For some of us, life’s lessons are far more painful than poetic and just plain hard. As for me, there has been no gentle nudges, soft whispers or idyllic narratives to accompany me along my life’s journey – only harsh realities, and sledgehammer wielding obstacles to litter my otherwise ‘charmed’ existence. I promise you that there is truth to the belief that “you don’t look like what you’ve been through”, because my broad smile has the capacity to mask a multitude of hurt. Yet through it all, because each trial has been a profound lesson, I have emerged as an admittedly scarred, and complex person with a powerful testimony and unique gifts to offer the world: an Imperfect Masterpiece.
Though it may appear cliché, I can honestly say (and believe scores of others will agree), that bad things really do happen to good people. It seems when bad things repeatedly occupy residence in life, they exist for a reason beyond logic and worldly interpretation, but embody a divine purpose reserved for those for whom suffering frames powerful growth and required intervention. My hardest life lessons, have also been a universe balancing testament to an equal overabundance of good fortune. Strange as it seems, there was always more infinite love, light and purpose-driven focus on my part only after having experienced unimaginable emotional and/or physical pain.
My purpose-driven pain portfolio includes: early childhood trauma which contributed to underlying self-image issues, a sum total of three painfully debilitating orthopedic surgeries (the first in early adolescence and the most recent just last year), a seemingly irreparable broken heart from spousal infidelities (prompting an abrupt end to my marriage), and a rather typical litany of ‘hard knocks’ which are all too common to the plight of other Black women: overexposure to abject forms of both racism and sexism, single motherhood, sole breadwinner interruptions to employment, sexual harassment at the hands of an abusive male supervisor, suffering merciless fat-shaming – both socially and professionally, not to mention the annoying stereotype of being labeled an ‘angry Black woman’ when I have deigned to be outspoken about injustice in any form. Essentially, I can readily identify with having fallen, repeatedly and literally. Except with God’s unrelenting grace and the ever-present support of my family, I have somehow summoned the strength to get back up and to attempt to put the broken pieces of myself back together, as skillfully as orthopedic surgeons have done. The result? My own unique form of an Imperfect Masterpiece.
The priceless, teachable moments of each of these unscripted and woefully unwelcome trials have inspired: impactful truths about relationships, increased patience, deep spiritual insight and the mental clarity that one can only obtain after having survived a life-altering tragedy (and lived to tell about it). Perhaps the most moving component of my testimony of imperfection, is that I have come to understand that my experience is not an exception to the rule but rather an optimistic exemplar of a universal pattern. The seemingly ‘bad things’ which curiously seem to befall countless ‘good, benevolent’ people…exist not as a divine punishment (as organized religion and some enlightened people may tout), but rather as a non-negotiable, sacred appointment to fulfill a task more closely aligned with our uniquely personalized calling in life.
The concept of ‘the rose that grew from concrete’ may be foreign to some who were born with privilege, are on their divine-right paths and have never experienced life’s detours, misfortunes or imperfections. However for those who, like me, are able to acknowledge the presence of an all-too familiar life pattern of heart wrenching pain, loss, and missteps; this message will ring true. Rest assured, you are not alone in your experience of an imperfect journey wrought with hard life lessons. What’s more, the absolute last thing you may need to hear – during periods of acute pain – are reminders to “be positive”, “attract your good”, or to “create another reality through the power of your affirmations and thoughts”. These admonishments though often well-meaning, are often ill timed and received as offensive, pollyanna poppycock which may indeed have legitimate merit but are too often taken out of context or preached in the midst of a purposeful, divine suffering – which must run its full course in order to ultimately emerge in the context of a powerful lesson.
The best, non-offensive advice I can offer others in the midst of a trial is to just recognize that: this too, will pass. It’s important to understand that though the depth of your pain is real, the heartache is tied to a purpose or lesson and is merely a natural, unavoidable component of life. After the initial shock of grief, utter sadness and profound loss there is an inner knowing of the need to change paths or to learn a transformational life lesson. We, the chosen lot of Imperfect Masterpieces, must endure this pain and survive it in order to later inherit the spoils of war.
In my case, my surgeries have blessed me to enjoy life-altering periods of seclusion and a profound alignment with the plight of the disabled; thus substantively impacting my work on behalf of those oppressed. Prior to the abrupt dissolution of my apparent fairytale marriage – I gave birth to a literal Goddess who gives my life meaning in the most profound sense. And finally, the breadth of more than two decades of divine-right work in education has yielded years of fulfilling classroom teaching, successful leadership tenures as an A.Principal, Principal, Chief Academic Officer and most recently, I have achieved an ultimate goal of earning an Ed.D in transformational leadership. My unique, circuitous path admittedly empowers my current pursuits in an affirming and powerful Educate to Liberate model devoted to countering widespread mis-education. If my personal testimony can serve as a testament to anyone, please embrace your status as an Imperfect Masterpiece recognizing that we must allow the personalized colors and patterns of the select ‘bad things’ in our lives to paint the beautiful canvas and craft the unique tapestry of our divinely fulfilling and purpose-driven lives.