I don't quite remember when I fell in love with tea but I do remember the most special moments of me drinking tea. I was eighteen years old and I went to live with my biological mother for four months. I had just met her months earlier and it was awkward for both of us. She and her ex-husband lived a very quiet life in Boulder, Colorado. He was a professor at one of the universities and she was a housewife. After years of drug addiction and being in and out of jail, she deserved the break. I was homeless so she and her husband agreed to let me come live with them. Each evening my mother and I would find a spot in the living room with a cup of tea and a book.

Now, years later, I'm a self proclaimed tea expert. I start each day with a wonderful English Breakfast tea to get me going. As the day progresses, who knows what wonderful tea I will crown queen. But for sure, I have at least three cups of tea a day. And yes, when I can, I have tea everyday at about 3:00 P. M. I love to invite my friends over for tea and cupcakes and so far everyone thinks it’s a delightful experience. I am always in search of the best blend of tea. Yes, I’m a tea snob, I prefer loose tea but I do like some bags also. I have learned not to judge a book by it’s cover. Some bags can be quite nice. And yes again, any Diva knows, what you drink your tea out of is very important.

Tea for me is a way of life. It's wellness for the mind body and spirit. Here, I will explore every expect of tea possible, with a high concentration on wellness. I will review the best teas, the best places to have tea, the best ways to brew tea, the best tea accessories, what tea goes best with what foods, and the list goes on and on. I plan to share my passion for tea with you. And I've been told, nothing I do is ever boring so be prepared to go on this tea journey with me.

RLT Collection Tea Ball Frosted Clear Beads!

Mint Medley by The Persimmon Tree Tea Company

About This Tea:

Until recently I had never drank Peppermint Tea made with loose leaves. And Honestly, I will probably never go back. The freshness of loose Peppermint Tea cannot be denied. When I open the can of Mint Medley, From The Persimmon Tree Tea Company, I feel as if I stepped into a garden of peppermint leaves. It is a perfect blend of organic peppermint and spearmint leaves grown in the US.

Mint Medley has become a favorite and I find myself reaching for this tea tin almost everyday. It is great for on-going nausea. The health benefits and endless. It relieves muscle aches, headaches, migraines, stress. And now that it feels like someone is sitting on my chest and I have a mean cough, I'm sure it will help to relieve some of this congestion in my chest. Mint Medley has been in my tea cup more than any tea as of late. It has really helped with my winter cough, congestion related to this bout of pneumonia. You can read my full review on The Persimmon Tree Tea Company Mint Teas.

RLT Collection AIDS Awareness Tea Ball!

Welcome to my world of books! As an pre-teen books changed my world. I fell in love with the writers of the Harlem Renaissance period and the more I read the more I wanted to read. The fiction of this period was powerful and empowering all at the same time. It spoke to my own degradation and gave me hope for a better tomorrow. It gave me purpose for my own life and the courage to fight the good fight and never surrender.

I love to read! Inside a book I escape into someone else's life. There is something wonderful about turning to the next page of a wonderful story. Something intoxicating about the smell of the book and the story it brings to life. Reading brings me joy, and these days with my health in the balance, I find solace in my books.

I spent hours in my bedroom sequestered with the door closed reading the classics from the Harlem Renaissance, Hughes, Larsen, Hurston, Wright and Baldwin. Books became my escape and my salvation. The fiction of this period was powerful and empowering all at the same time. It gave me purpose for my own life and the courage to fight the good fight and never surrender.

Reading is the one thing that the pain of my life could never take away from me. It was the thing that helped to make it better. And even today, living with AIDS, books continue to be the safest place for me. It’s the one thing that belongs to me that AIDS cannot take away from me.The RLTReads book club will be books that I choose. It’s me sharing a part of me with you that has nothing to do with AIDS. It’s actually in spite of AIDS.

The RLTReads book club will be books that I choose. It’s me sharing a part of me with you that has nothing to do with AIDS. It’s actually in spite of AIDS. I have read hundreds of books from many different genres and I will pick the best of my reads over the years. I warn you, it will not be exclusively white or black, male or female, fiction or non fiction, it will be all of them.

I’m so excited and I’m grateful to everyone who wants to be a part of this venture. We already have 110 Book Club Members. You can email me @ RLTReads@raelewisthornton.com. The Twitter hashtag is #RLTReads. We can make this book club as wonderful as we want to make it. Who says that Oprah has to have the only ownership to a wonderful book club?

This Month We are Reading In My Fathers House by E Lynn Harris

Read along and join our discussion July 19th at 7 pm CST

For more Tea with Rae "Vlogs" Click here to visit her youtube channel

Monday, October 22, 2012

Monday Reflection: Living In The Right Now

I absolutely hate when I don't have something chipper to say. I feel like telling myself "Bitch get over it," or "Here we go again, damn is your life just drama?"

