I am Woman.

This is my first time posting on the website since I made the decision to have a complete abdominal hysterectomy. I felt myself walk away from writing. I felt myself walk away from opening my heart to the world (or at least the small section of you who follow me) and I was confident that this was okay. Not anymore. In creating this blog, I vowed to share the authentic pieces of life that most people cower away from. I promised my readers that no matter the circumstance, I was their open book. My sole purpose is to reach at least one person who is encouraged enough by my story to either share their own or break free from bondage. This blog was supposed to be a source of service, and service does not stop when it gets hard, so neither will I.

I had the surgery on May 9, 2018. It wasn’t until 9 days later, at exactly 3:19pm that I pressed my head up against my mama and wept. I wasn’t naïve enough to think that I would be okay immediately after, but the crying was so raw, so intense, so painful, that all I could do was sleep after. She held me. I’ve never been held like that before, and I’m thankful that even in the depths of my brokenness, her love prevailed.

Fair warning, this may be a long post, but as these tears rub against my cheeks, I’m confident it’s supposed to be shared in its fullness.

I won’t talk about the sleepless night, the desire to walk on days I couldn’t, or even the physical pain that came with surgery. I want to share more about the mental battle I found myself in; the battle for my joy. There were a few words I wrote over and over again in my journal. I went back and highlighted them so I could visualize their continuity in my heart. These words have led to more growth than I could conjure up on my own, and I’m excited to share. The pictures in this post are a product of a photo-shoot that was supposed to exemplify the beauty in that. There is beauty in my process, and although many people may not sit and wait for it to bloom, I know it’s coming. I thank God for sending Emily  , her camera, and her love for service in truth my way.

LIFE+ POWER + WOMANHOOD

Life: This one has been fairly new in my journal, and conversation with friends. I’ve written life 78 times since the morning of my procedure. Many of those times, it was paired with the word “Create.” I felt like I’d completely relinquished my ability to create life. I felt broken, but more than that, I felt like I’d broken myself. Maybe I should have taken better care. Maybe I should have had kids sooner. Maybe I should have done things differently, and I would be able to do one of the most beautiful things this dark world has to offer; create new life. I gravitate toward nature. Flowers, trees, animals, generally anything that goes through a process most people won’t sit and watch– in order to become what it is intended to be. I found life in myself. I saw growth that I’d started to ignore because I was losing a part of me that I’d cherished for so long. I learned that I have the ability to breathe life. My words have power, and in using them to glorify God and serve His people, I can rest in the fact that losing the ability to give birth naturally is a loss, but a gain one in the same.

 Sunflower

Power: Since May 9th, I’ve written the word power in my journal a total of 157 times. Power is simply defined as one’s ability to do something. It almost seems silly to say it, and quite honestly, when I mentioned having struggled with power very few people understood. I’d felt like I lost power over my life. Not only was I unable to decide whether or not to have children, I was at a place physically where my body didn’t allow me to do anything. There were days I couldn’t stand up, walk, bathe, bend, stretch, and I never realized how the ownership over my physical self was being stripped away. It hurt. I felt useless and more than that powerless. It took weeks for me to finally sit down, anger in my heart and fear in my eyes, and admit that this power was never mine. Time and time again I tried to justify my brokenness with half-hearted encouragements. I needed to fully rely on God, and so I did. The power of His love has slowly been restored in me. I’ve never felt more empowered and driven to bask in the fact that even I am precious. I am fierce. I cannot be duplicated, and there is no woman like me. He created me uniquely beautiful from the inside out, and I love it.

Shakiya

Womanhood: Since April 9th, I’ve written the word womanhood in my journal 198 times. Clearly, it’s been heavy on my mind. Dear people in this life, when a woman is faced with barrenness, please, I beg of you, do not say “Well there’s always adoption…”

  1. This completely disregards the fact that she had a desire that has been stripped away. That in itself hurts. So, imagine walking into the hospital and handing that same desire over along with its future possibility… saying, “well do this INSTEAD” is a dagger. Stop it. I know people who have gone their entire lives wanting something, and that desire is there because it has every right to be. There’s no sense in offering up an obvious ‘solution’.
  2. This completely disregards the fact that these women are likely mourning the death of an unborn child. That may sound farfetched to some but think about it. In conversation, most people mention what sort of parent they’ll be if they aren’t already. They discuss the desire for a son or daughter and why. It’s pretty common. That’s gone. Respect that loss.

