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I have been contemplating the idea of ‘almost’ quite a bit lately.

Growing up, in my house, the word was certainly frowned upon. My mother had a thing about speaking in definites. If she asked a question like “Tarana, is your homework done?” She expected a succinct answer: yes or no. When I would simply yell back casually, “almost!” She’d return with, “What is almost? Either you’re finished or you are not – don’t answer questions that I didn’t ask!” As a kid it would boggle my mind as to why it made a difference to my mom, but as an adult I can see the absolute value in being direct and clear. Webster’s dictionary online defines the word ‘almost’ as an adverb meaning “very nearly, not quite, or slightly short of,” which means using the word frequently is like perpetually living in the gray area.

I didn’t get it then. I do now.

There are clearly situations to which ‘almost’ applies. One can be almost finished a drink; or almost to the finish line; or almost dressed. It’s a marker for half or perhaps a quarter of the way towards completion when there is a clear end in sight. But, in other instances, like affairs of the heart, Ms. Norwood was absolutely right: almost doesn’t count.

It was Brandy’s heart wrenching song that led to my rumination about ‘almost’ actually. I was sitting up in my room (I couldn’t help it) thinking about my latest heartbreak. Like a good virgo child, I was mulling over every single detail of our relationship that I could dredge up from my memory and laying them out chronologically in the vast open space in my mind. I was thinking through how close to being forever me and “he” had come to on more than one occasion and I kept wondering – why not? Why was there always some-thing, some-situation or some-new development that managed to unravel whatever progress we might have made when we were so close…we were almost there. But that is precisely why almost doesn’t count.

Almost doesn’t talk me through rough nights when I’m doubting my abilities as a parent, a professional and a person.
Almost doesn’t make me feel strong when I’m feeling scared and confused.
Almost doesn’t lose itself in hours of conversation just as easily as it does in long moments of silence.
And almost doesn’t clap for me. Love does, but not almost and I need someone to clap for me.

The conclusion that I came to, although not profound in the rocket science sense, was more of an “aha” of the Oprah variety. When I thought over all of the years I had committed to trying to make something happen that didn’t ever end in my favor and all of the times when I felt like we were so close only to be disappointed again, I realized that as it pertains to emotions – love – in particular, almost was synonymous with never.


As much as that felt like a gut punch it was also cathartic. I had to sit up straight and say it out loud. I don’t want to spend my life chasing behind a maybe. I can’t wrap my arms around “very nearly” or plan a future with “slightly short of.” If it’s love it has to be absolute, definite. I deserve that. Everybody does. And I don’t plan on settling for anything less.

This has been my own lesson to learn though. My almost love isn’t all to blame. He’s been telling me for years in one way or another. He’s been communicating, without saying a word, that he wasn’t ‘the one’ and the volumes spoken between the lines of those unspoken words are where the lesson lies. Sometimes we just know. We know when it’s not enough. We know when it’s just a dream held together with scotch tape and lipstick and bendable will. And, when we find ourselves in that gray area, alone with a random text message and another rain check – we have to make some serious decisions. Almost will never make me happy. I’m clear about that. And now that I’m clear, I have to do the work of figuring out why I tried to find happiness in almost instead of in Tarana.

These revelations are always energizing on the first day. But now its the next day and the day after that and the day after that and I struggle sometimes because although it won’t bring you joy, almost can at least make you smile occasionally – and I like to smile. But I want the kind of smile that comes from the inside out. I want the kind of love that lasts forever. And I’ll know it when I see it because I almost had it.

Auf Wiedersehen


I was never a girly girl.

I wasn’t exactly a tomboy, but I wasn’t doing the Barbie doll thing either – not as a toddler, not in elementary school and certainly not in middle school.

As I got older that didn’t change very much. There were a million “girl” rules of which I knew very, very few. I just didn’t get it. In fact, when I did get a real boyfriend I didn’t understand all of the fuss from my girls or why they had a new set of “rules” they wanted me to follow:

“DON’T give him your number yet, wait until he asks two more times.”
“DON’T call him first.”
“DON’T call him again if you called him last.”
“DO ignore him in the halls at school when you see him.”

