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This time 20 years ago, I was the talk of Black America. My cover story in the December issue of Essence magazine had hit the new stands. Essence had dared to put a woman on the cover of their magazine that was not a celebrity or a super model, but a typical young black women, living with AIDS.

I was every young black woman who thought that she was doing everything right in her dating life. Despite of the fact that I had grown up in a physically, emotionally and sexually abusive household, I had managed to escape, drugs and alcohol. I had gone to college. I had a professional career.

I had done everything I thought to do as a young woman living in the 80's. I never had a one night. I never had sex on the first date, but I was in search of the right man to live my fairy tail life, for the rest of my life. You know, a career, a husband, a house and 2.5 kids, that's two kids and a dog. With dating came sex. There were very few virgins in the 80's. This was the era of Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing and Diana Ross, "Love Hangover." Sexually Transmitted diseases were not on the radar. The first cases of AIDS were primarily white, gay and male. Even as late as 1987 Cosmopolitan magazine told women if they only had "heterosexual sex," they could not get HIV.  For the most part, the rule for young women of my generation was to not get pregnant out of wedlock and embarrass your mother. We saw "protection" as birth control pills.

Until 1991 when Magic Johnson announced that he was infected with HIV most of us in Black America only saw HIV/AIDS through the eyes of our gay relative on one end and our drug addict cousin on the other.  Or the television version, white, gay, male that looked like death was knocking at their door. Even then, we thought Magic was an exception to the rule. Many dismissed him as a "special case." Rich, good looking, and famous, we concluded that he probably had enough sex for a hundred men, thats how he became infected. Since most of us don't have that kind of sex, HIV was out of our reach, so we thought.

Then came me and the Essence cover story.  I had only been speaking for about six months when Susan Taylor asked me to be on the cover and tell my story. At the time, I had been infected with HIV since 1983, but I didn't learn about my status until I donated blood December 1986.

So when I appeared on the cover of Essence, I had actually known my HIV status for 7 years.  But for the most part I had basically kept my status a secret. Other than the men I dated, those first seven years I only told 5 people. When I made a transition to AIDS in 1992, I started to disclose to my friends. Then on a fluke, about a year later or should I say in God's purpose and plan, I started speaking locally in Chicago high schools. Then I met Susan. It all happened so quickly.  I had no idea the impact my story would have on the lives of others or on me; or that it would place me in the national arena and change my life forever.

In retrospect, it was our density, mine and Essence magazine. Even among Essence staff there was a debate over my cover story. It was pure audacity at the time. I thank God for His perfect plan and for giving both me and Susan Taylor the, editor and chief of Essence  the courage to follow that little voice inside of us, that said "this feels right. "For years women have told me the impact my story had on their life. Women still bring that magazine to speaking engagements for autographs.

There were other controversies around the cover story. Many AIDS Activist were angry with me because of the title., "Im Young, I'm Young free, I'm Dying of AIDS." Declaring that I was dying on the cover of a national magazine they said, made HIV/AIDS dark and hopeless. But honestly, AIDS was that dark back then and to give some pep talk contrary to the current situation would have been a lie. I was proud and not deterred by criticism.

Twenty years later, my Essence cover story has become one of the most iconic articles of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and I humbled.

I am equally thankful that I lived to see the 20th anniversary of this cover story. I thank God for my doctor who never gave up on me when  medications barley kept you alive. She was always looking for next; And no matter how complicated the next treatment was or how sick it made me I did it.

 I am also grateful for the continued relationship with Essence magazine. You can check out the 20th anniversary feature story on me in the December 2014 issue. You can also watch my video interview with Essence HERE

If you missed the December issue featuring me at the newsstands, you can read it HERE

Foot Note: In Celebration of the 20th anniversary... RLT Collection is 20% off! Coupon Code RLT20 And take a peak at the 20 Collection  that I designed in honor. Fab Bracelet designs all in red. SHOP HERE


World AIDS Day!! On Monday December 1, 2014 Essence Magazine is hosting a Google Hangout with me at 3pm EST. The Host will be Essence Relationship Editor Charreah Jackson and writer on the December 2014 anniversary article on me. Please join the conversation. Nothing will be to personal as we reflect on the 20th anniversary of the iconic Essence cover story on my life and all the important issues surrounding HIV/AIDS.

This is the link it you want to cut and paste Or just Click HERE!