If I feel that way, I know others must feel that way. I know I've lost people in my life because HIV/AIDS is the illness that keeps on giving what I don't want, keeps on intruding, keeps on changing my life. For sure there's never a dull moment living with HIV/AIDS.

I know people say; How can she be sick? I just saw her, she looks great, or she was just Tweeting and Face Booking her ass off. Like how can she be struggling "that" much?

Sometimes I feel like I'm in between a rock and a hard place trying to balance it all. On one level, I don't want to make people think you can't live with this disease. I don't want to discourage those who haven't had HIV as long as I have. Looking at my honesty about my health, one could say, "If this what I have to look forward too then who needs it." Yep, my honesty could have a negative effect on what they need to do to survive.

Nor do I want people to think living with HIV is a one pill wonder. For sure this is a hard disease to live with both physically and emotionally, but LIVE is the key word.

Most importantly for me, I've learned ain't no glory in suffering in silence. I did that for years trying to meet people's approval. But I'm over it. I've decided that I don't want to be a second best anybody! I want to be the best me for me.

No point in pretending! No point in lying or giving half truths so people can like you. If people can't handle the authentic you, then you don't need them in your life.

By the same token, if the authentic you is to much for someone, they have that right to not have you in their life. And each of you have to respect the choices a person makes for their own life and well-being.

When you are living with a chronic illness you have to accept the days as they come. You also have to accept people as they come and by the same token as they go.

Not having any biological family has made this a hard journey for me. Depending on friends has proven difficult. I can count on less than one hand those who have stuck it out; the good, the bad and the ugly. For sure I had more people in my life when I was on TV every other day and the speaking engagements were rolling in.

This need to fill the void has gotten me into trouble. It's made me over look danger when it was staring me in the face. By the way, NEVER ignore that inner voice that says this doesn't feel right.

So here I am, trying to do the best that I can with what's before me. Trying to keep my head above water and a ounce of my dignity in tack, all at the same time.

Part of my secret to longevity, other than God's got a plan, is living in the right now. By the way, God can have a plan for your life and your free will can jack it all up. #ForReal #ForReal

So I try to stay connected to God's plan for my life. I do what I must to stay alive. I take my medication. I accept the changes and the hits as they come and I do it with just plain old common sense and healthy survival skills. It may mean some days, I have to be flexible and kind to myself.

Last week was an emotional bitch. I had this overwhelming darkness that just consumed me and I did what I needed to do to survive. I put all of my energy into designing my Fall/Winter  2012 RLT Collection. Beading takes me to another place and the experts believe that using your hands is helpful during depression. I became single focus so I didn't get swept up by the darkness. I know I didn't blog, but I had to switch up last week so there could be better this week.

It seemed to be working and then on Friday night I felt an physical exhaustion that I first assumed was from a full day, but by Saturday morning I was faced with a reality. HIV/AIDS is doing something to my body. The first thoughts are always, what is it? Is it something major or minor and how long will it last?

The fatigue is all consuming and the nerve pain is everywhere, from my face to my feet. The worst is feeling like someone is sticking pins in my eyes. I spent the last two days literally in bed. I'm praying its not what I think it is, some weird illness I get every few years that knocks me down.

When it happens, they think herpes is attacking my nervous system to the extreme. I'm hopeful, but not in denial. Maybe this is passing and won't be as totally debilitating. The fatigue is definitely better today. But the pins and needle feeling all over my body is not letting up. Maybe in few days or so and I will be back to my normal, sooner than later.

But just the fact that I'm always trying to out think AIDS is exhausting. For sure managing this disease is no cat walk. And you must remember, I've been living with HIV for 29 years and AIDS for 20.  Yeah, Yeah,  I know I'm alive and I know I keep it moving more than most and that I don't look or seem sick most of the time. Let me pause and say, don't let the miracle of my ability to keep moving, keep you in denial about the struggle of my life.

My body has lived through some serious trauma. At one point I was sick enough that I should have died. There has been serious damage done that cannot be repaired.  Not just from the HIV, but from the years of HIV medication. Yes the medications have helped to keep me here longer, but they cannot undo what's been done and they have done some damage on their own.

AIDS is a walking, living, breathing dichotomy. At one level we know the list of opportunist infections that one can get and we know how to prevent most of them, but its just as unpredictable.

I never know what the next day will be. Shoot I've gone to bed feeling normal and have woken to a temperature of 103 and diagnosed with PCP, AIDS related pneumonia. The medicine I was taking to prevent PCP didn't work for me.

I've woken up in the middle of the night unable to breath in a hotel room. Found an HIV doctor, had an ex-ray, told that my lungs were normal, come back home, get off the plane and be hospitalized yep, for PCP yet again.

I've been on the road. Gone to bed in a hotel room feeling normal and woken up and couldn't walk, and by afternoon I had Herpes Zoster sores from the top of my butt to the bottom of my feet.

