My Second Grade Teacher

Back at my childhood home last week, I found something else. As I wrote in before, my mother saved EVERYTHING! She served as Clerk of our community church for 33 years and saved all the church records and bulletins from special programs and services. She kept the programs for every funeral held at the church and all the funerals she attended elsewhere. Well guess what I found? The memorial service program for my favorite childhood teacher, Mrs. Johnson, my second grade teacher at Parkersville Elementary School! I LOVED Mrs. Johnson!

Mrs. Ernestine Johnson _thumbsize

Second Grade was quite a transitional year for me. I attended three different schools in three different states. I started out at the school on Stewart Air Force Base in Tennessee where my dad was stationed…just a week or two, though, because we were reassigned to Florida, where I attended most of second grade. We (Mom, siblings and I) left Florida after eight months because of our troubles due to my father’s struggle with alcoholism. It was an abrupt departure with many mixed emotions . . . forbidden to be spoken of.

It was the last couple of weeks of school year when I arrived in South Carolina.  Mrs. Johnson was my teacher and she was very kind. The entire school was in a flurry of final preparations for the school-wide end-of-year program where each grade had a song or dance presentation. And how lucky for me that my teacher played the piano! I’d never seen anyone play one up close and my eyes were always glued to Mrs. Johnson’s fingers as they magically frolicked across the keys.

I remember the melody and dance steps to one of the songs where girls wore brightly colored skirts of paper flowers…

Step front, back 1-2-3
Step front, back, and-a 1-2-3!

And although I wasn’t able to participate in the program, I didn’t feel left out or isolated. Mrs. Johnson and the warmth of Parkersville welcomed me. It was like the Balm in Gilead for my hungered soul.

 

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Aunt Lucy’s Coat

Over the weekend my sister and I were at our family home continuing to purge closets and endless boxes of items my late mother had collected over many years. In Mom’s “Inspiration Room” closet, we found two fur coats she had inherited from her dear sister, our Beloved Aunt Lucille. One was an adorable custom design trimmed in fur with matching hat… a fitted bodice with a pleat and a bow… so Coco Chanel… so fashionably Aunt Lucy!

Aunt Lucille was my favorite aunt…generous, kind, open, trusting, sensual and comfortable in her own skin, with an adoring husband who was a reflection of God’s generosity and love. As my sister and I poured over grateful memories of Aunt Lucille, I silently reflected on her many lessons. I, unlike Aunt Lucille was very independent…fixated on it in such a way that I felt that my success solely depended on my effort, and not experiencing success somehow indicated a failure or shortcoming on my part. It was difficult for me to be open to certain unseen opportunities and other good things that were also possible. Of course, I’ve since gained insight concerning some of the factors that reinforced those tendencies, and part of my earthly “metamorphosis” has been about learning to surrender in order to receive… to let go so that more can come in. Truly, no small thing for a “do-it-yourselfer.” In a recent dream the Archetypes remind me about trust:

I have an itch in my back and can’t reach it because my arm is injured. A man builds me a short bristle brush attached to the wall so that I can rub my back against it. There’s a shift and I’m wearing a short cloak like Queen Ramonda’s in “Black Panther.” I’m wondering how I’m going to relieve my itch while wearing it. Then I’m wearing a full-length fur coat…luxurious, gorgeous… but how will I relieve my itch while wearing it?

Duh, it’s not about the itch, Cheptu! I chuckle seeing myself in this dream. Of course, my arm is disabled because it’s all about me learning to be in the adequacy of the One greater than me. My gosh, if my Beloved cares about the little itch on my back, won’t he care for me in the cloak of my empowerment? The cloak and even a full-length fur coat don’t present any problems for my itch…it’s just all in my head.

Sometimes we must surrender the need to figure things out and simply accept the gift. Trust that you are being led, that you are being shaped and formed, and your needs supplied. Untighten some of that grip and allow the Universe to step in. Allow the path that is uniquely yours to unfold. We are in many ways like Wakandans. No two had the identical path or role. You just pick up yours and wear it. Walk in your own skin and trust the Universe to do what it does with generosity, power and provision and even a little comic relief when you need it. Wear the cloak and Journey Home.