Join the conversation!

One Day At A Time!

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For the last few months I've been sitting still. Not because I didn't want to move but I've just been stuck. Depression has that way on you. It seems to just grab you and not let go. It paralyzes you in the worst kind of way. 

Over the years I've had mild bouts of depression but nothing on this magnitude since I transitioned to AIDS twenty- two years ago. Back then I thought that I was never going to get AIDS and when I did, it caused the worst mental health crisis of my life.  I cried all day and I was barely making it through my daily routine. I started medication but I think the turning point was when I started speaking at high schools here in Chicago. God gave my life new purpose and meaning and that turned things around.  

But this time there has been no turning point just slow progress. 

Over the last couple of years I've had so much trauma in my life. Any one thing could have triggered depression but combined they were the monster that paralyzed me. People take trauma lightly, but it has an impact on ones life. Over these years my health has required so much to manage. 

On and off IV medication to treat the drug resistant herpes because my immune system can't fight it off with regular pills. My veins becoming occluded as a result, not one but two ports placed that didn't work. Diarrhea I couldn't control, then constipation with no relief. And I still have 15 pills to take a day.  My finances hitting so rock bottom with no speaking engagements in sight. It's more than a notion to have to choose between groceries or  your light bill. Then being kicked out of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority over my tweets and the unkindness that followed. Women who called me sister turned on me because I dared to speak up. And quite as it's kept, some still dig at me via social media. Then my precious poodle Sophie died in July. One week she was barking for bacon and then the next week I was told she had cancer.  She became so sick in a matter of a week I had to put her down. 

Then let's not forget, HIV itself effects the neurons in the brain that effects your Serotonin.  Those living with HIV are prone to depression. So over the years I've been on and off antidepressants to keep it in tack. But I was caught off guard when Sophie died. I had been off Zoloft for a few months and before I realized it I was so far gone into a deep depression. Depression is a strange illness. It not only takes away your joy but simple things like daily living. It paralyzes you in a way that even taking shower is to overwhelming. 

The fighter in me knew that I was in trouble back in August. My therapist and I shifted gears. For a while I was having sessions twice a week. Then she referred me to a incriable psychiatrist. The psychiatrist wasn't taking any new patients, but when I called she was the one to actually answer the phone, and bam I'm in!  So she's been working to get me properly medicated these last couple of months. And they both have been working to help me fight depression as best as I can. The way God works is awesome. He seems to get me what I need, you just have to be willing to go for it.

At first I was guilty that super woman hadn't kicked in. I kept telling myself, "Pull it together girl." But honestly, I didn't have the energy to push or pull. Depression takes away everything but your breath.

Then I had to accept that this is an illness like any other and you have to do what you can each day, one day at time.  Now, for sure you have to do something or it will consume you. But I had to accept that my something is baby steps. But baby steps are better than no steps.  This has been hard for a super woman like me. But I accept my victories whatever they are and however they come.  Like I've showered everyday for the last three weeks and actually read my morning devotional with tea. I was going two-three days without a shower. For real y'all. The last two weeks I've opened my computer that was a victory a small step that got me here today writing a blog for the first time in two months. Understand something, depression is so overwhelming that even opening the computer can be to much. 

So I take my small victories in this war on the way to winning this battle. But I'm not letting shame or pressure to be what people need me to be to guide what I do or don't do. If I feel like posting on Social Media I do. If I feel like talking or responding to a text or call I do. But if I don't oh well, prayerfully there will be another day.  

For sure I can see progress. I have come a long way since my Sophie died. I know that God still has work for me. I have not given up, even if it seems like I have. I'm just fighting this battle, One Day At A Time. 

I've thought about suicide everyday since Robin Williams took his own life. The pain he must have felt at that moment must have been all consuming. I've been battling depression in the worst kind of way. I'm not sure how I got here but after Sophie passed I seemed to have gone over the edge. I talk about my grief and the onset of my depression in Drowning I and II. I saw myself slipping more and more into this darkness and tried to pull my way out with a plan that just went straight to hell in a hand basket one minute at a time. 

After Robin Williams death my mind started racing and I started to panic. I even asked my therapist about suicide and she said that most people don't give a lot of thought to it before they take their life. It's an impulsive act. The person becomes all consumed at the moment in time and it seems the only way out. In truth it scared me. Right now my life seems to be on some kind of autopilot ran by someone other than me. No matter how hard I try I can't seem to do any of the things that I set out to do. It's like this, I say I'm going to go one way and I actually go another. Shit most days I don't go at all, I just be. 

