March 21, 2014
This piece originally appeared in Rae's blog, Diva Living With AIDS.
I pushed my Chanel handbag to the side and my toilet bath began. I tore off a good size piece of toilet paper and dipped it into the ice-cold toilet water. Then, I began to wash my body. I wiped off as much as I could from my behind, and then flushed the toilet paper. I pulled off another piece of toilet paper, dipped it in the ice-cold toilet water and repeated the procedure. Dip, wipe, flush, dip, over and over. After I'd gotten every single ounce of poop from one part of my body, I proceeded to the next until every trace was gone.
As I sat on the toilet, wiping down the inside of my pants leg, I began to talk to God again. This time I asked, "Why? Why this? Why now?" I knew if I asked Him, sooner or later, He'd reveal his purpose. Maybe He wanted to remind me that a St. John suit is not my security blanket. Security is only in His arms and His love, no matter what the circumstances. Maybe it was to give me an incident, a situation that one day, at a future time I could use to inspire and encourage others. But this was not that day. After I finished cleaning myself, I dressed and washed my $150.00 LePerla panties in the toilet. I took some toilet paper, wrapped them neatly and placed them in the container next to the toilet.
With my head held high, I sashayed back to the table, still looking too cute in my black and white pinstriped St. John suit. My smile was sincere, because AIDS didn't win. The diarrhea was a complete and vicious ambush. A total surprise, but it did not win. I'm not saying it didn't hurt. It always hurts. But even though there were battle scars on my heart, and bruises on my ego, there was not one piece of poop on my St. John pantsuit or my beautiful black Chanel pumps. As I sat down in my booth and waited on my Five Nut Chocolate Brownie, a sense of joy swiped over me because I had not surrendered to the ugliness.
There have been many days in my life where I have had to hold my head high in the face of adversity. Yes, there were days that I was bloody, but over the years I learned to never bow. For me, it's about how one maintains their dignity when their back is against the wall..... How you hold your head up, against the odds. Holding my head high was all I had that day. Beyond that, I couldn't see any goodness in it. But God always has a way of using your pain for the goodness of others.
Read Rae's blog Rae Lewis-Thornton Speaks.
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Rae Lewis-Thornton is an Emmy Award-winning AIDS activist who rose to national acclaim when she told her story of living with AIDS in a cover story for Essence Magazine. She has lived with HIV for 27 years and AIDS for 19. Rae travels the country speaking and challenging stereotypes and myths about HIV/AIDS. She has a Master of Divinity degree and is currently working on her Ph.D. in Church History. Rae has been featured on Nightline, Dateline NBC, BET and The Oprah Winfrey Show, as well as in countless magazines and newspapers, including Emerge, Glamour, O, the Oprah Winfrey Magazine, Jet, Ebony, the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune, to name a few. She earned the coveted Emmy Award for a first-person series on living With AIDS for Chicago's CBS News.
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