Love,
Cheptu

HOMEGOING

Dream: I’m with a large group of African people…hundreds…walking through an underground passageway to a dock where we’ll board a ship. It feels so familiar, as if I have been here before. We’re all walking in the same direction with a sense of purpose. Large metal rust-covered planks on the ground connect us to the massive vessel before us…not a ship, but more like a ferry boat. It’s crowded, with hundreds, maybe thousands, and still more to get on. I feel anxious, hoping there’ll be enough space for me. A lady is near me…tall, large, bold…like a Nigerian market lady in one of my children’s storybooks. She shows me how to call out to someone far away by using her powerful diaphragm muscles. “Yaa-Yaa!” she shouts in a gutsily strident tone. I call one syllable as loudly as I can, but not nearly as strong as hers. I finally get the hang of it and call both syllables heartily with my full voice. Mahershala Ali appears. He’s standing right beside me! I feel comforted by his presence and know he’ll be with me for the rest of the journey. I like being both near him and the lady. I feel full, celebrated and connected to everything and everybody.

This is a celebration dream that means so much as I compare it to a much older dream, the first one I recall having that directly referenced or took place on the African continent. In that dream of seven years ago, I’m a girl child who gets separated from my tribe. I’m assaulted and transported to a Nigerian marketplace where I surreptitiously try to communicate to others that I’ve been abducted and need help. Men are lying around lackadaisically, as if in a daze. They can’t help me. Some women attempt to intervene, but gunfire breaks out and I am killed. About a year later I have a dream about being manacled by my wrist in the bottom of a slave ship. A dream of abject pain and misery that left me with waking life physical symptoms that took 2+ years of qigong and bodywork to clear.

Of course, the two dreams are trauma dreams referencing my ancestral past related to the transatlantic slave trade. I understand today that the people in the marketplace couldn’t help me in the dream because they are also captured and traumatized. I carried the memory of all of it in my cells and bones. I spent years working through the trans-generational shame around my blackness because of the legacy of colonization, chattel enslavement and constant beating of pervasive American racism. I underwent processes of eradicating the shame, deconstructing faulty thinking, and re-educating myself from a healthier African perspective. I studied and traveled near and far in the pursuit of primordial wisdom and experiences to set my mind on a different path and learn how to remain grounded when my trauma gets triggered. It was powerful, dedicated, persevering work.

Those dreams paralleled additional layers of my inner work. I also had to look at my “shadow material,” the ways that I had co-opted with the lies I had learned and the ways I covered my shame and vulnerability with my “go-to” shells of aloofness, false pride, pseudo-independence and over-responsibility. My dreams also showed me my blind spots and shortcomings…after all, it’s about setting the soul free from ALL its shackles and bondage. AND it’s a continual process of becoming, hence, the Now Journey. In my ferry boat dream, not only am I returning to my geographical and spiritual home, but I’m also returning home metaphorically. “Home” in my body, “home” in my psyche…home in my inner support systems that more accessible to me now because I’ve worked through my trauma. There’s no abandonment or captivity here!

I’m enjoying the gift of feeling alive, celebrated and reconnected with throes of support all around me and in me (it’s been there all along, but now I am more conscious of it). Mahershala Ali (an actor who I greatly admire, respect and love) stands in the role of the Divine Male. He is not lackadaisical or traumatized, but very present. And the Divine Feminine (represented by the Nigerian market lady) is not trapped, but free and bold and gutsy. In the beginning of the dream, there’s a part of me that feels separated, although I’m in the presence of the many others. When I feel separated, my anxiety rises and my old fear kicks in that there won’t be enough, or that I might get left behind. Somehow, I intuitively know to go to the Market Lady/Healer because I end up right beside her. It’s when I acknowledge my vulnerability and know my need, that I know to seek help. And isn’t it interesting how in the dream, as soon as I call out with my whole heart, the Mahershala/Divine Male shows up. He was there all along, I just couldn’t see him when I was in an anxious state of mind.

Many persons are born with the immense capacity to hold embedded memories and the energies of their current and past lives and ancestral stories. These stories tell of greatness, but also tell of tragedy. Our dreams reveal, with astonishing clarity, the conglomeration of all the things we’ve had to do to survive trauma. They also reveal the ways we quell the dissonance in our minds when snippets of truth come to us that we feel safer to not see, not feel, and not know.

My cultural/ethnic background and historical experience gives my dreams a particular flavor. Your “flavor” may be different because of your historical or ethnic background, but what’s common among us is that our dreams are always leading us “home,” back to our true nature, before the terror, separation, humiliation and deprivation. Our dreams are sometimes sweet and compassionate, sometimes confrontative. Sometimes somber, sometimes engagingly comedic. Sometimes tender, sometimes with awe-filled force; however always serving our highest good. When we pay attention and open ourselves to their messages, and partake of the “medicine” they bring, we can be led through the tunnel of all the trauma and the “hiccups” back to higher ground to reclaim our primal, authentic juice…back to true and lasting joy.

HOMEGOING . . . that’s what the Now Journey is all about.

With Love,
Cheptu