I came to the conclusion that  I'm tired.... I'm tired of thinking.... I'm tired of taking medication... I'm tired of trying to make life happen... I'm tired of being this super famous black woman with AIDS... I'm tired of doing it on my own.. I'm tired of trying to save those that I'm suppose to be saving...  I'm tired of trying to make life work... I'm  FUCKING tired of AIDS... I'm tired of deciding if I should buy groceries or pay my cell phone bill with the little money I do manage to get. I'm tired, tired, tired. I'm even tired of being tired, so I just be.

Most days I don't have the energy to wash my tail. No joke, I can go 2-3 days without bathing. I say to myself, "Rae you stink" but most days I feel like I have a ball and chain around my neck and making it to the shower requires to much of me. So I do nothing. I marvel at the few times I've recently had commitments that were unavoidable and I was forced to make myself look like a woman with the world at my feet. When it's all said and done, I come home and with the stroke of a cloth I wipe the facade off my face, inch by inch by inch, and then I just be.

Some days I make it to the kitchen to cook at least the meat but cannot muster up the energy to make a vegetable. It's easier to eat cookies for breakfast and cheetoes for lunch. It requires only that I open the bag. Eating chocolate is even easier than washing fruit. I can't  remember to take my medication and that's with my alarm set. I hit the button and I know what I'm suppose to do but doing it requires something of me. Quite frankly I'm tired of expectations, even those that will save my life.

I have never felt this level of hopelessness ever in my life. Even when mama was beating the living shit out of me I knew that she would eventually stop and I could go back to being a "normal" little girl just like my friends. Even when I was raped at 17 coming home from church, I knew deep down that when he finished his "business" he would roll off my body like water and I could go home and wash him out of my spirit. Even when my T-Cell count was 8 and I was on my third bout of PCP  (Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia) I had faith that God still had a plan. In all of my life there was faith in what I could not see. 

Right now, I'm even tired of faith. I'm tired of hoping and praying for better tomorrow's in my right now pain. I want God to intervene in my right now, but right now he seems to be silent and His silence has exhausted me. I'm tired.... 

Be clear though, based on my history with God and my deep understanding of how God operates, I know that God has a plan for the rest of my life. Frankly, it is only that knowing of God that keeps me alive when I'm tired of living. I'm a tad curious on how this thing will play itself out. I'm probably  just plain nosy, but for sure, curiosity and hope are two very different things 

Yet at the same time, any hope in God's plan for my tomorrow are overshadowed by my desolate right now. It feels like God has taken a freaking vacation on my life and just maybe some of my depression is connected to my faith; And honestly, church folk don't help God out one bit. The fact that I haven't been to church since the first day of Lent and the only thing any member of my church can tell you about me is what they read on Facebook is just... I'll leave that one alone for now.  I'm unpacking all of this in therapy. 

For sure, I understand that all consuming feeling and it has exhausted me into a place of just being.  Maybe the thing that helps to keep me alive besides my curiosity with God plan for my life, is that I'm just to tired to do anything other than just be. 

I attended a screening of the documentary A Sacred Journey  sponsored by Clorox CareConcepts. It was a heart wrenching and heart filled story of one film maker, Ernesto Quintero brother's journey with ALS and his families role as caregivers.

This was perfect timing in the back drop of the recent ice bucket challenge among celebrities to support ALS. For me I was able to learn more about this devastating disease, but equally important is the conversation about caregiving.  After the screening there was a very thoughtful and honest dialogue about caregiving with a panel of experts, including the film director Ernesto.

The documentary begins when Ernesto's brother  Juan is diagnosed with ALS.  This film touched the very core of me. It is one man's courage to fight against the odds. The film highlighted Juan's desire to give something back to the community.  He decided that he wanted to leave a legacy by painting a mural for his former elementary school. Juan rallied his close knit family and they all rose to the occasion to make his dream come true.

I was overwhelmed by this story of courage and perseverance. As ALS ravaged his body, Juan held onto his spirit. It made me think about my own 31 year journey of living with HIV and AIDS for 22. Right now, I'm at a junction in my life where I'm incredibility tired. Tired of medications, tried of sickness, tired of trying to make it happen, just simply tired. 