 I've gone to my therapist office and after the session got in the car and had to take a nap before I could drive home. Then hospitalized for a week to determine that they can't determine what's wrong with me. That's when the nerve pain really began. I remember my doctor said to me, "Well we have determined that its not going to kill you, we just don't know how to make it better, only time will tell." At that point I could barley hold my body up and the fatigue was debilitating and don't be confused, this was all with a non- detectable viral load. Which hypothetically means you shouldn't have any AIDS related illness.

 Yep, HIV/AIDS is a walking breathing living dichotomy. I tell people in my life, just because I was OK last night, don't assume I'm OK today. You better check for yourself. And never assume that it's just me having a bad day, if I change my routine, something is wrong. That's why I try not to go to bed mad, cause tomorrow I may be to sick to apologize or make it right. Use my life as a lesson for understanding the people in your life with HIV and their daily struggle.

Living with a compromised immune system for as long as I have is both a miracle and a mystery. I never know what's next. But I know if I live in the right now and not in denial, I'm using my free will in the best of ways, to continue God's plan in my life. Now don't be confuse, God don't need help per say, but God gave us this free will for a reason. Sometimes we knock God's plan straight to hell in a hand basket with how we use our free will. Then God's gotta work hard to reel you back  in.

My BFF Luke said it best in a documentary on me. I never have a normal day. I don't have "normal" days like everyone else. My normal is abnormal and some days the abnormal is abnormal.

But I press my way because the alternative is death. Don't be confuse, I  do have advanced AIDS. If I should stop taking my HIV medication I will die a horrible death. Don't be confuse, if I surrender to the darkness, it will kill me quicker than the disease.  For me, surrendering and living in denial and secret are two different things with the same outcome, death.

No matter what you are facing, you must live in the right now. Living in the right now will get you to your  better tomorrows. It does not matter the dilemma you are facing; You must be willing to deal with it today to create space for a better tomorrow.

While I feel a certain kind of way about my honesty, I know it's the thing that has kept me alive. There's no way I can live with the weight of HIV/AIDS and the weight of what you think of me because I dare to share the weight of this disease.

Friday, October 19, 2012

RLT Collection is Purging!

RLT Collection is having a end of season sale. Every bracelet in the Spring/Summer and Pearl Collections have been marked down. There are also markdowns in the Unisex, For The Love of Black and even with my Tea Balls. Plus you can take an extra 15% from your final purchase at check-put. The Coupon Code is Diva2. The SALE ends Nov 1st! Click Here

I'm purging!! If there was something you have had your eye on, now is the time. I'm in the process of developing a new web design so I'm having this clearance. I'm always trying to stay fresh; trying to figure out how to take my bracelets to the next level.

It's been three years and I'm grateful for every purchase. I am really really really honored that you would wear my designs. I'm not confuse, people can spend their money anyway they pretty darn choose. I'm humble that you have chosen to spend some of it with me.

Sneak Peek Fall/Winter 2012 Collection "Jewels"!

Glamour Baby! Malachite, Jade Agates and Czech Glass Designed to Stack! Stack! Stack!
I have been burning the midnight oil working on the Fall/Winter 2012 Collection. It's gonna be fab! So far I think this is my best work. There will be two Collections; Red Baby, an all red collection and Jewels which consistent of Jewel Tones, Congac, Greens and Golds and a whole lot in between. There will be Stackables made on Stretch, Wire Wrapping, Claps, Leather.  I'm showing the full scale of my ability to design with this collection.  Each Collection, will have in it, Pearls, Imani and Unisex..

For sure you will be able to mix and match throughout the entire collection and for sure, I have a bracelet for every woman, every personally and every price range. 

This is some of the best Czech Glass I have ever seen! The Top left is one on my fav bracelets from this  Fall/Winter. There is a lot of mix median. The bottom right bracelet is Agate and Freshwater Pearls.

White Pearls with a Black Pearl Charm! I haven't taken this one off since I designed it. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Just Keep Walking

AIDS is a dark disease that takes me to a dark place some days. I try my best to be better than AIDS but some days are harder than others.

I never know what will trigger an emotionally bad day, but I look up and its just there. These last couple of days have been darker than usual. Now don't be confused, I kept it moving. I went to church on Sunday and worked on the Fall/Winter designs for RLT Collection all day yesterday, but it felt like I was dragging chains on my ankles.

When I first started speaking over 20 years ago, I would say that I was learning to co-exist with this disease. For sure this has been the challenge of my life.

Trying to keep the pretty in my life, while living in the ugly is some hard shit. Living with HIV/AIDS has been the dichotomy of a lifetime. But yet I know that light and darkness does co-exist, just like good and evil co-exist.

It's a complicated balance that I wish I could master. But if I could master it, then I would be like God. God I'm not. Shoot, I'm just grateful that God loves me in spite of me.

God's wonders are awesome. Isn't it interesting how we have just enough sunlight to the right amount of darkness? God does things so out of our reach. That's what make's God, God.

