This essay was written in 2022 for the Renaissance Credentialing Program, a training program provided by the Unitarian Universalist Association to certify religious education professionals in 14 modules ranging from curriculum and faith development to system theory and multiculturalism. The assignment was to write three separate essays that covered our understanding of anti-racism, our self-care/spiritual growth, and what has changed for us as we’ve moved through the process of credentialing. I combined these three essays into one concise piece to convey my thoughts.
I’ve struggled with how to write this reflection. At first, my concern was that I would sound facetious, my life has ensured that I am painfully aware of racism and bigotry. From having a white grandmother who was openly racist toward her children while claiming she couldn’t be racist because she had married a Black man, to being raised by her son who still to this day hasn’t unpacked the harm his upbringing caused; I received all sorts of conflicting messages about what it meant to be Black, a woman, and the value my life had when those two identities intersected.
Years of unpacking the bias, anti-Blackness, and trauma inside and outside of my home taught me that the world was not fair and there are places I hold power and places I most certainly don’t. What I do with the privileges I have and with the oppression, I face not only impacts my own existence but others as well. While I grappled with how to be clear and concise without being condescending, I found myself dealing with the ever-prevailing racism in Unitarian Universalism.
Having to reconcile how I must prove in this essay, to a predominantly white panel, that I understand racism and the need for anti-racism to be weaved into every fabric of this faith, while battling the depression that being ambushed by someone’s vitriol in a Zoom meeting has caused is asking for a level of cognitive dissonance that my brain refuses to create. Not a single white person who was in that meeting interjected, after the fact they were all in agreement that what happened wasn’t ok and they felt bad that it caused me harm, but their feelings did not compel them to action when the harm was happening. Which is a pervasive problem in white liberal circles, UUism being no different.
Do I understand anti-racism? Yes, on a deeply personal and nuanced level. It isn’t only the MAGA hat-wearing, Confederate flag-waving stereotype of whiteness that exhibits racism. It is a multilayered system that operates in every facet of our lives perverting even the most well-meaning of spaces with its toxicity. It is the colorism that allows me to move through white spaces with more ease than other members of my family, but the internalized anti-Blackness that leads my white colleagues and congregational members to recoil and clutch their imaginary pearls at the sight of my box braids. They would deem themselves to be anti-racist, but anti-racism is not a bumper sticker you can throw on your electric car. It is work, lifelong work, that we each must do to break the hold white supremacy has on our perceptions and understanding of who does and doesn’t have humanity and whose life is and isn’t worthy of existing wholly as they are.
I know the assignment calls for these essays to be separate, but to be true to the intersections of who I am and what those identities mean in this faith I can’t compartmentalize these reflections as each part leads to the whole of who I am. To create balance and set boundaries I must be keenly aware of the way white supremacy moves in UU spaces and how I move in return impacts any anti-racism work that is or will be done. My tone, body language, and even appearance must be weighed when I’m establishing a boundary. Even more so when the request for my time also includes emotional labor. There is an air of entitlement to the labor of BIPOC UUs by white UUs. BIPOC UUs are wanted, or needed as we’re told, in UU spaces and at UU tables, but when we establish that our labor isn’t free, we’re met with pushback. Every time I instill a boundary, say no, or state that I will not overextend myself to save whiteness from itself I am doing anti-racism work.
This also ties into my self-care and life balance. To do the anti-racism work needed in UU spaces I keep what I reveal and how close I get to others to a minimum. My personal life is sacred and maintaining the peace that exists in it is vital to my well-being, this means limiting and curating how much of my personal life is exposed to UU spaces. I am even more particular about how and when I express discomfort and disappointment with Unitarian Universalism. It’s a constant dance of code-switching that allows me to experience peace while doing the hard work needed. I still struggle with finding spiritual renewal. UU spaces, in theory, should provide that for me but under the weight of white supremacy, it’s hard some days to feel renewed when I’m constantly being siphoned from. The mentors I’ve made during this process have helped me understand the importance of finding little slices of UU heaven in all the commotion of change.
The Finding Our Way Home retreat is what I envisioned Unitarian Universalism to be when I landed on the Church of the Larger Fellowship’s virtual doorway 14 years ago. The experiences I’ve had during FOWH services and workshops last year filled my cup in a way I was starting to believe wasn’t possible in the world of UUism. It restored my hope in what I was doing, it made me want to get back to the work of dismantling white supremacy in our faith, communities, and the larger world. I wish I could experience that soul-shaking joy more often in UU spaces. Which brings me to the last reflection, what do I envision for my role going forward?
