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Go shortay…it’s ya birthday…we gon party like its ya birthday

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Well, it was my birthday. And it was fabulous. Baseball game with kids and fellow 30-something’s in the backyard. I was obviously the MVP — got on base at every at bat. Then followed by karaoke at what I thought was going to be a happening bar but what turned out to be a little sad. Misfits and me and my friends. I don’t know what that says about us.

I sang “Let It Go,” dedicated to my daughter, even though I got totally lost in the middle. And “Ni**as In Paris,” dedicated to me and my girls as we are on our dissertating grinds. There’s just something about that song, the hype that comes over me as I hear these words:

You are now watching the throne
Don’t let me get in my zone
Don’t let me get in my zone
Don’t let me get in my zone

I’m in my zone. I’m doing what I love, even though dissertation writing sucks. Hard. But this is my zone. When I’m in it, I’m alive. It’s not easy. God is forcing me to live my values, and while it doesn’t feel so good right now, I know that it’s all good. I got disappointing news over the weekend, but that’s all it was — disappointing. Not catastrophic. Not unbearable. The worst case is still a good case.

And my children are healthy and happy. Some days I think they are straight up nuts, but beautiful anyway. My husband is a gem. A diamond not in the rough. Just sparkling for everyone to see.

I’m 33. Jesus was 33 when he died. I think God wants me to remember that. Jesus did his job. I need to do mine. I’m here to do my job. Five years ago today, the day after my 28th birthday, I checked myself into Stanford Hospital’s psychiatric ward. I was despondent and felt so lonely. I believed in God and Jesus as my savior but I didn’t have a relationship with him. I was floating — really fighting — through life alone. My illness had me.

It’s been up and down since then. But I’m still here. That is a victory. I am victorious. Because five years ago I didn’t think I would be here. Standing. Thriving. Worrying, but trying not to. Confused, but reassured. Down but hopeful. Knowing every day is not going to feel like this. Not taking how I feel today as indicating how I will feel tomorrow. I’m stressed out. No doubt. But I’m in my zone. Watch.

It’s the final stretch on this part of my life. And right now, at this moment, I have a smile on my face.

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I Had To Write This Down.

This morning I work up and decided I wanted to be a writer. Not a sociologist or a lawyer or an academic. Just a writer.

I  went downstairs, had my two cups of coffee, took my kids to school, and proceeded to clean my kitchen cabinets while my toddler took all the pots and pans out. The babysitter came, and I was alone, and I kept at it. Sorted and labelled tea bags. Gathered paper bag full of breastfeeding supplies. Rearranged the small appliances in the now empty cabinet. Organized the pots and pans. Threw away a bunch of shit.

Then decided I needed to go to Costco. Searched for my rebate coupon. Made a list. Went to Costco, wandered the aisles. Bought diapers, paper towels, toilet paper, ziploc bags, ham, cereal, waffles, syrup, juice, two bottles of wine.

And I struggled to hold back the tears as I walked the aisles. Because yesterday, I literally sat on my hands for 45 minutes until I knew I couldn’t leave my house and get back in time for the babysitter to leave at her regular time.

Because all I wanted to do was go to an expensive-ass store and spend $300 I didn’t have on clothes I don’t need. I bought stuff online instead.

Because last night I asked my husband to take my children out for dinner because I simply could not stand to have them all around me. We didn’t read our book. I just couldn’t wait for them to go to sleep. And I wanted to just be alone.

Because I worried last night as I was going to sleep about going to sleep. Because I couldn’t sleep, was drenched in a cold sweat, and got up to take a shower at 6 am. And then made pancakes and bacon and drank two cups of coffee and prayed my children didn’t act crazy. And when the neighbor boy who sometimes goes to school with us said that we needed to clean our car, I told him he could walk. He’s six.

I shouldn’t be drinking wine, or coffee for that matter. I take three drugs that are supposed to help my mental health and I shouldn’t be drinking with any of them. And I know this, but I don’t care. They are rituals, how I start and end my day. I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I didn’t have them.

I just had to write this down. I left my groceries in the middle of the living room floor, and came upstairs to write this. And listen to Maxwell. And E. Badu. And Tony Toni Tone. And feel the music pulse through my body and move and exit as tears. And I turn it up as loud as I possibly can without getting a headache.

Everywhere I look, I see mess. Mess that needs to be cleaned. Mess that needs to be cleaned by me. Right now. I haven’t eaten today. And I’m not fasting. I’m struggling right now to even want to give anything up for Lent. Because I am so fucking angry that I can’t control this no matter how hard I try no matter what I do no matter how good I’ve been I still have this. I sill have bipolar disorder. And it scares me.

Most people don’t even believe me, don’t believe I have bipolar. I’m accomplished. I’m friendly. I laugh. I joke. It’s not full-blown mania. My thoughts are all over the place. The words tumble faster than I want them to.  I literally cannot sit still. Overabundance of energy, but not directed. Haywire. I take anti-anxiety meds to take naps. To slow things down.

And it makes me worry. You can’t see worry. You can’t see anxiety. You can’t see the panic. Only I can. And my husband can. And he says you’re really hyped right now. What can we do about this? And I don’t know.

I don’t even know if this makes sense. I just needed to write it down. I just needed to make a record of this. I just need to know that I’m not…I don’t know.

I’m going to finish my cabinets. And sing along.

Before

There is nothing like being in the presence of those who knew you before. Before the husband, before the children, before the move. Before the JD, before the phd, before the dissertation. Before kindergarten, or first grade, or second grade, or third babies. Before losing baby teeth. Before you even remember you.

When you are in the presence of those who knew you before, all pretense falls away. Who you are is who you’ve always been. Not “LaToya Baldwin Clark,” but “Toya,” “Toy,” and my parents pet name of “Boop.” How good it feels to have to be no one other than who you are — a Baldwin, a Noble. A big sister. A little cousin. A big cousin. A daughter. But loved still as a mother and a wife and a friend.

And a welcome accomplice to foolishness and nonsense. To be celebrated for staying out after 10. For shutting down the club at 3 a.m.

There is simply nothing like being with folks who knew you before. Who loved you then and love you now. People who don’t care about your degrees. People who are simply happy to see your face and the reflection of you in your children’s faces.

I feel grounded after my weekend in Philly. I know who I am and where I come from and that I am enough just being Toy. Toya. I love being where I am. But I needed to feel whole with the idea that even if I did nothing more in my life besides take care of my children and be a decent person, I’d be more than loved. I’d be cherished. I’d be wanted. I’d still be me.

2014: I Think I Can

2014 will close a chapter in my life and open another. By the end of 2014, and at the age of 33, I will have been married for 9 years, have 3 children, have a JD/PhD from Stanford University. I know people think I’m nuts, but really it’s just that I don’t believe in limits. I never intentionally set out to do this, but I did it because I believed I could. And surrounded myself with people who believed in me.

I thought I could. I think I can. And I will.

By God’s grace, I will!