Huh? This is how you treat a boy you like? I was so confused. As a result, in the end, as naive as they might have been, I followed my own rules.

I have pretty much always followed my own rules, made my own path and had my own dreams. These dreams included things like traveling the world by the time I was 25, meeting interesting people like artists and heads of state, becoming the head of my own non-profit and driving a convertible Volkswagen. They did not include getting married and living happily ever after – not at 16 or 20 or even 24 after I became a mother.

I was never the girl who wanted a big wedding in a chapel with 200 of my closest friends gathered around. I was the girl who wanted to plan the big wedding for some lucky girl. In fact, the idea of being someone’s wife scared the mess out of me – mostly because the concept seemed so daunting. First I have to wait on a man to choose me, then when he chooses me I have to hope HE thinks that I am worthy of marrying, then I have to figure out how to keep him happy for the next like FIFTY years. Really? That sounded crazy to me like there was no “me” in it. I knew how to meet and date a man. I even learned how to be a good girlfriend eventually, but to keep that momentum going for decades and decades? Scariest thing ever in my mind. I just didn’t get marriage.

As a child the only marriage I had seen work in my family was that of my grandparents. My grandfather, much like Yoda, was almost a mythical being to me. He was “all-knowing” and “all-seeing” and wise beyond (my) comprehension. His relationship with my grandmother seemed like it existed in a vacuum. I didn’t have any other frames of reference for it – in or out of my family – and I didn’t know it’s origins or history. They just were.

For me, my first outward desire to be married was vocalized as a revolutionary act. As a young woman living in an activist community and trying to find ways to strengthen and empower the black community, I framed marriage as apart of our self-determination as a people. It was strategy. Meaning, creating spaces for like-minded, conscious, black people to marry and reproduce would serve as a way to structurally build and rebuild strong black communities across the country. I felt like if more “conscious” people married and became examples of what a healthy, functional marriage looked like it could start a movement of healthy, functional marriages in the black community. I still believe this. The difference is, when I believed it at 22 I didn’t connect it personally to emotion or love or romance – just “the cause.” At that point in my life my personal history dictated that I didn’t get the happy, loving, romantic part – I got the work. Besides, I wasn’t even sure that other part existed. My relationships up until that point were dismal at best.

When I had became pregnant I thought it made sense for me to be married. It was very matter-of-fact. I loved my daughter’s dad, but I seriously doubted his ability to be a good husband. I really didn’t want to just get married because I was pregnant, but my mentor at the time encouraged me to do so “for the cause.” She urged me not to become another statistic for black women and I kinda agreed but thankfully, I didn’t comply. Although I espoused these wide-eyed ideals for building strong black families and thus communities, I actually felt more comfortable as a single parent. In contrast to the lack of marriages I saw in my family growing up – I had seen plenty of single, black mothers. I knew what it meant to be single and raise a child. That felt more normal to me. I didn’t want to be a single mother…I just sort of knew it would happen to me…if that makes sense.

By the time I had my daughter I had only been in love once – with her father. Love in that relationship was euphoric…in the way I imagine a first crack high to be. It is said that crack addiction is so hard to break because the addict is forever chasing that first high that they can never, ever, ever get again. I was that addict for (an unsettling number of) years. Although I loved him in a way that I will never love another man again – I came out of that relationship so clear that I never want to love another man like that again. The next time I was in love was the relationship that changed everything for me. It made me believe that normal love was possible in my life. It showed me what partnership looked like. It shaped my ideas about real family and even, marriage. That relationship helped me to understand a little better what it meant to commit to one person and still be one person at the end of the day. But, alas he was not “the one.” And, what I found out was now that I had been opened to this idea I wasn’t ready to leave it on the cutting room floor. I wanted what I saw.

Over the next several years, as I got older, the vision that became clear in that great relationship became less and less visible. I didn’t see how it was possible. I started to feel resentful because I had wasted so many years harboring all of the high ideals and low self-esteem that led to the failed relationships and bad decisions that led to me being where I was. Mid 30s, single and searching (bleech!). I wrestled with that for a few years as I dated a good number of “he’s not the one’s” and “he’s just not into you’s” and then it all changed.

