After the hell that I have experienced in my life, I never thought that I would be judged and condemned for my current level of optimism. Yet there I was on the other end of a phone call that had me questioning- not my disposition on life- but why I was conversing with someone who could not see that I was just trying to help.
“Your annoying friend is on the phone!”
I was in middle school but I don’t remember my exact age. My routine was the same every day. Get up, get dressed, go to school, just barely survive the day, come home, and call my bestie to recap my version of the day. We went to the same middle school but we were in different classes so it was natural for us to need to go home and replay the entire day from each other’s unique perspective. I had to know what happened in her classes and she had to hear about mine. What happened on her drive home versus what happened on my bus ride or walk home? These were crucial details that we just had to know! So this particular day I called her after school like normal but her brother answered the phone. I mean, he was as cool as a high school brother could be so, naturally, he had friction with his younger sister’s best friend. Yet this day when he answered the phone, he changed my perception of life forever.
He answered and then stepped away from the phone to call Amy. Instead of announcing me by name, he gave me a “nickname” that has haunted me for over 20 years. I have forgotten many things in my life, but I have never forgotten that day and I have never forgotten those words. Those words haunt me in the deepest recesses of my mind. Whenever I “do too much” or even when I am just by myself, I hear his words and reflect on the fact that I am just annoying; no, people don’t love me, they just tolerate me. Unhealed levels of rejection and abandonment rise to the top of my being when I think on that day and those words. I promise, I have tried to forget the words, better yet, I’ve tried to heal from it… but just like that Baltimore cockroach that hasn’t died after copious amounts of Raid and shoe-slapping, the comment lives and refuses to die.
And those words gracefully proceeded to the front of my mind as I sat on the phone this particular morning with this particular person. Twenty-plus years later and I was still that annoying friend…
Well, damn; am I really that annoying???
About 5ish years ago I stopped drinking and I stopped cursing- for two different reasons. I had to quit drinking because I was beginning to see strong signs of addiction rising up and I needed to walk away while I still had control of my feet. My dad had struggled with substance misuse and I saw how I was misusing alcohol. I didn’t want to continue damaging my liver or my life so I put down my red cup. Many people think my decision to stop drinking was because of my relationship with God. Fair; I get that. Truth is, I love God but I wasn’t trying to meet Him because of liver failure, drunk driving, or any other tragic situation that arises from alcohol misuse. PAUSE– please note my choice of words. I am intentionally not saying “abuse” or “addict”. There is a reason; hit me up later to understand my word choices. Now profanity, that change was about God. My heart truly felt the MANY scriptures that talk about the power of the tongue (here are some…) and I chose to swap out the profanity for wholesome words that could better express the thoughts of my heart. Yet, in full disclosure, sometimes only “damn” will do. Please, Lord, forgive me…
I recall the beginning [and ending] of many of my friendships and see that one thing was common- I was too damn happy. Always smiling, always laughing, always finding the good in every situation… Apparently, that is too overwhelming to everyone that I meet. People talked about me behind my back and in front of my face…
“Why are you so damn happy?”
“Calm down, it’s not that serious…”
“Do you always have to be so annoyingly optimistic?”
Well, yeah, I do.
For all of those who wonder why I am always so happy, why I rise and choose joy every morning, let me transport you back to February 2016. I almost killed myself- literally**. More than life, love, or laughter, I wanted death to consume me. No longer did I want the pain that I was feeling to have any control over me and I thought the only way to escape that pain was to end my life. You see, I smile and live today because I looked death in the eye and chose to walk the other way. More than anything else, I know that I am only a few bad mornings away from that same place and I’ll be damned if I allow depression to consume me again the way it did back then.
You don’t know the cost of my joy…
I get it- my disposition on life can be too much for most. Even before depression was a word in my vocabulary, I could not stand those people who seemed to wake up with a smile on their faces. Like, bruh, what kind of caffeine you sipping on; how you wake up happy??? I legitimately could not understand how some people could not see the pain of this earth and all of the evil that was here. How can you smile when children are dying? How can you be so chipper when racism exists? How _ when _? Those are the questions that continued to linger in my mind back then. I woke up in emotional and mental anguish every day, not realizing that the state of my mind was continuing to poison and kill my heart.
Growing up, Dr. Ben Carson was my favorite person in the whole entire world. I loved him so much that even I wanted to be a Pediatric Neurosurgeon. LOL! I couldn’t even spell either part of that occupation back then but I wanted to be one so badly! As the name implies, Pediatric Neurosurgeons perform brain surgeries on children and that’s what I wanted to do. Even back then, I knew that the mind was a powerful and delicate tool and that changing it could change the life of its host. I had to release the mental anguish in order to live and live abundantly as God had intended. The depression and pain that I was feeling was too real but it was also not what God had intended for me… or you.
Beloved, I will never, ever diminish the pain that you feel in your life. However, I will tell you that there is still a reason to live and a reason to find joy. You can be in the midst of a storm, and still rejoice because you are still above water. While you have breath in your body, there is a reason to live and there is good to come. I dare you to believe me and find strength in my words…
Yet, there is a thing called Toxic Positivity.
One can be overwhelmingly positive, giving way to toxicity, and I completely respect that. I pray that I have never been that way towards you and if I have, I sincerely apologize. I do not aim to be someone who rushes someone out of their emotions, if anything, I just wanted to be someone who sat with you in your emotions and reminded you that both you and the emotions were real and valid. If I have ever done anything else, I am so sorry, Sweet Friend.
But what I will never apologize for is choosing joy. I will never apologize for believing that “good” is possible and that light awaits me in the midst of the darkest night. I will never apologize for praising my way out of a painful moment or choosing to pull on the strength of the Lord when the weight of the world tried to consume me. Nah, I ain’t apologizing for that…
Yes, I may be annoying and I may have more optimism than most would like to experience in one setting but I’ve been through HELL and back and if God has chosen to keep me, I choose to keep my joy. So, here I am at a crossroads. I can choose to hold onto the pain … OR… I can release and run towards the possibility of God’s better. In the words of Mary Mary, “I’m running…”
More truth… As I wrote this piece, I was listening to Kendrick Lamar’s new album (this was written on 5/14/22) on Spotify. After the new jawn finished, a classic Kendrick came on and my little fingers were typing to the rhythm of what I know is my life’s anthem. No matter what I’ve been through, one thing that I know for sure is that I’m gon’ be ALRIGHT!
And so are you, Friend!
**If you or someone you know are experiencing depression or suicidal thoughts, please seek help. Contact 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to speak to professionals who are able to provide the assistance that you need. You are not alone.