It’s easy to get disheartened being Black in this faith, I’ve walked away a few times due to the suffocating racism at work and understand why others do as well, but I believe this faith and our aspirations have the potential for great change. Change doesn’t happen without immense work and discomfort, though. I’ve approached the process of credentialing as a discernment period, an opportunity to dig deeper into Unitarian Universalism and decide if it’s a place I can -or even should- be. I’m still in that period and I don’t believe I’ll ever leave it. By constantly evaluating my place in this faith I’m able to stay objective about the pros and cons. This allows me to lead in my position from a place of understanding for white UUs who are waking up to the realities faced by those of us not sitting atop privilege mountain, while also giving me the strength to keep picking away at the table that UUism built out of oppression so something better can be built in its place.
This means pushing for, and creating, lifespan faith development opportunities that look critically at our past, imagine our future, and then put those desires into action. Allowing UUism to move from being an aspirational group of predominately white people who rest on their laurels, to the Beloved Community of rich diversity and radical inclusion that exists in small sub-sections of the Unitarian Universalist faith.
As for what’s changed for me, I was always on the fence about wearing the label of Unitarian Universalist. How can I claim to be something when I don’t see myself represented? How can I claim a label when that label asks for my humanity to be the kindling in its chalice? How can I not wear the label of a faith I’ve given 14 years of time, money, and labor to? I’m no longer on the fence. This faith isn’t where I need it to be for me to comfortably claim it loud and proud, but I want it to be. I can give my labor; I can nurture the faith and tend to it as it grows and changes into something I can proudly claim as a part of my identity without having to claim it as part of my identity now.
Being a Black religious professional in Unitarian Universalism means I can’t compartmentalize anti-racism, self-care, and my professional future. They exist together in the intersections of my identity. To respect myself and my worth, I refuse to put each of those layers into boxes. My lived experiences inform my anti-racism work. My self-care, my spiritual health, and most importantly the boundaries I set are part of the anti-racism work I do and vital to me being able to continue to do that work in this faith. My future in this faith, in leadership, changing the narrative on what Unitarian Universalism is and isn’t, is wrapped into the work I do personally and professionally. I am a multifaceted being who wears many labels, and it is my hope that one day I can wear the label of Unitarian Universalist with the same pride I wear the others.
Until then, we have work to do.
Rayven Holmes (c)2022
In addition to this being a year of no for me, it’s also a year for examining my proximity to whiteness from family and personal relationships, to where and how I’m using my professional skills. And more importantly, the areas where I need to cut ties or remove the looking glass and where I’m willing to dig in and fight back to create the world I know we can have. In order to figure that out I have to start from the beginning.
I grew up confused.
My father was born in the early 60s, before Malcolm X and Dr. King took their last breaths, in the front seat of a car to a white woman named Karen and a Black man named Sam. In a time before Loving v Virginia, my father was five before his father’s name graced his birth certificate. They eventually married and divorced before I set foot on the scene. I don’t know much about my grandfather, he was born in the 20s and I’ve been told he was mean but when I look back with informed eyes on the dozen or so times we were around him before they lowered his coffin into an unmarked grave, I’ve realized his malice was the symptom to a larger condition. He was traumatized. And he inflicted that trauma on everyone around him. It doesn’t excuse his behavior, because he caused real harm to his children, but it does help me understand my own rage better.
We spent summers with my grandmother and extended family. I don’t remember when it started, but when I think back on my childhood summers they center around a small house built in the 40s that invokes more fear inside my mind than my grandfather ever has. It’s where I built the tunnels for how deep my rage would go as I learned all the ways I wasn’t right. How the way I moved through the world wasn’t Black enough while I simultaneously received praise for performing the white way, straightening that hair, losing that weight, clutching my bible, and cranking up the country music while carving myself into tiny pieces. Taking every comment on the ways my skin, my feelings, and my mere existence wasn’t right and filling in the gaps left behind with quiet rage that lead to a labyrinth of trauma.
Part of healing means acknowledging that people are operating from the various traumas they’ve tended into sparkling personalities and growing from those places is often harder than maintaining the illusions they’ve created for themselves, so they tend to keep with the status quo. You’ll never get closure from them because in their minds they’ve done nothing wrong, so you have to find closure in your own way. Half of me began when two people, operating from trauma, fetishization, and rebellion brought forth life. In their minds, I imagine, as so many do now, they believed they didn’t need to do more. That simply creating that life was enough, they could be colorblind and everything would sort itself out. That’s not how it works, though, we can’t fuck our way out of generations of oppression. That must be a deliberate act and it requires a lot of painful work.