I find it equally interesting, that when you are going through your dark moments you feel all consumed, then something wonderful happens, the sun start to rise and you can see some light. Now be clear, you can hold onto the darkness and let it consume you and never see the light. You can be blinded by darkness if you stay to long.

Coexisting is something powerful. It says I will not allow you to take all of me. Some things can't be undone and for sure HIV is one of them. For sure HIV will take what it can; what you have no control over and even the things you have control over, if you allow it.

You have to fight for your spirit! You can't surrender all of you to that thing, no matter what it is. Your dark moment may not be HIV. I never try to equate other peoples pain. Pain is pain and what is a cake-walk for some, maybe a crawl for others. But I know for sure, no matter what darkness that swoops into your landscape, you can be the master of your garden.

This blog post started out as a pity party and in that instant I started to get it! I thank God for Aha Moments and I don't ignore them. 

Control those things that you can, those that you can't don't even try. Some things you have to give to God and let God be God.

And in the spirit of being human, whatever valleys you are walking through, just keep walking. It does not matter the pace, what matters is that you are moving toward the light.

What I know for sure is that stagnation will chip away at everything wonderful in your life. If you stand still in the darkness you will cut off your ability to even see a glimmer of light. The darkness will blind you to the goodness up the road.

So keep walking no matter how hard it gets... Keep walking no matter how dark it gets... Keep walking, Keep walking... Keep walking... Don't just walk physically, but walk mentally. If you are moving your body but not your mind, you are no better off. Find somethings to help free your mind. Something to take you to a space of newness.

 I read, knit and design bracelets and now I'm starting to workout.  For sure today is better then yesterday... So I'll keep walking until I get to a better place... Another day of bracelet designs for me. If my mind is on my creations, then it can't be consume with darkness. I search for a balance, a way to co-exist, both in light and darkness, ugly and the pretty.

 Each step is a new location. Sometimes, we just need to change our location... Keep walking... Keep walking... Keep walking

I wrote this one for me too! Love y'all!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Stop Rushing Love!

I've said it over and over again, a man making you feel good between your legs doesn't equate to love.

Nor do you have to have sex with every man that makes you wet between your legs. Sometimes when you feel that feeling, you just need to cross your legs, press your thighs together, smile, enjoy the moment and keep it moving.

We are in such a rush to find that perfect mate that we get locked into the sex before you even know who that person really is and the sex keeps you much longer than you should have stayed.

Now let me be clear, I'm not acting all extra Holy. I'm a work in progress. I understand, good lawdddd there's nothing like that tingle between your legs. But I gotta a news flash for you; you can get that tingle without a man, so don't confuse feel good with love.

I know in my own life I've been on and off this roll coaster ride more times than I would like to admit. You meet a guy, you think he's the best thing since slice bread, then ummm the bread moles and you are right back on that cycle of looking for love with a dry coochie and all.

I've been talking to a man now for almost two months and yes lawdddd he turns me the heck on. He excites me and he values me.  There is mutual respect and admiration. It's a start!

No, we haven't had sex, but we are intimate. Distance has been on our side and its given us the time that is needed to really get to know each other. In many ways distance can also be your enemy. Only time will tell us if it is meant to be. The key is to not be afraid of time.

But even your conversations, what do you spend most of your time talking about? If sex is the focus, then sex defines your relationship. Yes, it can often begin with that physical attraction but if dick and pussy dominates, then your foundation will crumble when you're not fucking.

We rush relationships when we really need to let them mature at a natural pace. While sex isn't love, loving someone isn't being in love.

Love simply stated, "Is an emotion of strong affection and personal attachment." It donates a concern for their well being. It's defined as, "An unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another." Love is an emotion you can have toward, friends, family and lovers.

"In love," I would venture to say is an intense feeling of desire and attraction toward a person. Romance is critical to "In love." Sex can but doesn't have to be a part of this factor. You can fall, "In love," with a person before they even touch you. I know that for a fact! Been there, done that! But sex does become a part of the romance and intensifies the attraction. Loving that person should be your first step to falling in love with that person.

It's amazing to me how some people love the sex and don't even really like the person. Your attraction then is to the sex and that doesn't equate to love of person, it equates to infatuation.

Take the time to get to know someone. I'm not telling you how soon is to soon to have sex. I am saying if you have not had the conversation about sexually transmitted diseases, HIV testing and condoms then you are not ready to have sex with anyone, but yourself.

I am saying, you don't have to have sex with everyone that excites you! I am saying that everyone that excites you will not love you or add value to your life.

I am saying don't be in such a rush to have a mate, that you rush what needs time to grow!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Fannie Lou Hamer! Someone You Should Know!

Fannie Lou Hamer was a giant of a woman! She took on the state of Mississippi, the Democratic Party and even Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Leadership.

She was a purest who's commitment to social justice was unwavering and unparalleled to any one person in the Civil Rights Movement.