Last year, one of the counted out was counted back in. A man from my past came back. If you have read anything else I’ve written in the last year, you already KNOW this story. If you haven’t here it is in a nutshell:

Boy meets girl, boy likes girl, girl likes boy/Boy is mid-divorce, girl is mid-break up they decided timing is off and part ways.
Boy searches for girl on social networking site years later, girl is impressed and falls for boy again.
Boy moves fast and proposes, girl moves faster and accepts
Boy is happy in love, girl is happy in love./Boy and girl plan intimate late summer wedding for family and friends
Boy lies to girl big time, girl finds out./Girl calls off wedding. Boy goes away.
Girl starts a blog and gains 12 pounds.

That pretty much sums it up. And that is where I am now. Today would have been my wedding day. August 21, 2010.

We chose the day because we reunited in August and both of our birthdays are on the 12th and this day had a “1” and a “2” in it so…

Yeah, we were that stupid. Remember that part about things moving fast? Well we didn’t take our feet off of the gas for four months. When we ended our relationship we had not only planned our wedding, but the next ten years of our lives.

I was completely caught up in the fantasy of it all. Something had happened to that revolutionary girl of 22 and the disillusioned young woman of 26 and the cynical, resentful woman of 30. She had been replaced with this women who was ready – in my heart, in my mind, in my spirit to share this abundance of love that had been secretly accumulating just below the sarcastic surface. I had done all of this work in my life to become a better person, a different person, a more evolved person and I just knew my reward for that was…him.

I was wrong.

I know that to even think I should be rewarded for moving closer to who I am supposed to be in the world – is absurd. But it sounded right.

I could write a whole other post about what I thought was going on for those months and what was really going on. As a matter of fact I might just do that.
But in the meantime, here is the bad news for you. I am just writing. I don’t have a great big bow for this one – because I am still digesting the jagged pieces. I have gone over every last detail in my mind – as you can probably imagine – a million times. Was it all him? Was it all me? Was it the timing? Was it Karma? I don’t have answers.

I have only been able to draw small conclusions and that has been much to the credit of a few close friends. It has been a little over six months and I think I have come to terms with the idea that I didn’t really love him. I am pretty sure at this point that I fell “in love with the idea of him more so than the man himself” it’s so cliché that it makes me sick. But, oddly enough, it’s not that part that bothers me so much. It’s that it happened at all. And it happened to me. I can readily admit that I want to be married. I do. (No pun intended) I just can’t believe that the girl who didn’t play with Barbie dolls, didn’t go to the prom, didn’t go out of my way to impress boys, didn’t choose to settle just to be married, never chased a man down – ME – I got caught in a cliché?? The idea boggles my mind. But the truth is – that’s exactly what happened.

It is now officially a year since he came back into my life. Next month, on my birthday, it will be a year since the proposal. I’d be lying to say that I am fully recovered from the world wind of it all. But I am (as my close girlfriend pointed out the other day) “leaps and bounds” better than I was a few months ago. I am grateful for that.
This is the first time I have been able to write anything about it – partly from shame, partly because I had no words. How do you describe a dream deferred?

I am sure more words, better words will come over time and I will welcome them. Until then I will take what I can get and pray for the kind of healing that will breathe life back into this dream and give her new words, new wisdom and new wings.

Snakes are fascinating. They are one of the most reviled animals on the planet. They have no orifices on their body with the exception of a mouth and somewhere a small hole to release poop. They have been cursed with the “mark of the beast” since practically the dawn of time thanks to the whole Adam and Eve thing and yet they proudly slither around on their stomachs. Many eat whatever they can catch in their grip and live in the darkest, most dank places….but when they are tired of the skin their in…they simply shed it and move on.


The ability to go through life and move as you please around people, chase them away or squeeze the life out of them – being able to make mistakes publicly or create havoc unintentionally and then simply shed that skin – of that person – who did those things – and start anew. You, but fresher.

I don’t want to be a snake – but there have been so many times when I wanted to start again – still me, only fresher.