When we play racial politics in the bedroom and then aren’t intentional with how we raise the outcome we create confusion and pain that ripples through the bloodline. We can’t learn to love ourselves wholly as we are when the kitchen table we’re feeding from was built by white supremacy and the meal we’re being served is poisoned by those who claim to love us.
On my maternal side, I come from a long line of Black women whose skin was kissed by the sun and whose trauma is nestled deep inside my veins. I’ve given up asking myself how different my personality would be if I had been raised knowing that being Black simply meant being myself. I’ll never be the sugar and spice, light-skin-compliant Barbie with an alphabet of letters after her name that everyone wanted. I’m an unhinged ray of fucking sunshine that’s sick of being told by whiteness how she feels and who she is allowed to be. There is no going back now, there’s only forward out of the confusion.
Forward means embracing the rage. Yes, I’m angry. I’m tired of keeping a constant log of names while agents of whiteness flail about acting confused about the current state of things when they’ve cosigned this hate with their silence after every dinner, meeting, and opportunity life has thrown at them to course-correct themselves and their fellow white brethren. I’ve had a front-row seat to the creation of Black bodies from a “well-meaning” white woman who skipped her happy ass down to the voting booth in 2016 and 2020 to cast her vote for Donald J. Trump and had only the vilest things to say about President Obama. Completely indifferent to the fact that her son looked like the man she called an un-American agent of terror. I grew up hearing she didn’t know any better. She’s from a different time. I grew up hearing my own father spout the same anti-Black tropes while picking Black women to warm his bed. He patted me on my head and told me, like all Black women, I would only be good for one thing.
He was my father, but he sounded like my grandmother. I was told that my skin color ensured that I had no real worth. I told myself, before I understood the weight of my choices, that I would prove everyone wrong. I would get approval from those who sat atop the privileged mountain. I dug my nails in. I kept cutting myself into pieces. Smaller… and smaller… swallowing each piece with a dose of rage. I birthed babies of varying shades and tucked away every comment the outside world threw our way that screamed we weren’t enough as we were.
I tried to keep my trauma from pouring over my babies because someone had to get this right, but trauma is like grains of sand. It gets in so easily. When you think you’ve got it pegged whiteness rears its ugly head and reminds you that nowhere is safe, that your guard must always be up, and once the sand is in it takes diligence to remove it.
I went into my 30s bucking everything I had been taught. I went natural. I expanded what I read and where I received information. I pushed back against the notion that my worth was to be dedicated by those who burn in the sun, trying my best to remember that I was the sunshine. And yet, the sand still got in because for all my internal growth, externally the circles were still the same. The same pale faces that smiled when I was sprinkling magic into their lives, but would morph into serpents the moment I asserted my worth and boundaries. It was the same shit again, I was a kid crying for help while everyone asked why I was whining.
I’m tired of crying.
I’ve watched white folks who claim to want change attempt to be relevant and hip when in reality you’re making a mockery of Blackness for approval and giggles while patting your chosen Blacks on the head for knowing their place and letting you behave in such a manner. I’ve watched the way you cut us the minute we don’t want to play your game. It doesn’t matter if we’re kin or acquaintances, when dealing with whiteness if you’re Black you’re disposable. Everyone knows this and does their best to ignore it, but true trust and growth can’t exist as long as you always expect us to be compliant supporting cast members in your life stories. This means you must be uncomfortable at all times if you really want Blackness to thrive. If you’re comfortable, we’re suffering. Either make the changes or admit you like it that way and stop pretending otherwise. You can’t have it both ways.
I grew up knowing that whiteness will always seek out those in the Black delegation who are broken and willing to sit their humanity on a shelf and be paraded around as a “good one” for the twisted acceptance that whiteness will never really provide. I’ve spent years learning how to sharpen my tongue while keeping it sheathed so I don’t upset whiteness. My father’s voice is always so clear in those memories… “There’s mixed company here, watch what you say.”... “You know the white people in your life can see this Rayven! What are they going to say?”
Fuck. What. You. Have. To. Say.
My anger is real. It’s valid. The hit dogs will always holler the loudest and I owe no one an apology for speaking my truth. I’ve spent nearly 40 years spinning gold from my pain and I won’t dull my shine any longer for any of you.
“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
― Anne Lamott
Rayven Holmes (c)2023
This piece was originally written in December 2015 and never published on my blog. Since penning this in 2015, I’ve spent time exploring Womanism and find that it is a far better explanation for my views on womanhood, sisterhood, and what it means to be supported and loved while remaining free to make the choices best suited for our individual and collective lives. The issues addressed below are still relevant almost eight years later in what is now aptly named White Feminism.