In addition, I felt like because I’m unmarried, and childless, my worth in society somewhat plummeted. Hi, I’m Shakiyla Solomon, an educated Black woman and whether or not you want to admit it, that means nearly nothing in American society today. Few people will get excited or even encourage women in their careers, traveling, personal growth, or entrepreneurship because those things don’t make a “woman.” GRANTED, these are not absolutes, and I’m thankful that there are some exceptions, but for the most part, marriage and children define womanhood. I love my life. I love the direction it is going and I’m thankful that I’m finally at a point where the world’s desires for me don’t align with mine and that’s okay. I didn’t realize how much society had molded my own thinking, and in this silence, I found freedom. Does that mean I won’t adopt? Absolutely not. Does that mean I’m shunning all men? Not at all. What I am doing though, is living life at the pace its moving and learning to embrace it. I’m growing.

Shakiyla

These three words continue to penetrate my mind and heart, and as I sift through my personal healing, I’m learning that there is peace on the other side. I will soon be in Africa, and there I will have the ability to love, serve, and lead children and young adults in the ways of love and life. I have been granted the opportunity to serve in a capacity I never thought possible. I’m thankful for these lessons, and more than anything, I’m thankful for the evident growth that has come along with them. Find your truths. Find the things that are hiding behind the lies that have slowly drowned you. Cover them. If you feel like you can’t find them. If you feel like you are an exception and that there is no peace awaiting you, message me and we can work on finding and/or creating one together.

Thank you for reading.

I love you.

Meet Aries.

I know it may seem a bit juvenile for me to introduce my dog in the “Meet A Friend” collection, but he has done things in my life that I’ve failed to put into words-until now.

On March 15, 2016 I was diagnosed with Endometriosis. It was easily the best thing to have happened to me. For years, I’ve struggled with understanding my body and why my reproductive system just didn’t seem to be healthy. I’ve had countless doctor’s appointments, with numerous specialists, and spent thousands of dollars on “trial treatments.” I’d finally gotten a semi-concrete answer for my pain, so I was satisfied. Simultaneously, my doctor found an alarming amount of cancer cells from a cervical biopsy. I didn’t tell my family until about 6 months after beginning treated, and by then, I was having to re-learn the value of self. It wasn’t that I didn’t want them to know, or that I didn’t think they could handle it, I was just too scared to say it aloud.

I was in a relationship, one that I don’t regret, but he was not prepared to carry this sort of burden. I soon found out that I’d tested positive for HPV, so I told him. It seemed like every visit to the doctor came with a bag of bad news, and I was sick of sharing it, but I knew it was my responsibility. I’d broken my virginity that year. I felt safe having unprotected sex with him because I trusted him. I was sure he’d be my husband, and it’s like I set aside what I knew to be true about sex outside of marriage. I took a risk. Luckily, HPV can easily be treated, when caught in time because it’s a virus, not a disease. This was not the case for me. The infectious cells had multiplied at a pace I wasn’t aware of, and those were the now cancer cells, I was fighting.

I know you may be asking, what could this possibly have to do with a dog, but I promise I’m getting there. On more than one occasion, he (my ex) made it very clear that I was becoming “too much” and that he “wasn’t used to seeing me this way.” We separated for more reasons than that one, but I think that one hurt the most. I don’t blame him for any of this. I don’t see him as the enemy. I have no hatred in my heart. I will always love him, but it was necessary that I realized the beauty in letting go. I was not as strong or rational as I’d been in the past. I was sensitive and easily broken. I was fragile. I was afraid. I was damaged goods. Eventually, the only emotions I felt were loneliness and perseverance. I may have been lots to handle, but I needed to be handled, and he was not the man for the job. I was determined to submit my brokenness to someone, and I finally told my mother. The way she held me is a moment I often re-live in my head. I have never wept like that in my life. I vividly remember yelling “He took so much from me, but motherhood?!” I said this because with the treatment and surgeries I was scheduling, infertility was the biggest risk factor. I remember her responding with, “Don’t you let hate fester. This will not break you, Renae.” I fell asleep in her lap, on the floor, in the living room.

At the ripe age of 25, I was diagnosed with Endometriosis and Stage 1A Cervical Cancer.

