Eric Thompson: An Open Heart
Everything does happen for a reason, but some of the most unexpected reasons lead to the most beautiful lifetimes. –Treka L. House
For 31 years, I lived my life my way. Some of you may be clapping about this, but this isn’t always the
best way; especially when you don’t consider the affect it has on others. When I was born, Dr. Meeks told both my mother and grandmother, that we were the 44th set of twins to be delivered; but the first born head first with no issues. We were destined for greatness. My uncle by marriage said the Lord told him that we would be Prophets, which applied pressure to us early in life. Born as an identical twin, I was the oldest, biggest, one with the strongest will, most laid back, and most responsible twin. However, I still managed to be the sickest of the twins. The first debilitating condition I experienced was with asthma, which has been my number one enemy since birth.
Maybe a year after we were born my parents divorced, leaving my mother as a single parent. The divide of my family left me with internal issues of self-doubt, trust, and feelings of rejection. I believed that if your parent could just walk off, anybody can and will walk out of your life. I had no idea how that would affect my future relationships, or just how much work I would have to do on myself to change my reaction to that particular devastation. With my mother raising us primarily on her own, that left me feeling responsible for everyone emotionally and physically; especially my mother and my twin. That sense of strength exhausted me, as I was still trying to figure out who I was. I watched my mother work hard to provide for us my entire life, so hard, that at times we lived with my grandparents. My grandfather was the father I didn't have. I loved him like my own father, as that’s the role he played in my life. He taught me the value of hard work and the value of a dollar. He taught me to overcome life’s situations, no matter what. My grandfather only had an elementary education; however he took classes to learn to read and write as a grown man. I admired his tenacity to excel despite the obstacles. I admired his determination to find ways to accomplish what was necessary for him and our family. He wasn't perfect, like no man I know, but he instilled in me how to be a man and how to love God.
My life has offered one experience after the other, both good and bad. I have gone from being bullied to becoming a sports star. My coach at Mississippi State University, Jackie Sherrill, was a guiding light and still is to this day. We still communicate regularly. He was one of the first people to show me that it was more than just about the sport; he cared about me as a person. I was always intelligent; though my downfall was idle time. After four knee surgeries and several concussions, Coach Sherrill agreed to pay for my schooling, as long as I continued to keep my grades up. The free time was too much for a sharp mind like mine. Needless to say, in February of 2003, I was arrested the week after I left and went home to Valley. I played spring ball there with NFL scouts coming to speak with me, but what they didn’t know that was never my dream. There was one tragic situation after the other. If it wasn’t me undergoing surgery for injuries sustained because of sports, or arrests because of my irresponsibility to finding out that my first child was diagnosed with a rare condition called Thanatophoric Dwarfism; and ultimately experiencing the loss of my first child after he lived for about 20 minutes. We all know that life offers us a lot of first, but that was one I didn’t want. He passed the same on the same day my fraternal grandfather died. It seemed that life and death were a simultaneous part of my life. As my daughter Madison Elyse graced this earth on February 15, 2008, my fraternal grandma departed on the same day, eight years prior. I used that as a sign to do what I knew I had in me, and that was to be different be the man I knew that I was intended to be.
During that same year around mid-April, my father was heavy on my mind and heart; so I reached out to let him know that no matter what, I loved him and had no ill feelings. I felt like he did the best he could and did the best thing by going back to Detroit after the divorced. He left us with my grandparents, my mother and her nine sisters and brothers. On June 4, we received a devastating call that he had been found in a house shot to death. To see him laid out rocked my world. As much as I thought it wouldn't hurt, it did.