The image is of a room with dim lighting. The floor is comprised of dark gray planks, the walls are black and white wallpaper in an intricate design. The lighting illuminates seven doors along the wall. The light is brightest at the center door and fades as it spreads from there. Photo is by Pixabay.
Leaning in, it gets mentioned in every article, book, or motivational speech geared toward women. It’s not always worded in the same way, but the same theory holds true. This notion of women leaning in, or that women can and should put their careers first, has always left a sour taste in my mouth. And not for the reasons you might expect. My beef is this, it packages itself as this attainable goal every woman can reach if she works hard enough, goes to the right school, takes the right chances, and -here’s the kicker- marries the right man. At the end of the day, leaning in falls back on the same practices white men have relied on for generations. That is the practice of having someone else there to do what you aren’t capable of doing.
The person is either your spouse or the people you and your spouse are able to afford to do these things. At the end of the day, your ability to lean in is determined by the privilege of having someone to lean on which makes the practice, heavily supported by the mainstream -easily consumable- feminism, an exclusive club whose entry hinges on the notion that life is depended on making the “right choices”. However, none of these books, articles, or speeches ever address the 12 million single-family homes, 83% of which are headed by women. Half of them live at or below the poverty line despite working more hours than their leaning in counterparts. These women put career first out of necessity and have been doing so long before Sandberg coined the phrase ‘Lean In’. Yet mainstream feminism has ignored these women and their struggles.
When Sandberg’s chart-topping book became mainstream feminism’s bible I couldn’t help but ask myself “what about the other working mothers”? What about the women holding down two or even three jobs because none of those jobs pay a living wage or grant her a full work week? What about the women who are juggling children, work, and school? Where do women with disabilities factor in? What about the women cleaning the homes and raising the children of the women who are leaning in? Where do minority women, who are making between 50–64 cents on the dollar, and their families factor in? It’s easy to tell women to lean in and to say “it’s possible” when your spouse brings home all the benefits of white male privilege, but what about the women whose spouses don’t enjoy this privilege either due to race, class, education, ability, or a combination of all of the above? Where do those women factor in? And what about the women partnered with other women? Not only does this notion of leaning in, or as I like to say, leaning on white privilege, completely ignore single mothers and the struggles of women of color, but it also alienates LGBTQ women by operating on the notion that a woman must pick the right -white- man and this will be one of the greatest things she will ever do. This brings me to my next point…
This notion that all is possible if a woman makes the “right choices” also ignores, as bell hooks pointed out, the choices made by her husband. A woman has no control over what her spouse ultimately decides to do in any facet of his life be it a career, family, or life choices that impact his health and well-being. Those are individualized choices. Making the “right choice” on your wedding day doesn’t guarantee that, that will still be the right choice years later. To tout the notion that a woman simply needs to marry the “right” man diminishes the work and struggles of all the women who didn’t make the magical “right choice”. This makes ‘leaning in’ white heteronormative middle-class feminism with a catchphrase. It ignores anything outside of the white heteronormative bubble and places any failure to reach these supposedly attainable goals squarely on the shoulders of the women it actively excludes.
While who we chose to partner with is important, should we choose to partner at all, it should not be what defines a woman on her road to success. What should define a woman, and her road, should be her and her alone.
As I’ve said before feminism is supposed to be about respecting every woman’s right to make the choices she feels compelled to make. It’s also about giving women the freedom to make these choices. A woman who doesn’t fit into the white heteronormative middle-class bubble shouldn’t be excluded or limited in her ability to reach whatever goals she has personally chosen for herself.
Feminism should be about lifting every woman up so no matter her circumstances she is free to choose if and when she wants to lean in, out, or somewhere in the middle. None of these options should be seen as the ultimate mark of a woman’s worth, nor should her choices in life be used as a weapon against her especially when options and choices are impacted by things outside of her control such as her race, class, education level, if she’s disabled or not, if she’s cisgender or trans, the list can and does literally go on.
Did your choices work out for you? Hoo-fucking-ray. Not every woman has that privilege. The important thing is to see that, recognize it, and then get to work building up your fellow women. The goal shouldn’t be to force them into a neat consumable box of acceptable feminism, but instead to help them break down the motherfucking walls so every woman can be herself in whatever form that takes. Anything else is exclusive feminism and that isn’t helping any damn body.
To read more about the impact of choices and why a sustainable movement for women needs to support ALL women, check this out!