I had heard about Fannie Lou Hamer, I mean anyone working in any Civil Rights organization better. And of course, everyone knows her famous quote from the 1964 Democratic Convention, "I'm tired of being sick and tried." But it really wasn't until I went to seminary that I really began to explore Ms. Hamer's life.

My professor Mark Wendoft assigned a book, This Little Light of Mine, The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer by Kay Mills. When I finished reading the book, I was in awe and I needed to know more. I needed an inside scoop. So I made my way over to Mrs. Jacqueline Jackson, the wife of Rev. Jesse Jackson to talk to her about Ms. Hamer for a paper I was writing

Sitting in her dining room, which was our hangout, I  said to Ms. J, as I call her, "Tell me about Fannie Lou Hamer." The first thing to come out of her mouth was, "She was one of the most integrist person's of the Civil Right Movement." She added, "Fannie took them all to task and when she was in jail, they beat her like she was a man."

Ms. Hamer lived in Mississippi all of her life. She was born October 6, 1917.  One of twenty children, the value of her life was an extra $50.00. In those days, the planation owners gave $50 for each new child; a possible field hand for the sharecroppers family. She was a sharecroppers daughter that herself became a sharecropper with an education level that barley reached the six grade. Most black children  from sharecroppers family only went to school 6 months out of the year following the cropping season. They had a sub-standard education, where the students  in all the grades shared one teacher in one classroom.

August 31, 1962, Fannie Lou Hamer's life changed forever and that changed the course of history for the state of Mississippi.  She was 45 years old as she made her way with 17 others to register to vote for the first time in her life. The Circuit Clerk turned 15 of them away that day. Ms. Hamer and Ernest Davis stayed and took the literacy test that was required to register. They had been tutored by the members of SNCC, The Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee there for Freedom Summer.

Plus, you had to interpret whatever portion of the Mississippi constitution they requested of you. That day, she was asked a question about, "de facto law." Huh? What? Right! You get it. But she didn't back down, she did what she could. Later Ms. Hamer admitted, "I didn't no nothing about no de facto law." On the way back to the rural area from the city the bus carrying the passengers was stopped for being, "to yellow."

By the time Ms. Hamer arrived to her house that night, the plantation owner had already made his way to her place. He told her point blank, "Go get your name off that book!" believing that she had actually been able to register that day. She stood tall and told him point blank, "Mr. Dee I didn't go down there to register for you. I went down to register for myself." That took a lot of balls for a black woman to stand toe to toe, eye to eye with a white man in 1962. Not only was her life in danger but her livelihood, the planation owner to sharecroppers was your bread and butter. Fannie Lou Hamer stood her ground and never turned back.

To really understand the boldness of their work, one must understand the Delta. It was a stronghold of oppression for black people. Mississippi would take the lives of  Emmett Till, Medgar Evers and James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael  Schwerner, the three SNCC workers who had come for Freedom Summer to help register voters. The stronghold was so tight, by 1965, after 2 1/2 years of work, there were still  only 155 black registered in Sunflower County out of 13, 524.

The work that Fannie Lou Hamer and SNCC did in the Delta was courageous. She became, the voice, the face and the spirit of the movement in Mississippi. Well after the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed, they were still fighting hard in Mississippi. Harassment never stopped. Hamer's husband driving a car carrying white students from Georgetown University there to help register  blacks, was stopped for speeding.

The Hamer's sued the city and police chief  Curtis Floyd in Hamer v. Floyd, becoming the first lawsuit under the federal Voting Rights Act brought by private parties to block a state's prosecution, claiming harassment and infringement on their right to register and vote.

A major part of the work in Mississippi was challenging business as usual. They formed the Mississippi Freedom Party in direct challenge to the standing Democratic leadership. On one level they formed the party as a way to educate and organize blacks in Mississippi, but the primary goal was to unseat the all-white Mississippi delegation to the Democratic Convention in both 1964 and 1968.

History records her as uncompromising and uncontrollable when it came to the rights of people. The 1964 convention was plagued with controversy, sell-out and compromise, depending on how you read history. In a meeting with Ms. Hamer, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Hubert Humphrey, the then vice-presidential candidate, two congressman and two other Civil Rights Activist; where they were trying to reach a compromise;

Ms. Hamer said to Humphrey, "Do you mean to tell me that your position is more important to you then the four hundred thousand black people lives?"

Indeed she was uncontrollable and unpredictable. They excluded her from every other meeting after that. The Civil Rights leadership believed getting Johnson elected was the most important goal and would in the long run help further the cause. The Mississippi delegation left Atlantic City in 64 with a bitter taste.

Jacqueline Jackson's description of Fannie Lou Hamer was on point. She was integrist and a purest to the core. Her commitment to the rights of Blacks in Mississippi was unswerving. Rulevile, Mississippi erected a statue in her honor last week. It is one of four free-standing statue's of a black woman in the United States. The others are Harriet Tuman, Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tuman.