This documentary helped me to put things into perspective.  ALS is an horrible degenerative  disease. As I watched the documentary I  could do nothing but think, at least I can walk and use my limbs. Now be clear, I never compare illnesses because I believe each persons journey should stand on its on merit. Pain is pain and should never be measured. What one person can withstand, my devastate another and vice-versa. But this film made me at least acknowledge that even living with AIDS, I am blessed on so many levels.

I was struck by the strong family support and solidarity surrounding Juan. The father knocked me off my feet when he said, "God is the doctor of all doctors." This is one strong family in the face of one tough illness.

The family have risen to the occasion of caring for Juan. Caregiving is not easy. I remember those days when I took care of my mother during her battle with cancer of the mouth. It was a long 2 1/2 years. The commuting her back and fourth to the hospital for chemotherapy. The midnight calls and runs to the hospital. Even preparing her to come home from the hospital was not easy. Just trying to decide how I should clean her apartment and what to use that was safe for the both of us took work.

This documentary definitely stuck a cord.  I know first hard that there are very little resources for caregiving. I was impressed with this family as they provide around the clock care for Juan.

I was also impressed with Clorox's innovative project Care Concepts When Care Comes Homes. Clorox has created a full line of cleaning and personal products for caregivers.  As a person living with a chronic illness, these products will be helpful for me and truly, any basic personal care needs for a family.

The most impressive part is that Clorox took this concept a step beyond making products. When Care Comes Home is an important on-line resource guide for caregivers.  There is a caregivers guide from day to day caregiving with steps along the way. It is especially refreshing to see the partnership with the council of experts on the various topics of caregiving.

There are 66 millions Caregivers in the United States and very little conversation. Caregiving and Caregivers are important but yet forgotten. I think Clorox's When Care Comes Home is a great project. Parenting with Ernesto to create dialogue around caregiving is wonderful.  Overall it was a great evening combining the arts and healthcare eduction. Oh yeah and lots of popcorn.

There will be two more screening of this documentary with a panel discussion that will also include Ernesto. One in Los Angeles on Oct 1, at the CineFamily Silent Theater where Juan and his family lives and another on November 13, 2014 in Washington, D. C. at the West End Cinema.  You should consider attending.

Of course, the evening was not complete until Ernesto did the ice bucket challenge for his brother Juan.

Ferguson In Photos

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 Olson Images

The images coming out of Ferguson, Missouri are nothing short of AMAZING. Yet there have been clear violations of the First Amendment with arrest of journalist. The ACLU have filed a law suit on behalf of journalist  and freedom of the press. Some of the most incredible photos have come from photo journalist Scott Olson of Gettys Images. I would not be surprised if he won a Pulitzer Prize for his images. Scott was also arrested last week.

Scott Olson Being Arrested

Two of Olson's photos appear on the cover of national magazines this week Time and Bloomberg Businessweek. For those of us on Twitter we have seen this protest through photos, not just those taken by the media but also those taken by citizens with their telephones. Times have really changed. If you are not on Twitter  all you have to relay on to capture this movement are news outlets. I thought that I would share some of these amazing photos with you. ( I give photo credit to those I know for sure)

Scott Olson Image

They also marched in the day...

This man stayed on the picket line.

These men were stopping looters /Olson Image

She was passing out water and snacks to the protesters

Jack the co-owner of Twitter Jack passes out Roses

The Roses Caught On!

Owners of the Barbeque Joint came back before the week was up.

Trying to get tear gas out of her eyes...

The Nation arrived to protest at night and to help keep peace

Rev. Jesse Jackson 

And then they marched....

Michael Brown Lying in the Streets.

Praying for Chief Johnson who was given the duty of Ferguson Security. 

Black Love on the Front Line... Joe Raedle/Getty Image

The New Black Panther Party worked the streets at night helping to control looting and violence

St. Louis Councilman Antonio French has been there from day one!

Monks Came From Tibet

Chief Johnson

Olson Image

This was called an Amazing moment between Chief Johnson and a Protester.

Roses down the street Mike Brown was killed

Other Ferguson Post:

Michael Brown and The Politics of Respectability

The Case of Mike Brown

I have to admit, when I first saw the picture of Michael Brown laying in the middle of a Ferguson street, my first reaction was, 'Here we go again." Then my impulse was to say, "But what about black on black crime?" and I said as much in a Facebook post that I have since deleted. I'm the first to admit when I am wrong no matter the context. For sure my frustration with Chicago's violence is not an excuse for insensitivity of anyone's death, no matter the circumstance.