Copyright(c) 2015 Rayven Holmes
This article was originally published on Ramblings of a Dysfunctional Homeschooler in 2015. Previous pieces from that blog will be uploaded here as I am willing and able to. In the piece below, The Spouse refers to my now ex-husband.
A little over a month ago I tossed an inflatable into the room we’ve lovely dubbed “The Library” and fired the first of what would be a series of shots on both ends that ultimately brought about the moment every couple swears they’ll never experience when they get married. The “we need to divorce” talk. There have been tears, rage, and more tears, because even when you know it’s the right thing to do that doesn’t erase the emotions that went into the relationship. Instead they bubble up, unexpectedly, encompassing you without a moment’s notice. You find yourself standing in a group of people completely in control and then out of nowhere the air leaves your lungs and your balance feels unsteady.
You struggle to regain your composure before anyone notices the haze filling your eyes, it’s painful and frustrating especially when the world doesn’t know the truth. You are at war with your emotions and logic, and even some days your spouse, but to the rest of the world you and your family are as they always have been. That’s the myth of perfect at work. Two weeks ago, The Spouse and I started the uncomfortable process of letting the outside world know where we were headed. His outing involved work. I went with social media because, I figured it would be like pulling off a band-aid. Quick and virtually painless. While it was quick, painless it was not.
Our lives go through filters. This isn’t a new concept brought about by social media, no matter what the newest trending article claims, it’s something we as a human race have done for generations. Always smiling and putting the best image of ourselves, our family, and our relationships forward. Every now and then a bit of the truth slips out, but, for the most part, our lives are heavily edited to produce a show we want people to believe really takes place. Maybe that’s why reality television is so popular, we’re all doing it and reality television reminds us that we’re not the only ones using more than Instagram filters when interacting with the world. Of course when bits and pieces of the filters fall away and people get to actually view the unedited footage there are questions. One question, or a variation of it, that I keep encountering is “You guys looked so happy and perfect, what happened?”
There’s that word, perfect. I won’t lie, we did look pretty damn perfect some days and not all of those conversations or pictures were put through a filter. Plenty of them were, though, and even more were left on the cutting room floor to never be gazed upon by anyone other than myself. Why? Because they didn’t support the myth of perfect. The myth that my marriage and my life were aspirations that others should reach for. I would often cringe when someone would tell me that they longed for a relationship like the one the Spouse and I had. Of course, they only knew the bits I shared and I made sure to never share the ugly bits. Having to share the ugly bits, or at least acknowledge that we had enough of them to terminate our relationship, has been painful. A variety of things seems to happen when you tell people where you truly are in life, you either get support, advice which isn’t always useful or solicited, questions you often don’t have the answers to, or booze and trauma vultures. And because you can’t peel away the veneer that the perfect myth places on life without taking some flesh with it, you get plenty of pain.
The pain is a double edged sword, on one hand it begs you to go back to the safety of the myth. It wants you to bask in the comfort of those rose colored filters where the reality of your life was lived alone and isolated from the prying eyes that would offer their half-baked thoughts and opinions on your situation. Then the pain grabs you and reminds you why it exist. It shakes you and rocks you to your core, preventing you from going anywhere but forward. While the truth hurts, pretending kills. So you stop pretending.
Now that you all know that dysfunctional wasn’t just a cute blog title, but an actual indication of the insanity in which our family has lived, where do we go from here? I know the question portion is coming.
*Engaging announcer font* Will The Bringers of Mayhem still be homeschooled? Was it the military that caused this breakdown of such a lovely family? Did you try hard enough?
The line of questioning folks throw at you boarders on fucking insane, while some are legitimate and ok to ask, others are not. I would say most, actually, are not ok to ask. I have to tell you all before you hit that comment button, think first!
I will go ahead and answer the most asked questions, because I’m nice like that: that’s what we all want to see happen, it’s not completely to blame nor is it totally blameless, and I don’t understand that question. What exactly is enough and who gets to determine when you’ve reached it?
If you ask me I will say yes, if you ask The Spouse he’ll probably say no. We see our relationship and its end through a different set of eyes and experiences even when some of those experiences were shared. That’s the reality of any human relationship. We all see the world through different eyes and different experiences. At some point in time those differences either become the relationship's strength or it becomes their weakness. No matter how many filters we apply or edits we make for the world, we still have to view our relationships with our eyes wide open no matter how much it hurts.