For the last five years, my health has been on a downward spiral. It has put a lot into perspective for me and helped me appreciate my life more. I have had heart issues, a sixth knee surgery, blood clots in my leg and in both lungs, sarcoidosis (autoimmune disorder), rhabdomyolysis, several cancer scares, major stomach problems, and seizures that has caused problems with my sugar and vitamin levels. I have been on 20+ pills a day for the last 5 years. On several occasions, doctors wrote me off, but my faith was and is always stronger than their diagnosis. About two years ago, I met a woman who is a special part of my life for several reasons. She taught me to verbalize my thoughts, and not to internalize everything. She has loved me like no other has before in my life. In the midst of my storms, I was blessed enough to have her carry my seed and give birth to our son, Bryce Anthony. My children motivate me because of the unconditional love they have for me. The weight of my problems and me being stubborn took a toll on our relationship. I had to realize I had to fix me before I could be anything to anyone. We communicate better and we are great friends; however I learned that two broken people can't fix each other. My whole life I've been broken. I wanted everyone around me to be happy, but that didn't make me happy.
A month ago, I spent 10.5 days in ICU at St. Dominic's in Jackson and it showed me a lot about who I am. I always said pride will keep you alive and it will get you killed. I’ve chosen to let it keep me alive. When I left that hospital, I left as a better person and a better man. I went from 20+ pills per day to 8 and giving myself a shot once a week. A true blessing. I finally felt clear headed. I went from weighing 340 in a size 48-46 to weighing 250-255 in a size 40. My son’s mother encouraged me to be sociable, despite the weight. She was 100% right, I am better and healthier without the weight. I realized that a sick man has no place in the home. A man is supposed to protect and lead. Honestly, I'm just discovering my purpose, and I understand that position is to guide and safeguard. Just because you're a man, doesn’t mean that you can’t vulnerable. As a black man I don’t have to be what society says I am. I'm embracing and walking in my purpose, and that is to help and show you that you can overcome. You can be an honest man. You can be with a woman and not cheat. You can defy the odds.
I struggle daily with my children being in one place, while I'm in another. It’s not by choice, but I do it for them. If I'm not well for myself, how can I be well for them? I love them to life. I have no issues with either of my children’s mother, we are great friends. One of which, I still truly love. I had to embrace the fact I was born differently, and now I walk in that. For many years, I acted out on my fears, until I learned to stop doubting myself and my abilities. Yes, at times I struggle with trust and the fear of rejection, but I've learned to express myself instead of internalizing everything. God, and an amazing woman, who saw straight through the tough exterior directly into the hurt and pain; helped me to deal with myself. She taught me real love, not on purpose, just her being herself. She is a special person to me, and she always will be. I will give a lifetime for her, I really would. I didn’t pay attention to the signs that I wasn't there when she needed me. I was always sick and needy, and I was self-centered. I could make a million excuses, but I won't. Honestly, I just didn't consistently give her what I knew she needed. She needed my love, support and protection. Every time I was sick she was there and when Bryce was born, she had to take care of him, myself and she made sure her mom was good. That’s a lot on one person. As a man, I learned that there was a lot I could've done differently to help and support what she had going on. The choice to do better was mine; therefore, the willingness opened me up to becoming better. Ellen (the mother of one of my children) was right. I broke down my issues, threw my pride out of the window and tried changing. Most of the things that Ellen added to my life have helped me to have a healthy healing process. Prayer, daily affirmations, and peace help me daily in my walk. I stress less. I'm in the hospital less so far.
We, as men, are taught to be unemotional, yet that's the farthest from what our children and our Queens need. They need balance. And for years I didn’t fully have that. To the men, I would say yes we are the leaders, protectors, and providers but don't be so hard that you can't be sensitive to the needs of your woman or your children or even yourself. Take time for self. Evaluate yourself, take criticism, and know to be an effective leader you must be an awesome follower. Men give your Queens some space to process her thoughts and life just as well as we need space to do the same. I ask that you stop degrading our black women/men. Women need us for deep connections other than sex. They need an emotional, mental, and spiritual connection first. We all need consistency. As men, we must show balance. Be soft and vulnerable. Be all about family. Leave outside business outside, and only focus on what will help you and your mate grow. Men plant the seeds of life. We are responsible for these seeds, just as farmer would be over his crops.
For the women, I will say there are some great men, such as myself in the world. We all make mistakes and fall short, but if that man is worth the fight then fight. Our families need it. First God, family and subsequently the few true friends we have. Any other way, and it won't work whether it is man or woman.