Life is so full of surprises. People always say that as if it’s a great thing…like: “you never know what will happen!” But, I am actually not fond of surprises. Well parties and gifts yes, but like missed periods and pink slips – not so much. The fact is they happen – good and bad, large and small – convenient or inconvenient. They happen. My goal in life is to find a way to handle life’s surprises like a snake. As it so happens the snakes that do shed – HAVE to. It is a necessity of life for them. Imagine for a minute if they didn’t. I’m no snakeologist, but I think we would have fat, scaly, smelly snakes lying dead all over the place. The weight of all that old, dead skin would eventually kill them. Like it’s killing me.

Well that’s dramatic, but it is certainly weighing me down. I know it’s cliché to talk about starting anew for the New Year…but cliché’s exist to be utilized so, why not? I don’t have resolutions; I stopped making those a few years back around the same time that I realized that this journey to be the “me” that I envision in my mind was going to take some time and that that was fine. Instead, I take on a new “thing” each year; a new goal, something off the dream board in my head. In 2009 it was all about understanding “who I am”. You know like, finding a very comfortable space for myself in the world and respecting, honoring, and protecting that lovely little space at all costs. It was also other really boring stuff like setting both boundaries and standards for the people already in my life and those coming into my life. Can’t say that it’s a total mastery, but I’m very pleased with the progress thank you. However, I can say that the reason it’s not a one hundred percent win for me is because of this aforementioned weight.

My name is Tarana and I am an emotional hoarder.

I can recall practically every emotion I have ever felt since I was six. No lie. I don’t act on them, I don’t think of them often, but when prompted – here they come flooding to the front of my mind. It would be great if they were all like “the wave of joy that came over my heart when I realized the big surprise was that we were going to the circus!” type feelings, but they are not. I won’t rehash, but I will say it’s a hard knock life for real for some of us. And, just for kicks, I don’t just hold my own emotions – I manage to stuff some other folks’ stuff in too.

When I take a closer look at this practice it seems the emotions I tend to hold tightest too are worry and fear. The one two punch of emotions.

These two will seep deep into your pores and live on your body like a thin, almost invisible coating. They burrow into your psyche and take up residence in your heart and will rewire your whole system if you let them. They are dangerous and it turns out that holding onto the memory of old worries and fears – create new worries and fears. So, when life’s little surprises throw you a curve ball there is no hope of catching it and tossing it back. I don’t want them – the old or the new.

This is the year that I release worry and eradicate fear. I want a clean house. I’m ready to shed.

My goal is to lay old worries down in a final resting place. If my faith can’t carry me through it, it was not in God’s plan. I believe in a God whose grace and mercy is sufficient. I read it, recite it, sing it, pray it – but I don’t quite live it. Fear has no place in faith. I know that intellectually and spiritually, but on the real – I’m a little shaken even as I write these words. Sitting here thinking about my life without worry and fear – actually scares me! (I have probably revealed a bit too much there, but I’m all in now.) It’s the truth, and it’s why I am still writing.

What I know about myself – that 2009 taught me – is that I (we) can get too comfortable with “okay”. I was doing okay: the job, kid, apartment, a little cash, friends, church…kind of okay. I had learned to live with my “stuff” and function and be just “okay” enough not to be crazy. Which is crazy.

If I didn’t start breaking free from the “okayness” of my life this year, I would not have been able to recognize or accept the blessings – in all of their uncommon packaging – that came to me. But I have also become too “okay” with these crazy emotions – worry and fear. I have accepted them and made space for them in the space that I am supposed to be respecting, honoring and protecting (‘member that?). That can’t happen. They don’t really fit and they don’t belong and I don’t want them. And I will remove them. I’ve already started. This writing helps, and I’ll find more ways in 2010. Even if it’s not all the way licked 365 days from now – those emotions and other negative ones – will no longer be comfortable in my space. It’s my goal to shed that excess weight, that self-inflicted pressure, the old, stale, dead feelings.

To be me, only fresher.

Happy New Year!

(Or happy mid-year….depending on when you read this)

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