Copyright(c)2015 Rayven Holmes
Hello old friend, did you miss me? I can’t say with certainty that I missed you - elements of you sure but the labor and guilt-inducing shame that comes from setting blogging goals and then watching them rush past you in the mad dash that is life? Not so much.
Truth be told, I’ve been tired, well we all have I’m sure. I approached the last few years as an opportunity to say yes to almost everything in hopes of drowning out the dread that encompasses this time of our lives. All my saying yes meant bending myself into positions that were palatable to others and disastrous for me—trying to carve out spaces at tables that I thought could feed me only to be left starving and questioning my sanity.
I reached the last quarter of 2022 and spent a lot of time crying and debating the validity of my existence. If you’ve been around a while you know about my shadow mistress. She and I dance together often, after years in this body I can usually spin her into submission but last year she pulled out footwork that left me stumbling on the dance floor as I attempted to lead us through the muck.
Where is my place in the world? Is it here? Is it there? Why am I fighting to be heard amongst individuals and groups that have shown they have a vested interest in not understanding me? Are they worth the pain they cause? And who am I outside of what I give to everyone else?
When I stopped fighting, stopped trying to lead my shadow mistress, and instead followed her down the rabbit hole I found that I already knew all the answers. The footwork wasn’t foreign I was merely getting in my own way because the answers to my questions scared me.
Is my place here? Nope. Is it there? Also, nope. It’s wherever I am when I feel at peace and celebrated. It could be here, there, anywhere, and nowhere. I was fighting because I was still trying to prove that my life has value and worth and that it matters. Still wanting to prove I’m enough even though I know damn well that my value isn’t tied to anyone but myself. Somehow I had lost my way, wrapped in scarcity, stuck in a trauma cycle of simply trying to keep myself and my offspring alive as a pandemic raged on around us. I was hearing the notes of the music but not the rhythm. She wanted me to see the rhythm that went with my blues. I can give myself grace for losing my footing, it happens, and my shadow mistress is always there to remind me that death is a viable answer should I want it. It’s up to me to decide whether I want the dance to end or not.
I opted to keep dancing on my own terms. To find the rhythm that vibes with my blues. As the music faded into something I recognized and my mistress gave up control I was left with one lingering thought, this has to be the year I say no.
No to the people, places, things, and organizations that require more energy than they give back.
No to anything that doesn’t spark joy - with some caveats because having a place to sleep, food to eat, and running water spark joy but the actions needed to achieve those things aren’t always agents of joy.
No to apologies that aren’t accompanied by changed actions.
No to pretending that life is back to normal, it’s not and it never will be again.
No to last-minute plans that feel more like obligations than adventures.
Just fucking no.
If what’s presented to me isn’t worth the compromise required of me the answer is going to be no. My mistress knows her place when I remember that my number one job is to protect my mental health and that isn’t always easy or comfortable, but it’s necessary. That’s been made abundantly clear to me.
The last few years have been long and trying, as we move into whatever will transpire this year and beyond ask yourself this, if it doesn’t feed you -either physically or spiritually-, excite you, please you, or pay you then why are you doing it? If you can’t give yourself an honest authentic answer that isn’t tied to obligation then it’s time to consider your options and forge a new path.
Find the rhythm that blends with your blues instead of trying to make someone else’s melody the song of your life.
Until next time remember, if it’s not an enthusiastic yes then it’s a hell fucking no and you should go ahead and say that.
Copyright(c)2023 Rayven Holmes
I get questions from time to time about all sorts of things. How to manage single parenting and homeschooling. Red wine. How to get through a divorce. Red wine. And how to be a less shitty white person. The answer to that question isn’t red wine. Sorry, not sorry.
The most recent, “How do I not screw up while being white” question I was asked about was Juneteenth and how to recognize the holiday when you’re not Black. I figured it’s been a while since my last post so I would put my response here for all my white readers trying to be better in 2020. I’ve expanded on my original answers to offer a bit more depth to all of you. You’re welcome.
So, you want to celebrate and recognize Juneteenth:
Begin your work now:
Copyright©2020 Rayven Holmes
Once upon a time there was a prom and a personal determination to look phenomenal while being comfortable. To accomplish this, I slid on a gorgeous teal dress shirt that popped against my skin and then paired it with a fitted black suit jacket. One pair of ultra-black skinny jeans, some black and white high-top Chuck Taylors, a blinged out bowtie choker, a dash of red lipstick, and a head scarf from the Mother Land later; I was in peak “steal your girl” mode and immensely comfortable.
My father, on the other hand, was on the verge of an aneurysm.