Then I turned to Twitter and everything changed. The tweets on Michael Brown's death and the police standoff was all consuming. I got sucked into the hashtags #Ferguson and #MikeBrown. Black Twitter had taken up the case of Mike Brown and was demanding  justice. The  images coming out of Ferguson from tweets were powerful. The "RT" re-tweets were massive and have been non-stop since Mike's death. Mainstream media are now admitting that Twitter broke the real story and brought worldwide attention to the murder of this young man. Can you image Palestinians tweeting residents of Ferguson on how to handle tear gas? Twitter has that power.

To catch you up to date based on the information that I have today. An 18 year old, unarmed young man by the name of Michael Brown was shot by police officer Darren Wilson, who has been a member of the mostly white (50 of 53) police department of Ferguson for 4 years.

Michael and his friend Dorian Johnson where walking down the middle of the street when Officer Wilson asked the boys to get out of the middle of the street. According to Dorian, they had a few words, Officer Wilson pulled off, then backed up. After trying unsuccessfully to pull Mike Brown into the car through the window, Officer Wilson then got out of the car and started shooting. They started running after the first shot.  Two additional eye witness confirms the story of Dorain that Mike Brown, eventually stopped put his hands in the air and Officer Wilson continued to shoot. A preliminary autopsy was released today, indicating that there were at least 6 shots to the front of the body with 2 being to the head.

Tensions rose to an all time high after the police let Mike Brown's body lay in the streets for 4 hours and a good portion of that Mike seemed to have been uncovered. His mother, father and family looked on in horror. This video says it all. (warning, the language is graphic)

Tensions rose and eventually led to a stand off with black members of the community and the Ferguson police draped in military gear before any outside intervention. There was a standoff for four days that erupted into a riot, tear gas, rubber bullets and arrest. The press had given Michael Brown's death almost no coverage until two reporters were arrested. Most of the news was coming from Twitter. In fact, through Twitter news outlets learned of the journalist arrest.

Ferguson is in turmoil and adding to the fuel was the police departments handling of the case. In addition to the blatant disregard for the protesters, it took nearly a week to disclose the name of the officer  and then from a Freedom of Information request.

Officer Wilson Picture was released by Yahoo News

Wilson's name but not his picture was released on Friday in the back drop of information about Mike Brown that had no bearing on his murder. This created even more tension on the ground in Ferguson and Twitter exploded dissecting Chief's Thomas Jackson statement and calling out the hypocrisy, forcing him to have another press conference that afternoon clarifying the press conference that morning.

All eyes are on Ferguson as the protest and clashes with law enforcement continues. As I write this blog post, the National Guard is rolling into Ferguson to restore order, peace on the other hand, can only be restored when the murderer of Michael Brown is brought to justice.

Me, well I have lots more to say about my life  and HIV/AIDS for sure, but right now I have lots  to say about the micro topics surrounding the death of Mike Brown and the situation in Ferguson. More blog posts are forthcoming. On Friday I wanted to tweet my usual #FuckinFriday hashtag focusing on HIV prevention, but was virtually paralyzed. What could I say to young people about safe sex in a society where their life is not valued and right wing, racist trolls are seeking out the hashtag #Ferguson and tweeting that Mike was just another koon?


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The other day I Googled dating to get pictures for a blog post and the images that popped up were all of some sort of reference to dating on-line. Like for real, for real, so many pictures came up with computer images with hearts that I rechecked to make sure that I had actually searched dating, or that some sort of auto-correct hadn't led me to online dating. LOL!

A while back you may recall that I blogged about dating and told you about a dating site for people with sexually transmitted diseases called Positive Singles. I talked about being lonely and wanting to date in that two part series. I tried that dating site and while it didn't work well for me, I know someone else who gave it a try and it worked just fine. I think my deal breaker was that I said in my profile, "I'm very public about both my HIV and herpes status." I'm sure most people are on those sites because it's easier to disclose to someone in the same situation, which was my reasoning for joining and blogging about them in the first place. Yet at same time, a person living with a sexually transmitted disease may be struggling with stigma issues. My publicness is not a comfortable place for someone who is living in secret.  I mean, I am infected and I talk about it to everyone who will listen. I'm over  stigma. I'm just waiting on the rest of the world to catch up with me. The other thing, I met Mr. Handsome around the same time I signed up at Positive Singles and I've never been the type of woman, to spread myself thin, so I just deleted my no action account. 