Related Blog Post: Voter Suppression Is Voter Oppression Click Here

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

You Still Dating That Person Cause Why? Change Your Location-Part 2

I spent almost 5 years with that man waiting on him to marry me. And looking back, I can't blame nobody but myself. I should have changed my location but I stayed stuck out of my own insecurities. I saw the signs well into the second year, but I kept hoping for change.

He was 25 years my senior. The first three years I thought he was only 12 years older than me. He really did look younger than he was, even though the numbers weren't adding up. Like his education with how long he had been in his field. I remember one day I said, "Man you were doing that thang early. Makin it happen for you." He just nodded.

The numbers just weren't adding up. But I kept dismissing it, that is, until I learned by accent one day. NEVER dismiss your gut, your inner voice. It's God whispering to you.

*SMDH* I wasted my freakin pretty hoping that he would do right by me and marry my ass. I mean, he sure fucked me every chance he got. If he loved the pussy that much, I kept thinking he would love me enough to marry me. I kept thinking, "He certainly can't be ashamed of me."

But looking back, I can see how his relationship with me was easy. Easy because I was so willing to accept whatever he gave, no matter how unbalanced it was, no matter how he controlled my life and he did, with my permission. And even the HIV was easy, condom's do prevent the spread of HIV and we used them religiously. My HIV status was a well kept secret. Back then, I had only told like 4 people that I had HIV. He didn't have to worry about people knowing he was gettin it with a woman who had HIV.

I was in my mid-twenties and I didn't want to press my luck. He was handsome, drove a Mercedes Benz, had a lake view from both his bedroom and living room, he was educated, and successful in his field, I never came out of my pocket for a meal, ever. What more could a girl want? Especially a girl with HIV. It was some crazy thinking. But for sure I was plagued with the need to be loved. I wanted to be loved more than I loved myself.

That sickness, the need to be love more than self-love came long before I was diagnosed with HIV. HIV just helped the tumor to grow inside of me. Be clear, the tumor of low self-worth didn't change over night. I was well into my 30's when I began to understand my worth and in my 40's when I started to protect my worth. They both took years of therapy, prayer and hard work. I had to first learn what healthy was, what caused me to live unhealthy, morn the lost of what I never had, i. e. a healthy life and and then apply all this newness to my life, It was a long and emotionally painful journey and I did it by trail and error, one freakin day at a time. It was the rehabilitation that saved me from myself.

I know you asking... So given the fact that I didn't understand my worth and it took years to protect my worth, how was I able to change my location?  How was I able to move by ass out of that relationship that was killing what little self-esteem I had left, after learning my HIV status. Glad you asked.

You see, it was like this. After feeling a certain way for so long, you must get tried. Only for so long can you live in a relationship that is suffocating you before you need to step out of it to get some air. It's odd that I didn't understand that he was killing my self-esteem, but I understood that he was killing my spirit. I was sad more than I was happy and I drew the conclusion that I might as well be sad by myself. I was smart enough to know that you shouldn't be sad with a man. Shit, I can be sad all the freaking time by myself! For Real.. For Real...

But let me be realllllyyyy honest. Even though I knew that relationship had run it's course, I stayed stuck until another fine ass, upward mobil man, who was closer to my age and didn't give a damn about my HIV status or the man currently in my life, started to pay me some attention.

Now, I've never been one to step outside of a relationship.

Just on some practical shit, I just don't know how to lie. Also, I don't know how to pretend. If you mess around and get some sex that's better then the sex you gettin, then you in straight trouble. But Lawdddd this man worked my ass. In fact, he saw a worth in me that I didn't see in myself.

I surrendered and Lawd, Lawd he did things to my body that hadn't been done in years. But most importantly, he listened to me. He respected me and my knowledge about politics. At the time I was a senior staff person working on Senator Carol Mosley Braun's first senatorial campaign.

This new man was what the doctored ordered. I started to find myself, the independent woman that had surrendered her life over to the control of an older man, right down to the type of panties I wore. *SMDH*

 It was also a critical time in my life. At the end of the Braun Campaign, I was making a transition to AIDS. The man that I had been with for 4 years had a hard time dealing with me going public. Me being HIV was OK when it was a well kept secret, but speaking at local high schools was out of the question and my conversations with him became more demobilizing each day.

The more I saw the other man and the more I started to understand that God had crafted a new plan for my life, i.e. this work that I'm doing now, the easier it became to walk away from him.

I wish I can tell you that I was a bad bitch and I left before he "kilt" my spirit, but I can't. This is the real world and my journey had shaped the woman that I was then. By the way, it has also shaped the woman that I am now, just in better ways.

But back then, the need to be loved was more important then love of self. Back then I understood my life in terms of a man and the change of location was hard, very hard.

What I know for sure is this; you must ask yourself the hard questions. Does this person add value to my life? But central to this is understanding your own value. If you are not there yet, then ask yourself, Am I happy more than I'm sad? Does he/she makes me smile more than he/she makes me cry. Am I laughing more than arguing? Do I spend more time with them or looking for them? Do he/she supports the things in my life, my goals or do they tear me down?