He tried to persuade me to wear a dress. It was prom season and there was no shortage of gorgeous dresses I could scoop up for the night. I wasn’t interested in getting zipped into anything and when I informed him of this, he offered to get me a nice skirt and new top. Anything other than what I had picked out he pleaded. If it was feminine presenting, he was willing to buy it. I declined each offer, completely comfortable in what I had chose for myself. When my best friend arrived, he tried to persuade her to talk some sense into me. “She can’t go out like that” he insisted. My bestie, the amazing woman she is, brushed him off and stated that as her date I was dressed as I should be. After my father clutched his invisible pearls, we snapped some pictures and went out into the night, my father still shaking his head in disapproval as the Lyft drove off.
This was less than a month ago.
Growing up in a conservative Catholic family it was always made clear that men were to be men, the guiding sources of wisdom that were often incapable of controlling themselves. And women were to be women, silent, subservient, and the reason for all of man’s problems. They were created for each other and bound to the duty of continuing god’s perfect design through procreation. Anything outside of god’s perfect design was to be beat out of us until we submitted to his grand plan. Members of the LGBTQA+ community were at the top of that list. I spent my youth being a “tomboy”, refusing to believe that my gender could limit what I was capable of. I fought every dress I was forced into. Every pair of stockings would magically rip. Every belt lashing was a reminder that if I didn’t cry then, ultimately, they couldn’t win because they wouldn’t know how weak I was. When I was 18, I made the decision I had been raised to make when faced with pregnancy and gave birth to 7 pounds of potential. Someone once told me that my oldest son has a “very Christian name”, and it’s true because I was deeply engulfed in my faith when he was born. So much so, one of my dearest friends worried about coming out to me because they didn’t know how I would react.
Loving people who didn’t fall into god’s perfect plan and struggling with keeping who I was tightly boxed in, I found myself spending evenings pouring over my bible. I would read passages aloud as I held that small human who was full of potential. As the small human grew, another joined the fold, and the political landscape required I jump down off the fence. I found myself struggling to hold on to the faith I had been given. Eventually, I put the bible on a shelf and said goodbye to my faith. I had finally realized that the only way I could be a good mother was to shed what I had been raised with and create my own playbook. In the process of raising children brave enough to be who they are, I had to learn to accept myself. Every bit of who I am. From my natural hair and melanated flesh to my orientation, presentation, and lack of faith. The box that was prepared for me in my youth didn’t work with my parenting and the example I wanted to set for my children on how to live life unapologetically happy.
I never wanted my children to feel like they had to conform to someone else’s beliefs of who they should be. It was important to me that they grew up knowing they would be immensely loved, unconditionally, no matter where they fell on any of the spectrums that we use to define who we are as people. I've welcomed freedom of expression in how they present to the world. From jeans and sneakers to dresses and nail polish, they are free to explore and determine what is and isn’t for them. They are still working out who they are, with zero fear. While Professor Chaos and General Disarray identify as male, Stormaggedon identifies as non-binary. The fact that they felt empowered to say “I’m not male, don’t call me sir” makes every shackle from my youth that I’ve had to shed, and the pain that accompanied it, worth it. I never wanted my children to feel like they had to hide who they were from me. I never wanted them to know the pain of trying to squeeze themselves into a box that they clearly didn’t fit in. I wanted them to be free to be who they are and, in the process, I freed myself to do the same.
Parenting has had the greatest impact on who I am as a person. I’ve had to ask myself, with every decision I’ve made, “If this is the last choice I get to make upon this earth, is this the legacy I want to leave behind with my children?” It’s a heavy question to weigh. We’re given 18 years to mold humans, while navigating our own bullshit, it is simultaneously a selfish and self-less act. It doesn’t seem to get any easier but, I take solace in knowing that with hard work and a lot of personal growth the legacy I leave with my children will be better than the one that is being left with me.
At the end of the day, if we’re free to be who we are, and celebrated instead of persecuted, then there is no greater legacy to leave.
What legacy are you leaving?
Copyright(c) 2019 Rayven Holmes
Second weddings are strange. From debating on if you can wear white, obviously, the virginal jig is up when you’re walking down the aisle with three kids. To who gets an invite, it’s a no on your ex folks. It can be overwhelming. Factor in the immense anxiety that accompanies remarriage and you’ll feel like you’re drowning in a sea of bullshit instead of a comfortable bottle of wine.
Copyright(c)2019 Rayven Holmes
Lemonade. An album that became a cultural phenomenon and changed the game. I’m not a music blogger, so this won’t be a dissection of an album that dropped three years ago. Instead, it will be a reflection on the way the meaning of songs can change as we move through the various stages of our lives.