Speaking of Mr. Handsome, I met him online of sorts. It wasn't a dating site but for sure it was online and he knew he was approaching a woman living with HIV/AIDS. It didn't work and that doesn't make him a bad guy, or how we met bad, it just didn't work. Somethings we ought not add value that doesn't belong. So here I am again, alone and sometimes more than others, lonely. 

Meeting guys is an uphill battle for me. Mainly because I spend a lot of time by myself. If you don't go any place you can't meet anyone, a former therapist would always tell me. In full disclosure I will admit that I kind of have "only child syndrome." I like spending time with myself. I've never been one of those people who needed someone to have dinner with or to entertain me. Shoot, I can play monopoly by myself. I got skills! LOL 

Other barriers for me when it comes to meeting men, and going out, is that I don't drink and I hate bars. So what's a 52 year old woman living with HIV/AIDS in the public sphere to do? The hell if I know! I have been wondering though if I should try some of these social dating sites. Not a paid site or anything. I'm not paying anyone to help find me a date. At least I'm saying that today. 

I have a friend that does one free site and have actually gone on a date here or there. But I'm not sure if I have the patience for men winking at me. Like really, I don't know how to make small talk. Everything is always so serious for me. Everything has meaning. I don't see much in life as neutral. This is another reason why friends male or female, dating or otherwise haven't always worked out well for me. I never seem to give it a break, that is life on life terms. Not too many topics seem to be causal for me. Tiara and I go through this a lot, she mentions something and I always have a lecture to add onto the passing topic. 

Okkkkkkk, so what is a woman who sees everything in black and white to do? Should I go ahead and give one of these dating sites more then a week? Again, in full disclosure, I even downloaded an app on my iPad about 2 months ago, but after a week of winks I just deleted the app. Maybe it was timing. I joined the site about 2 weeks before I went back on IV medication and had the Lipo procedure. I was in so much pain and discomfort winking and small talk was not appealing to me.

This online dating/ app thing seems to be the trend. Now I'm still nervous and cautious about these sites. There are sociopaths in this world and dating sites are great turf for liars, but shoot, I've also met liars in church, from the pulpit to the pew.

Maybe I should put my big girl panties on and give one of these sites more than a week or two. I guess I will never really know if I don't give it an honest try. It may at minimum give me something to do other than mope. It will for sure be interesting to see how men approach an HIV infected woman who happens to blog about her life. Or should I even say that I'm HIV Positive in my bio? In past I've siad that I was an AIDS Activist. I signed up for a free weekend trail of Match.Com about 9 or 10 years ago and one brother figured out who I was just by a couple of messages. Google is not my friend. LOL!  Well if I join one of these social dating site, it will definitely give me something to blog about. It may even render a favorable outcome. I don't know for sure, but what I do know is that I will never know, if I don't give it a try. 

More Than My Vagina!

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I broke my virginity two months after my 13th birthday. Looking back I'm not sure that I really wanted to have sex. Truth be told, at that time I didn't even realize what I was doing. All I really understood at the moment was that I didn't want James to stop liking me. I wanted the attention that he lavished on me to keep coming, and coming and coming, just like he did every time he got his 19 year old penis inside of my young vagina.

I didn't even particularly like sex, it would take another 3 years for that level of understanding and a man by the name of Randy for me to have that appreciation. What I did like was the attention that sex brought me. Sex with James meant that I had someone just for me and about me. I liked that James liked me and my young mind thought if I kept giving him the sex that he would like me forever. That is, until he took my girlfriend in the same room he had taken me. 

I sat stunned as she giggled her naive self right into the spot that I had been in the days before. As the door shut his super fine, just as fine as he was cousin looked me straight in the face and said, "You gonna let them get away with that"? He reached for my hand, "I'm better," he claimed. I got off that sofa as fast as I could. By the time I reached the side walk tears fluttered my face. What I felt was a sense of lost not one of anger.