Love at the cost of you, is not love that is worthy of you... Change Your Location!

Part One: Change Your Location! LINK HERE

Made It to the Finals! *Throws Confetti*

I made it to the finals!! THANK YOU! So now we are in the second round of voting for the Black WeBlog Awards. I'm in two categories, Diva Living With AIDS:Best in Health and Wellness and Rae Lewis-Thornton, Diva Living With AIDS: Best Personal Blog.

You only have to vote ONE time for both of them. Please take the time to vote for me. Here the LINK! Remember you are voting for me in two areas, Best Health and Wellness and Best Personal Blog. VOTE!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Monday Reflection: Balancing Hurt-Accepting The Seasons

When someone alters your life without your permission you are in the land of... This is fucked up and how do I recover? You are faced with very hard decisions of how do I balance the thing that has happened to you, with the person that has done it?

They are not mutually exclusive and cannot be compartmentalized; they are very much connected. This becomes very complicated, especially when the person that has done that thing, you love, like for real, for real.

I remember when I was in a relationship with an addict. It was some hard stuff trying to balance my love for him and my love for self. After each time he went out on his monthly drug binge he came home, remorseful, full of guilt and shame.

Yep, he said everything I needed to hear for me to keep him in my life and let him stay in my home. Actually, it was everything I wanted to hear. He always said the right thing, like, "I'll go to AA everyday if need be." As if going to AA was going to actually help him be better; rid him of the sickness of addiction and he wasn't really working the program. Going and working it are two different things.  He even agreed to my demands, let me manage all the money, as if me holding onto the money would stop his addiction. But I went alone with the new plan each time, because I loved him and wanted him in my life. I understand that addiction is a sickness and I was prepared to stand by my man at all cost. I believed it, hook line and sinker and I actually think he believed it, that is until he went to the crack house again.

It was a tangled web. He would go out... hurt himself and me in the process. Let me tell you, there is nothing worst than waiting on the man you love to come home from a crack house. Nothing like watching someone you love hurt themselves over and over again.

During that time I became sicker than  him. I spent all of my time trying to figure out how to keep him clean. My life stopped trying to save his life. His sickness was addiction and my sickness was him.

Then one day he left and I thought my world had crumbled. Life without him was no life at all. But, looking back, I think God did for me what I was unable to do for myself. Get him the hell out of my life, before I destroyed myself trying to save him. Love of a person should never trump love of self, whether family or friend. 

It's hard balancing whether that person should continue to take center stage in your life. First off, you must time take to process and recover from the trauma, drama, the hurt, the change, the breach. While that person's sickness is important and of concern, it cannot trump self-care. You can't help no damn body, if you don't help yourself first.

You must allow yourself time to heal! I tell my BFF Luke all the time, "You can't be a person's "friend" that just hurt you, right now."  That shit is to fresh. You need time to recover from the hurt. But most importantly, redefine the relationship. For sure, once there has been a breach of some sort, things changes. It does not matter the context of the breach, it is what it is. To not consider this new information is not only foolishness, it's dangerous to you emotionally, and potentially physically.

Trying to operate business as usual in the face of change that someone else caused is not self love or self care.  I say all the time, when someone shows you who they are believe them, don't explain it away or make excuses.

I can't tell you whether to keep that person in your life or let them go. For a fact, some people are for part of the journey. Everybody ain't meant to be in your life forever.

We get in God's way, trying to have our way. I heard Bishop TD Jakes say once, "That the problem comes when God removes that person and you try to hold onto what you should have let go." For sure, the Bible say's, for everything there is a season.

And truth be told; some people should have never been a part of the journey. You see the signs early, but you dismiss them. That conflict, your gut, your inner voice, whatever you call it, should never be dismissed out of your need for love and fellowship. If it's to good to be true, it probably is. There is a price for everything and don't you ever forget that. When you don't listen to that inner voice, you end up in a messy-mess. That mess becomes a diversion from God's plan for your life and then God has to get you out of that mess, help you recover from that mess, before you can get back to what has been planned for you.

My Mother With a Book and Cup of Tea
I had to learn this lesson with my  biological mother. Accepting the seasons of a person in your life is not easy this I know for a fact.

My mother didn't come into my life until I was 18. She and I were building a relationship. But by the time I was 24 her mental illness took center stage. Half of her life as a addict, her demons and self-loathing became king in her life. She tried to kill herself through self mutilation. It was devastating and it sent me to therapy for the first time in my life. It was the start of learning to balance her mental illness and accepting the seasons.

At first I tried up close and personal but it was to overwhelming, to damaging to me. Then I got in a grove. I  found a balance to keep her in my life, but that was not over night. It took well over a year and six months of therapy to get to that place.

For over twenty years I met my mother where she was at in her mental illness, not where I wanted her to be.  I loved my mother and although she didn't raise me, I know for a fact that I got my love from books and tea from her. I held on for as long as I could. I held onto to the person she had become as a result of her mental illness, not the person I first met. I got out of denial real quick.

