The Difficult Experiences
I think I had a fairly easy childhood. Came from a two-parent household where both parents worked, with an older brother and sister (yes, I’m the baby of the family). I don’t remember any overly stressful family situations, nor do I remember feeling unloved or unsupported in my creative pursuits, of which there were many… from writing to singing, painting, acting, modern/jazz dance, and playing musical instruments.
In school, from elementary through college, I had good groups of friends, and was comfortable in my talents, displaying them with ease – never had a problem getting into talent shows to sing a ballad I absolutely loved, and received good feedback. But I was an introvert by nature, still am. Though I had good friends and was active, I often felt I didn’t quite fit in, and was sure people didn’t really understand me. I was an avid book reader and dreamer, journaling constantly to express myself.
I remember feeling there was a lot about life I just didn’t understand, and wondered if I ever would. Once while in high school riding the bus home, there was a sign inside the bus with what became my favorite Bible scripture, Proverbs 3:5-6 –
Trust in the Lord with all thine heart. Lean not unto thy own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths.
I memorized that scripture on that ride home so I could look it up and write it down. For some reason, the scripture soothed my mind about what I didn’t know about life… at the age of 15. It let me know I didn’t have to figure out everything on my own.
I also remember being plagued with low self-esteem coupled with depression. Not clinical depression, but depression all the same. There are pictures from my teen years that I look at now, and still remember the feeling of angst I carried.
While in college, a friend would ask, “What’s the matter?” and my answer more often than not was, “Nothing in particular, but everything in general.” To this day, though, I cannot recall from where the discontent stemmed.
Following college graduation, I got an opportunity to interview for a full-time, with benefits position as Community Awareness Specialist with the U. S. Census. Not long after that interview, though, came a-once-in-a-lifetime gig – the chance to be a floorshow performer in the four-member song and dance act TiChAND aboard the S.S. Emerald Seas Cruise ship. I didn’t pass it up.
About a week or so in with the cruise ship job sailing from Miami to the Bahamian Islands, I got word a Census Bureau representative had been trying to reach me… to offer me the position. I had to tell the rep “my current situation,” which was a six-month contract. I was told they’d hold the position for me.
As luck would have it, a minor heart condition, which flared up during one of my solo performances got me booted off the ship. (No health insurance taken out by the hiring production company made me a liability.) This happened just in time to miss hurricane season at sea, and to arrive back in cold Detroit for Thanksgiving 1985. The job with the Census Bureau was slated to start in February 1986.
Things Fall Apart
Which leads me to my marriage. I met my husband, whom I’ll call “R” while training for my Census Bureau position at Census Headquarters in Maryland, his home. He was the friend of a man my sister was dating at the time. Turned out, my sister’s boyfriend had left his briefcase at “R’s” home during a visit, and since I was in town, he figured I could get the briefcase, bring it home, and also be shown around the Maryland/D.C. area.
Upon meeting “R”, he brought me a small bouquet of flowers and the briefcase, and I reluctantly went to dinner with him (I was already in a relationship that was deteriorating). “R” wooed me for the entire week I was in town for training, and I went back to Detroit a changed woman.
Two years into a long distance relationship we married, and I moved to Maryland. And that’s when “it” happened… the abuse. From the first night of our honeymoon in Jamaica to four years later, I was beaten, intermittently, and my already low self-esteem was shattered from his verbal, and emotional tirades.
He was skilled at letting me know I wasn’t good enough for anything. Where my talents were concerned, he shunned my writing, and ensured me my singing wasn’t up to par. My talents went into hiding. If he had to endure a few scales accidently left on the fish I cooked, I was labeled incompetent. One day he left me in charge of recording a Redskins football game while he was at work. Somehow, it didn’t record, which gave him reason to punch me in the nose, and slam me down, standing over me threateningly.
Once, while I was five months pregnant with our only son, he found it fitting to throw a wooden chair across the room at me, all because of a silly argument he wanted to have that I was not participating in, about the name my mother called me – Andi – my nickname. (The story is to convoluted to explain; but I stepped out of the way before the chair hit me.)
Those are just the highlights. But I give them as a glimpse into what I endured. The last incident occurred on the morning of October 6, 1992 when he kicked me, knocking me off balance as I stood at the refrigerator getting out the orange juice for him. Having had all I could take, after he left for work I called my sister, and told her I was ready to leave. She put a “rescue” plan in motion.
Two days later, my sister and our father came to Maryland and took my son and I to my cousin’s unofficial “safe house” in New York City. We were there two weeks, and then moved to Detroit, all without my husband’s knowledge of our whereabouts. I divorced him three years later.
Coming out of that situation, it took about 10 years to transition from the mentality of “victim” of domestic violence to “survivor.” During my years of recovery I went through counseling at Interim House, and I had to relearn a lot of things about life and relationships, and about myself. I think the most important lessons were:
- Whatever the initial reasons for my self-imposed low self-esteem, they were invalid.
- The battering, physical, verbal and emotional I received from “R” that further shattered my self-esteem, didn’t break me.
- I am a stronger woman than I ever imagined.
About Andrea Daniel
Andrea Daniel is a writer and poet. Her work has appeared in magazines and as part of an exhibit at the Detroit Institute of Arts, a major metropolitan museum in Detroit, Michigan. When she’s not writing poetry, Andrea is a freelance writer for various publications. She is co-owner/operator of Dakota Avenue West Publishing, an independent book publishing company under which Like Gwendolyn was published, and she owns and operates AND Communications, a multi-layered creative communications agency. For 12 years Andrea was production supervisor, producer, writer, reporter/talent with the City of Detroit Government Cable Access Channel 10 until she was laid off in 2009.
Andrea is a proud member of the Motown Writers Network, and the Michigan Literary Network, and is producer and guest host of Michigan Literary Network Radio on blogtalkradio.com, and co-producer of Literature, Lyrics and Lines on WRCJ Radio – 90.9 in conjunction with the Detroit School of Arts, a Detroit Public School. She also combines her love of poetry and music as a singer/songwriter (recording under the stage name Naomi Daniel) and is a registered songwriter with Broadcasting Music, Inc. (BMI).
She serves on the Board of Directors for the Friends of the E. Azalia Hackely Collection of African Americans in the Performing Arts with the Detroit Public Library, and the Power of Girlhood non-profit organization. Since 2012, Andrea has been Volunteer Coordinator for the annual Health and Wealth Expo sponsored by Sisters Acquiring Financial Empowerment (SAFE).
Andrea lives in Detroit, Mich. with her son, and a sweet little Terrier-Poodle mix named Dot.
About Andrea Daniel’s book “Like Gwendolyn”
Like Gwendolyn, Andrea Daniel’s debut poetry book, epitomizes nearly forty years of her life as a poet. The first chapter, “Life, death, and stuff in between” is about just that, as Andrea or someone else has experienced or Andrea imagined. “Love and such,” depicts love in its many forms. As a survivor of domestic violence, she shares in “Abused Tales,” poems written in the years of her recovery. And she wrote the poems in “Love for Jay,” the final chapter, during frequent periods of separation from her (now adult) son in his early childhood years.
It is the legacy of the late poet Gwendolyn Brooks and the beauty of her work that inspired the completion of Andrea’s book.
Like Gwendolyn is available for purchase for $12.95 (U.S.)/$15.00 (Canadian) at www.AndreaDanielPoet.com.
Author: Andrea Daniel