I knew instinctively that I had lost two people that day, my boyfriend and my best friend. Mama had taught me one thing by the time I was 13, people are who they are. I didn't have the benefit of Maya Angelou's  famous quote, "When people show you who they are, believe them." I had Mama and what I knew about her from the earliest was the same that I knew on day 13, that people is, as people do. On most days I didn't like the way Mama treated me, but I had no escape. With other people I understood that I didn't ever have to stay where I was mistreated.

What I didn't learn from my first sexual encounter was that available pussy and even good pussy didn't make a man stay, love, or respect you. I remember my last guy, Mr. Handsome. He said to me after a weekend together, "You know you can take some dick" Ha, the pussy didn't make him want to give a relationship half of a chance. That is a fact! Pussy does not make a man stay.  

What I  know now that I didn't know in my younger years is that a man wanting a relationship with you or not with you ain't always about you, it's usually about him. The most respect I  have for Mr. Handsome is when he realized he preferred single over commitment, he was honest enough to admit it. The best thing I did for me, was to listen. I blogged about that once, when women hear but don't listen.  Women could save themselves so much heartache if we accept what is, rather than pushing what we want it to be. I'm not the casual kind of girl. I gave that up. As a result,  I don't put myself in a casual position. 

But for years I thought  if I could whip "it" on him, he would love me forever. Then, for even more years, I though that my pussy must be magical.  I mean men still wanted me with HIV. This narcissistic, rooted in low-self-esteem understanding of safe became especially true when married men or men otherwise attached wanted what was between my legs. Even men wanting and trying to have me without a condom gave me some misguided power.  "Girl," I  would say to myself, "You got some gold between your legs." For years my soul was between my legs. Every relationship I had began and ended just like the first one I ever had, between my legs. Interestingly though,  I never had a one night stand, every sex I ever had was in search of  a love of my own, when that search should have started from within. 

I was in my late 30's early 40's when I stopped playing the pussy game. I can't believe it took well over 25 years from that first encounter with James before I understood that my value had nothing to do with my vagina. For sure though, once I learned that lesson it was one that I've kept close to my heart even in the face of loneliness and being alone. 

To get to this place of wholeness I had to reduce the power of my vagina to increase who God created me to be. I had to hit the bottom before that lesson was learned. It took years of pain and self abuse to learn that I am  more than my vagina. 

Reducing the power of my vagina created space for me to value all of me. When I stopped focusing between my legs, I could see me in the fullness of Gods creation

Chicago!! I'm speaking August 13, 2013 in a panel discussion Cupcakes and Condoms!! Come hang out with me and engage in this important topic of women's sexual health, sex, love, dating and all of it!! The Little Black Pearl Workshop 1060 E. 47th Street. The event is sponsored by the Red PumpProject. Its free and open to the public, but they would like a head count RSVP HERE 

Drowning Part One!

Nausea and exhaustion merged and sleep took over. I woke the next morning in my hotel room curled up in the middle of the bed hugging the pillow. Something had come over me last night and it had been cathartic. I knew I needed to do better. "Sophie is not coming back," I told myself. "The good thing is the joy she brought you for eight years," I mumbled.  I remind myself of this daily. I remember when Oprah lost one of her white Lab's, Gracie after one year. She watched her die from swallowing a small toy. I had just gotten Sophie and could not  even image the pain she felt. I shuddered to think about it. I had Sophie for eight wonderful years.

As I made my morning tea I started to remember that Sophie had come to BlogHer last year with me. She was the bell of the lobby at the Sheraton Hotel and the official greeter at the MultiCulti party. I reflected on how happy she was going from arm to arm that night. I like the fact that BlogHer is dog friendly and Sophie fit right in! She was definitely Ms. Personality.

When I arrived back to Chicago I knew changes of some sort had to be made, but the moment I put my key in that door and there was no Sophie barking like crazy, dread swap over me. The worst part of being on earth without her is walking into silence each time I come home and waking in the morning without her being by my side. Adjusting to this this new life is hard, very hard. I'm not sure how long it's going to take for me to be at a better place.

My grief is real and so is my depression. I feel them in the debt of my Soul, yet there is a  part of me that is fighting, that wants to fight. I want to find a balance. I don't intend to avoid the grief but at the same time, I don't want the grief to control me. I didn't like how I felt in that hotel room in San Jose. I never want to be that self absorbed/consumed by one thing. I never want any one thing to have all of me. It's bad enough that HIV/AIDS has dictated a good portion of my life for most of my life. I want to control what I can. 

