few. Let me tell you how those things come into play in the mental and emotional sense.

Blood Red

 

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Photo by it’s me neosiam from Pexels

Nineteen years of mental and emotional domestic abuse taught me to shut down, take cover, and to fight fiercely to survive. My very soul was shrouded in the bloodiest red color. Red is an extremely emotionally intense color. While it signifies passionate love, it also points to danger, anger, and violence. Those last three adjectives sum up the19 years I was married.

While the physical abuse was limited to two incidents of spousal rape, the mental and emotional trauma is what put my life in danger. I almost died of an aneurysm that was brought on by stress.

The level of perpetual anger I felt nearly drove me insane. I was mad all the time and I was mad at everybody. I was extremely angry with myself, too. I waived between being angry with my ex for abusing me and being angry with myself for allowing it to happen and for staying.

What I felt internally took the term “seeing red” to a whole new level. Red covered everything in my life.

I’m happy to say that wherever red shows up in my life today, it’s all about its representation of determination, power, strength, and energy.

Black

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Photo by Mustafa ezz from Pexels

On December 9, 2017, my entire world went black. With the death of my nephew, Arthur, such deep darkness fell over my world that the light is just now starting to seep through. It comes through in spurts. Sometimes it stays around for days; sometimes it’s only a momentary flicker. For now, light is fleeting. Bereavement, grief, pain, and loss have enveloped me.

Most days I just go through the motions. I have to. I have a son who means the world to me. I mean the world to him. He needs me. I have a granddaughter who depends on me for all things in her tiny world. My siblings need me. So do my other nephews, nieces, friends, and family. I know they all need and love me, but things are still covered in black for me.

The murkiness left after Arthur’s death can’t be penetrated with well-wishes. It gnashes my soul. I hurt. I cry. I scream. Then there are the days I laugh, giggle, and chuckle when I think of something he did or said. The emotional roller coaster that I’m riding through the blackness is far from thrilling. I’m not in an amusement park. I feel like I’m in the valley of the shadow of death sometimes because I know that’s where he was. I always knew where he was. He always knew where I was. Now, I feel like he’s wandering around in that blackness that I can’t see through.

Is That Light I See?

I don’t know if what I see occasionally is real light or just a figment of my imagination. I want so badly for things to be normal, but in order for things to be normal, my nephew would have to be here. He can’t come back. He’ll never come back.

It was 68 days ago that he passed away. It’s only been 68 days. Some days, it feels like it’s been 20 years; some days, it feels like it just happened this morning. Some days, I see the light; some days, that darkness refuses to let any light shine through.

I will continue to grieve. I will struggle for some time to come. I will keep pushing forward because I have no choice. It’s what I have to do, but for now, I move in darkness.

After You’re Destroyed

By the grace of God, some of us survive domestic violence. That fact, in and of itself, is wonderful and something to be eternally grateful for. In some cases, though, the residual damage sustained is just as devastating as the abuse was itself. I’ve been there. I know what I’m talking about. I’ve either experienced the following things or I’ve watched (or am currently watching) friends experience them:

Out of the Skillet Into the Frying Pan

 

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Photo credit: www.pexels.com

 

Divorce oftentimes leaves a person reeling, unsure of his or her self-worth, wondering if true love will ever find its way to them again, or even if it ever really existed in the first place. Some of the strongest people are left mentally and emotionally displaced and ultimately begin the search for someone to fill the void that’s been left in their lives and in their heart. Sometimes they start that search a little too soon.

I know a woman, who at 42, has been married six times. She has recently started divorce proceedings for this latest marriage. I don’t of a time when she’s overlapped relationships, but it’s never long after one is over that she heads full-on into the next one. I’ve never known a time when she didn’t buy her own engagement/wedding rings in these relationships.

Once, during our weekly lunch meet-up, she said, “Trease, it seems like I keep running into narcissistic guys who just use me. I don’t know why I keep picking these guys that need to be fixed. I don’t know what a good man looks like. I try so hard to love them, but they never love me back.” I’m no relationship expert, but I readily advised her that she needs to love herself first and love herself hard. I reminded her that self-love is imperative in order to live and that it is not an act of selfishness.

I fully believe that once you truly begin to love yourself, you will refuse to allow anyone in your circle who won’t do the same. I believe that once you cherish your own heart, you won’t allow another person who refuses to do the same any access to it. You won’t be willing to jump from one empty relationship to the next in an effort to find true love.

There’s just no sense in jumping from one guy or girl to the next on a wing and a prayer, hoping that he or she will be the one. In my opinion, that’s one of the easiest ways for things to go from bad to worse. You’re in essence, jumping out of the skillet into the frying pan.

Don’t be the Pawn

One thing I’ve seen far too often is an unsuspecting person becoming paired up with a person who has just gotten out a long-term relationship. Every situation is different, but you can almost always win the bet that a person coming off a 20-year or so marriage is just not ready to start a new relationship immediately, let along get married.

I know three men, personally, who jumped into marriage or a Facebook relationship after their long-term marriages ended in divorce and I can vouch for the fact that in all three cases, the women that ended up with them found out they were being used. They were either rebounds, sex toys, or being used to show the ex-partner that the guy had moved on.

 

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Photo credit: www.pexels.com

 

Two of the guys I know ended up marrying younger women. One of them would later find out that the woman he chose was only there for his money; the other found out that he was the one who had been tricked. The woman he chose had a laundry-list of issues and problems that she chose not to share with him until well after they were married. The other guy ended up in a “Facebook” relationship and in the end, the younger woman got far too caught up her feelings and found herself left alone with memories of a too-good-to-be-true fling that was never real to begin with.

It’s All About the Sex

Listen, we’re all grown, but one of the easiest ways to get caught up in your feelings is to start out having rebound sex with a person and end up falling in love. You’re going to get hurt.

Just don’t do it.

Guard that Thing

 

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Photo credit: Trease Shine Hinton

 

Love is never, ever, ever supposed to hurt. Sometimes it does, but it’s not supposed to.

Be careful that you don’t become someone’s “look, I’m over you and I’ve moved on”, when the truth is, you were only being used.

Broken people will break you.

Hurt people will hurt you.

Keep your guard up. Love and live, but keep your eyes and ears open.