Can anything be sadder than work left unfinished? Yes; work never begun. -– Christina Rossetti
Horrified by the racial prejudice, bigotry, threats, violence, threats of violence – displayed during the primaries leading up to the 2008 Presidential election, I was desperate for comfort and hope. I prayed that the behavior displayed by some of my fellow Americans were a part of some big, cosmic joke.
That, unfortunately, was NOT the case.
I was one of the hold outs regarding the Barack Obama’s bid. The way I figured it, given that so many Americans were showing their ass, either the Democratic nominating committee would choose another candidate (Yay, Hilary!) or if nominated, he would be assassinated before elections – either physically or figuratively – someone would find some horrible, deep dark secret to disgrace him.
Right up to election night, I held back. The emotional cost would be too much if he failed and I knew I couldn’t handle the emotional wringer. One way or another, this country would let me down. Again.
I had been praying for comfort which came in the form of a 16 year old runaway slave in the early 1800s. She started whispering her story to me, sharing her helplessness, her pain . . . her strength and internal power. After a brutal rape by the plantation owner, she is nursed back to health and was cautioned to accept that this was the way her life would be until she died. Niomi prayed for death. Instead, she time-traveled to the American South 2008.
It was like a door opened. Two elderly ladies, best friends for nearly fifty years, retired teachers, both widows . . . super sharp. Well-respected in the community – they taught most of them and so it just seemed a natural evolution that folk would start taking their problems to them.
These ladies were followed by a 30-something young woman with self-esteem issues who kept choosing the wrong people in her life out of her own doubts that she could never measure up and because of that, she did not deserve better. Well, she comes to an understanding that she is/was the reincarnation of an Ethiopian princess.
Anyway, the point of this post is work left unfinished or never started at all. Niomi opened the floodgates and people have been showing up since then. The happiest of times were the days I finally committed to putting her story on paper, so to speak. I loved the story she shared and spent every waking moment trying to do her justice. But I never finished.
I had this ambition notion to write a novel and had not the slightest clue how to do it. When I got half a clue, I was swept away by Ima, who is the characterization of Niomi in modern day. Ima’s story became the basis for the novel I’m currently drafting, KAOS.
So, election night 2007, I huddled in front of my television just like every one else on the planet. When the results were announced, another dam broke. I cried until my chest and sides were sore, until my throat hurt and my eyes were raw. Such a burden had been lifted, one I hadn’t even fully realized I even bore. I cared. I hoped and dreamed along with the rest of the country.
Don’t get me wrong, I held no illusions that I would wake up on the day President Obama took his oath of office and America would enter a transformed state of utopia. No, that wasn’t the hope or the joy. That came from recognizing that in one of the rare moments in America’s history, black and brown people put aside differences and pettiness and worked together. I saw something of myself in Barack Obama and was inspired that I could reach my mountaintop too.
Niomi was quiet in the aftermath of the election. Everybody else was clamoring for position, even a few new folk showed up, demanding equal time on the page. I’ve accommodated them. I have written their stories to the best of my ability and am still polishing on others.
I miss Niomi. Her presence freed me from a creative drought where my storytelling and writing took a back seat to self-doubt – that feeling of uncertainty about my ability to accomplish something, insecurity – that dark shadow that lead me to hesitate and take the first step to reaching for my dreams. Dreams I never fully realized I had . . . until Niomi.
One final lesson I learned from Niomi . . . patience. I’m sad and I miss her but I can feel her, just over my shoulder, smiling as the others continue to jockey for position.
She knows that her time is coming.