Three years ago, Lemonade filled the recesses of my mind with empowering lyrics I needed to hear. From the raw pain of “Hold Up” to the give no fucks boss bitch anthems of “Sorry” and “6 Inch”, I had words to scream when I failed to find the courage to speak. I cried into bottles of Jack and Captain Morgan while listening to “Love Drought” and “Sandcastles”. Most of all, I found hope in “All Night”.
That was three years ago.
Today, with all the clarity and wounds of the past three years, I see Lemonade differently. It is still a stunning piece of work on the emotional weight that comes with pouring yourself into another human being and being left with nothing in return but heartache. Now, though, the songs seem less like declarations to the source of one’s pain and more like letters to oneself urging the tortured to turn their pain into something glorious.
I no longer see “All Night” with the rose-colored glasses of hope. I no longer blast it crying out for a love that seemed to elude me. This change, though, has nothing to do with my current relationship status. Over the last three years I had to find the courage to love myself wholly in all my brokenness. I had to learn to give up the fantasies I was sold from a young age about love and family. Instead, taking time to carve out what those things meant for me in the remnants of my soul.
I had to find the truth beneath the lies I was told and discover the truest love of all was the love I had for myself. As bitter as they may have been to accept and grow from, I had to learn to see my own scars and kiss my own crimes. I learned to trust myself and not fall victim to the people who wanted to consume me but never fully see me.
True love is a remedy for an aching heart and is absolutely the best weapon against pain. But life has shown me that it’s foolish to seek that remedy in another. We must arm ourselves with an unwavering passion for who we are, the good, bad, and downright ugly; if we ever want to make headway on the road of healing from that which tortures us.
It’s not an easy road to travel. So, remember to offer yourself the sweet love you deserve. Life’s too short to spend it forgetting to love the one person you’re guaranteed to be with forever.
Copyright(c) 2019 Rayven Holmes
We love our holidays and celebrate them with wild abandon. Each has traditions that have been tweaked and fine tuned over the years. New Year’s Eve is no exception. On New Year’s Eve, as part of our annual countdown to midnight, we do end of the year interviews. For the past six years, I’ve pulled out a list of questions and placed each of the Bringers of Mayhem in front of our Christmas tree. It is one of our traditions I look forward to the most each year. As they have developed as individuals their answers have morphed from simple words into eloquent thoughts. Watching this change happen every year has been immensely enjoyable. In accordance with my “if I want you to do it I’ll do it too” parenting style I would also position myself in front of the camera. I didn’t put much emphasis on the way my answers changed. This past New Year’s Eve my sister had a request that The Bearded One and I answer some couples questions. While this may seem like an adorable request to make of a newlywed couple he and I weren’t feeling the newlywed love vibes.
Our first holiday season as married partners attempting to blend our two worlds was a series of train wrecks. Factor in holiday financial stressors and we weren’t feeling anything but frustration. My sister knew this. My sister is one of my closest friends and my rock. She also firmly believes that 90% of relationship problems can be solved when you remember why you’re building your life with that person. The other 10%? Well that’s what divorce lawyers are for. I won’t say she’s right, because she already knows she is.
So on New Year’s Eve, The Bearded One and I sat next to each other, engulfed in our strife, and answered questions while my sister live streamed it on Facebook. By the end, we were laughing and she was asserting we are a strange couple. We are. But sis, there is absolutely nothing wrong with wandering around the woods at night as long as you’re prepared! Did the Q&A solve all our problems? Absolutely not. That’s what therapists are for. But, working on your shit should be fun sometimes and answering random questions about our life together was fun. Later that evening a few friends shared they would love to see us answer questions again. We figured why not, but the questions would have to come from others. The decision on when it happened was tossed into my court to figure out. After some thought, and seeing how busy our life is, I settled on twice a year. May and December. Yeah, next month. Surprise!
Here’s how this will work, on May 10th at 9pm we’ll go live on the Malice in Wonderland Facebook page. Questions are due by noon on the 10th. Either comment them below, send them through a Facebook message, or text me if we’re cool like that. We’ll hang out for about fifteen minutes on Facebook. If we make it through the questions sent in then we may take some during the live feed but do NOT bank on this. If there is something you want to know, and there is literally no limit to what you are allowed to ask, then send it in by NOON on the 10th!
I’ll post the aftermath either on here or YouTube or both. Who knows. Like with my life, I’m making this shit up as I go and calling it a plan when it all comes together.
If you got questions, get to asking!
Copyright(c)2019 Rayven Holmes
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