I understand that my depression is what the experts called "situational depression," which typically occurs after some sort of trauma and or traumatic changes  in your life. In my case, the sudden lost of Sophie. I'm having difficulties adjusting to the changes brought on by Sophie's passing and I just fucking miss her.

Situational depression is different for everyone as is major depression. For me, there hasn't been a day that has gone by that my heart hasn't ached for my baby girl. I've cried at least 32 of the 35 days she's been gone. 

Sleep is a far away thing that I believe will come back to me one day, but right now I haven't slept through the night if I slept at all. It takes everything and I mean EVERYTHING I got to do anything other than read and knit. And of course, I've been eating my way to hell and back.

It's been a week since BlogHer and that night in my hotel room consumed by Reese's Peanut Butter cookies and S'mores with bacon on top. I'm proud to say that I have made some changes. No, I'm not better, I just made some changes for the better. I live in the real world and I know that it is not going to get better over night, but I have at least stopped myself from total destruction. This is my plan!!

1) Working Out! Exercise is important for me. Not only does it make me feel better overall, it actually increases endorphins. The experts say that 1 hour of exercise will work as well as anti-depressants for mild depression. Speaking of anti-depressants, the week Sophie passed I started Trazodone because it has a sleep add. I stopped last week because I don't like being groggy in the morning and still sleep deprived because sometimes  the medication helps and other times it does not. 

 BTW I got 3 days of Crossfit in last week. That's a start! If I don't make it to the gym, I make it up with the amount of walking I do. For example, I often walk home from therapy,which is about 3 miles. Or I try to take a walk on the lakefront.

2) Eating! I'm an emotional eater for sure and I have grain 10 pounds since Sophie passed.  My goal is to eat as clean as possible, which is where I was before my life changed. 

 For me eating cleans means that I I'm following either the Paleo Diet or Low-Fodmap diet set by my Gastroenterologist, usually, I'm somewhere in between.  Following these diets are important because they help my Irritable Bowl Syndrome. Since my eating has been whack, my body has been out of whack. I've become constipated again. This is not good!! I have no desire to be back on laxatives again. Remember the fiasco? The benefit of eating clean is weight control.

3) Not Setting Myself up for Failure! Because I'm such an emotional eater, what I bring into my house is important. On top of that, life is to short to deprive myself of sugar. *shrugs* I like dessert after a meal always has, always will. To be sure, I don't want to  over indulge. I make sure that I have fruit in the house at all times. I also buy popcorn in small bags like Skinny Pop or Trader Joe's Lite Kettle Corn.

I get cookies that go far in portion size verses calories.  For example, Trader Joe's Ginger Snaps, are 130 calories  for 6 cookies. By the time I reach the fifth cookie that impulse to eat has passed and the damage is minimum. BTW, they have them in tons of different flavors. Now, with those big ass cookies I was eating in San Jose, I had to be taking in close to 500-800 calories a cookie.

4) Therapy! I missed a lot of my therapy appointments prior to Sophie passing because of my health. Remember I was at home shut down on IV medication, then the liposuction procedure? Then our July routine was thrown off by scheduling for both me and my therapist.  I'm back at it, no missed appointments. This is an important part of my life. Therapy is a neutral place to process my pain without any judgments or expectations. It always leads me to a good place.

5) Be Kind to Myself! If I don't follow through on any of the above. I forgive myself at night and wake to a new day with fresh possibilities.

6) I'm getting another dog! I know that I cannot replace Sophie, nor would I ever try. In fact, all of my dogs have had there own personality and brought something different and wonderful to my life. But I've learned something new about myself in the last 35 days since Sophie's death. I need whatever it is a dog brings to my life and whatever it is that I bring to theirs. This is the first time in 21 years that I've been without a poodle and I'm not going to deprive myself because I cannot have Sophie. Stay Tuned!

Coping with lost of any sort is hard. Each of us must figure out the best path that will lead to the best outcomes. The darkness will pass if we don't fight against the darkness, like going against the gain. The darkness will pass if you don't plant yourself in the darkness, holding onto it for the life of you. It will pass, for nothing stays the same. Remember, no experience is ever wasted, not even moments of  darkness. As for me, I'm sure when the light starts to trickle through the darkness, I will look back and say, Aha, I see what was learned in these moments of darkness.



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