Then  after twenty years there was another major shift, a new breach that was directed at me in the most hurtful way. It's one thing when the hurt is about them. You can balance it, understand it, sympathize with it and have empathy for it. But when the mental illness becomes about you, you must redefine the relationship immediately.

Mental illness is not a play thing. The difficult thing is accepting that they are operating out of mental illness and not a place of recovery. You remember the person they use to be, the person you want them to be, the person you thought they were. But accepting this season in their life is a must, a must for your own mental health and the new season in your life.

It was one of the most painful things in my life. But I had to redefine the relationship for my own emotional and physical well-being. I cut my ties for almost two years, until the week that she died. There is no remorse or guilt. I know that I did the best thing for me. In fact, when I arrived to her bedside in Buffalo New York, I learned that she had started to use drugs again. Probably as a way to self-medicate her mental illness, which is not uncommon. I got out of her web before I was tangled in it. I saw it for what it was and I acted out of my best interest. There is nothing wrong with taking care of you.

I am glad though, that I went to her bedside. It was the best decision for both of us at that moment in time.  It was a new season and I listened to my inner voice yet again.

Looking back, it was a great balancing act for me over the years. You must learn to take the moments in time as they come and weigh out the best decision for your well-being. Nothing is set in stone, take it as it come. But for sure, your love for any one person cannot negate your love for yourself.

For sure, you cannot operate in a relationship that has hurt you as business as usual. You must step back, take the time to heal. Then take the time to redefine the relationship. But healing must be first.

 Hurt clouds your judgement. It's an nasty emotion that can control you for the rest of your life. And if you allow that hurt to fester, you are giving the person who hurt you even more power over you. No one should ever have control over you, whether emotionally or physically.

You must work on your healing, whether through therapy, or prayer. I recommend both! They both offer you some newness. Therapy offers a neutral place to reach your aha moments. Prayer offers comfort, relief and newness.

As my Pastor  L. Bernard Jakes said on Sunday,  "It's ok to hurt from betrayal, it's actually Biblical.  But unaddressed hurt will create a vengeful spirit." Prayer is a privilege, a gift from God to us. We should use it!

Psalms 55:12-14 If a enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe we're raising himself against me, I could hide from him. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God 
55:18-17 But I call to God and the Lord saves me. Evening morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Don't Take That Chance....

I know some of you are planning your weekend, yep! And I know sex is involved, so STOP lying! And I know that some of you are going to have sex without a condom, so STOP lying! And some of you are going to justify the sex with some bullshit, so STOP lying.

Yes, I said bullshit! Some of you don't know your partner's HIV status and you still having sex without a condom. I'm sitting here having my morning tea, thinking, what the HELL are you thinking? Like why are you putting yourself at risk? HUH? Like For Real... For Real... That's real blind faith. About 38% of newly diagnosed cases of HIV, are of people who were infected by people that didn't know their HIV status. 

And some of you think you know your partner's HIV status. Yep! They told you that they tested and it came back negative and you smiled and said, "GREAT" You believe their truth as it was presented to you and now you're thinking, "We can get that thang freely." And really that's all you cared about in the first place. 

And some of you even went and got tested with your partner. I bet you're proud of yourself. Well, actually, I'm proud of you to!! Basically because you loved YOURSELF enough to know your own HIV status. And you are grown enough to have the conversation with your partner. Neither of these are small things, so I commend you. I whole heartedly believe that if you can't have the conversation, before you fuck, then you shouldn't be fuckin. 

BUT ummm the fact of the matter, at the end of the day, all you know about your partner is what they tell you and what you see. I'm not going to make this long and drawn out. This is the bottom line; YOU JUST DON'T KNOW! You think you know. You pray you know, but at the end of the day, the only thing that you know for sure is two things, YOUR own HIV Status and what your partner tells you. It's a fact, when the penis is not with you, you have NO idea what it's doing!

I know, I know, I know, you are saying, " Gee give it a break Rae.  Is there ever a time when I can let my guards down?" And the  answer for single folks is NO! There was a time when I believed that a monogamous relationship as you know it should stand on it's own two feet of honor; but with years of experience, banking on someone else to keep you safe could be a deadly mistake. 

There's not a week that goes by that I don't get an email or message on Twitter or Facebook from someone that discovered that their partner has been outside of the relationship and now they have some sexually transmitted disease. And I've told you time and time again about the men who have approached me knowing my HIV status and they are otherwise committed. And I've even confessed that I've accept an offer here or there.  I know what it's like to be lonely and the foolishness we do to rid ourselves of that feeling. At some point you have got to Love yourself, more then wanting to be loved!

While I want to say yes, go ahead, take a chance, I just can't. A chance could leave you fighting for your life for the rest of your life.  Have fun this weekend, but don't take a chance. There's no sex worth your life.  #FuckinFriday

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