The school year seemed to drag, but as an educator, I had to put on my “poker face” and serve. It was exhausting. I was exhausted. My students knew something was up, and they refused to take “I’m fine” as an answer any longer. The thing about Endo, is that it causes a kind of pain that I don’t think I can adequately put into words. There were days in class when I’d have to walk out, sit on the floor in the hallway, take deep breaths, then reconvene. I remember one of my Senior girls catching me outside on the concrete beside the building, in a ball. She said, “Queen, whatever it is, let me hold you” and I cried. I could not stop crying. It wasn’t a snotty, snorting kinda cry, though. It’s like the tears just fell while I sat there in a blank stare. I felt so inadequate as a leader, mentor, and teacher, but that was the first time in a while that I didn’t feel like a burden. I never told that baby what was wrong. I got up, told her I loved her, and went to my next class. When I talk about my bond with my students, it’s so much more than being their teacher. This was the day after my doctor suggested a full hysterectomy. I hadn’t missed work the day before, because I refused to miss out on that little bit of joy. A hysterectomy meant no kids, no family, no motherhood, and I was broken. If you’ve read my blogs in the past, you know how badly I long to be a mother. You know about the adoption process that came back void. You know about the fostering. You know I’ve tried.. I found myself reading Galatians, where Isaiah 54:1 was referenced, it said,

For it is written,

“Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear;    break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor!For the children of the desolate one will be more    than those of the one who has a husband.”

I decided then, that being barren would never define me, nor would being a mother. I, instead, loved my students as if they were mine. We decided that instead of a hysterectomy, a Myomectomy may do the trick. This would remove the non-cancerous fibroids that had formed, once I’d treated the cancerous cells. This would also increase my chances of fertility. I haven’t made a concrete decision. I’ve mainly been focused on taking care of my body, as is, but I have an appointment this March and we’ll see.

Still wondering where Aries comes in? Here he is!

a year ago, my doctor recommended I see a therapist, just to help navigate through my emotions. He knew that I’d broken up with my boyfriend and he knew how close I was with my moms, but he also knew how prideful I am with my feelings. It’s crazy how necessary mental health is, and how often we cower away from it (that’s a blog for another day). I’d decided “I was fine” and carried on. Soon after I made that dumb decision, a co-worker of mine posted a picture of this long-legged, gray, something or another dog that she’d found. She had 3 huge babies of her own, and couldn’t see herself keeping him. I waited. I prayed. I wrote. I legitimately thought about whether or not I was in a place mentally to care for that creature. I decided I wasn’t, but he would be the driving force behind my getting there.

I adopted Aries Paul Lewis at two months. He was gentle. He was afraid. He was nervous about yet another new home, and person he’d have to trust. I had a connection with him that still blows my mind. On days when the pain brought me to my knees, he’d lay his head underneath mine while I cried. On days when the bleeding just wouldn’t stop, he sat on my feet in the bathroom while I screamed. On days when I couldn’t walk, he’d let kme hold on to him while I crawled to the other side of my apartment. On days when I couldn’t get up out of bed because my pelvis had swollen and my bladder refused to release, he curled up against me and let me lie on his back. What I thought was just a dog being overbearing, was a friend being my protector. I still have some hard days. I still have days when it’s more comfortable to sleep on the floor, and on those days, I text my mama, and curl up with my best friend.

My cancer has since subsided, and I’m down to only about 6% cancer cells. I haven’t tested positive for ANYTHING in over a year. I have no tumors. I have no bleeding, and I thank God for that daily. It sounds silly, but I felt “dirty” and now, I feel like I got my freedom back. Unfortunately, the only treatment for Endometriosis is surgical procedures and pain relievers. I’ve had 2/3 conservative surgeries which is the removal of endometrial tissue. I can honestly say, I have never felt better. I’ve changed my lifestyle. I’ve changed the criteria for people I allow in my life. I’ve changed the way I see perseverance, and I’m thankful for the people who have walked with me through those changes. This sickness took a toll on many of my friendships, because I’d grown exhausted with talking about the pain. It taught me who would and could stick around. It also taught me the uselessness in complaining. It taught me so much. I still have days when the pain can become unbearable, but I’m learning that it comes with the territory.

Aries has played a vital role learning what it means to love myself. He taught me how to, even when I didn’t think I deserved it. I call him my best friend and people laugh. I sing happy birthday and people laugh. I make him waffles for breakfast and people laugh. The laughing is fine, because I’m fully aware of how ridiculous I can get, LOL,  but please understand that this dog played a major role in saving me from myself. So, again, meet Aries.

He’s my best friend.

Thank you for reading, I love you.