Tracy chats with writer, podcaster, and educator Ashley C. Ford about how a toxic relationship temporarily halted the bigger visions she had for her life. Ashley also shares how self-love led to her biggest breakthrough.
Going Through It Season 2 Episode 8 with Ashley C. Ford
Tracy Clayton: This is Going Through It, a show about women who found themselves in situations where they said, Get thee behind me Satan. And they made a decision to make a change and turn something around. I'm your host, Tracy Clayton.
Ashley Ford: I was working two jobs and I was stressed out about money and, you know, just a million and five things going on.
Tracy: That's Ashley Ford. She's literally a Jack of all trades. A Jill of all trades? A Black person of all trades. She's a writer, a humorous and she's a host. But around a decade ago, before she was writing about folks like Viola Davis, Billy Porter, Missy Elliott and Serena Williams, she was living in a basement apartment. At Least she thinks it was an apartment.
Ashley: I was living with a family who had essentially taken me in so that I didn't have to live in squalor. It was nothing but a really low fiber carpet that was still damp in places. And then there was the gray concrete. It was dark. It was musty. It felt like walking into your own depression.
Tracy: Ashley was broke. She was a college student. And not to mention she was in a relationship that was really starting to give her pause.
Ashley: I always felt like my ex had a lot of darkness in him. And that what he was attracted to was my light and that that was how we would balance each other out. I didn't think that he would hate my light because he couldn't have it for himself.
Tracy: This was Ashley's first real relationship, but Ashley noticed a huge red flag when they would disagree.
Ashley: He felt like it was disrespectful or dismissive that when we would argue -- I'm not really much of a yeller. First of all, I'm a Capricorn. So I like to keep things really pragmatic, even in a fight. Like I like to be very, okay, well, what is the issue? But he felt like that made me a robot. And like, I didn't really care enough to emote during those fights in a way that was satisfactory to him. And by the time we get to this fall, we are officially at a point where he doesn't feel like an argument is over until I cry.
Tracy: And then, then she received the email to end all emails forever.
Ashley: I knew this relationship was not going to work when he emailed me a poem breaking up with me in the poem.
Tracy: In the poem!
Ashley: It was mostly about the fact that the last time we had gone to I hop when the check came, he paid for it and I didn't even look at it, which, you know, sorry about that $15 dollars. But then like the end of the poem literally says: And you can go to hell, Ashley Ford. [laughs].
Tracy: When they broke up, Ashley's grades slipped and she kind of retreated inward and she felt like she couldn't be her full self. And so much of what she had been planning for herself revolved around him and his career and his needs and his wants. There was very little of her in this plan at all. But it was in that moment, though, that she had a realization that would really help her move forward.
Ashley: I think that that was when I realized that relationships were not supposed to make me feel bad about myself.
Tracy: Whew! Good relationships can really bring out the best in us but a bad relationship, child, this is Going Through It.
Tracy: What helped you pull yourself out of that funk that you were in post break up?
Ashley: This was the first time in my life that I had a group of girlfriends. I had never had a group of girlfriends before. Like I'd had, I'd always had girlfriends. Like, I was never the kind of person who's like, I don't know, boys are just easier, like pfff, whack. Not true. But I never had a group of girls before. And this was the first time that that happened. And a lot of those women, young women, were you don't like they were literature majors but they were studying women's studies, like all of this stuff. And I would tell them about things that were happening in my relationship that I thought were just bad moments. And they very clearly named them as abuse. And as being treated poorly at best and abusive at worst. And I think that, like having that group of people who even if I was not at a place where I felt like I could necessarily always tell them what was really going on with me, when I did they heard me and affirmed me and also corrected me about what I thought I deserved. So that helped a ton. So much.
Tracy: Aww. I love that so much. That is beautiful. So, I know that you had your girlfriends to hold you down. Right. But there was also something else that you remember around this time that lifted you up. And it all comes back to Oprah?
Ashley: Oh, yeah.
Tracy: Tell me about what that did for you during this time, having that network during this really tumultuous time.
Ashley: I felt like it was this restart, right. For Oprah -- it was like Oprah, who was at the top of it, like Oprah! Oprah deciding, I'm going to do something else. I think there was just something that made me feel like if she was starting over and trying something new, I could start over and try something new as well. But the number one show that really changed my shit, that really changed my shirt on OWN was there was a show with Shania Twain. And it was like a mini series. And I knew because I'd read -- you know, at that point I read tabloids a lot and stuff like that -- I knew that years before Shania Twain's husband had left her for her best friend. And that they had been cheating and stuff. And so I knew that that had happened. But this show was about the fact that when all that was happening, Shania actually lost her voice, like her ability to sing. Like she was so stressed and so upset about all these things going on in her life that she, like, stopped singing -- like she couldn't sing. And this, like, mini series was about her going on this journey into that situation, into her past, into situations with her family and trying to find -- literally find her voice again. And figure out how to continue to express herself in this way that had always been so important to her. I was working at a company for a little while and the woman who ran the company had taken the team out for dinner. One of the things that came up for some reason was Shania Twain. And I started --
Tracy: [laughs] [crosstalk] You were like, this is my moment.
Ashley: And I -- well, yes! I mean, kind of. I was like I -- because I knew so much. [laughs].
Ashley: Like, at this point I've watched the mini series. I've read her book. You know, and I'm just like -- and I'm a fount of Shania Twain knowledge. [laughter] I'm so excited. I'm just excitedly talking to them about Shania Twain. And she asked, Why do you like Shania Twain so much? And I was like, well, I -- at the toughest moment in my life or what feels like the most recent, toughest moment of my life, she provided this symbol for me of moving on from pain and not letting it take part of you with it. You know, cause she had felt like she let that situation take her voice from her. And so she was going to get it back, you know. And I'd felt like in my last relationship that I allowed my voice in a lot of ways to be taken from me. And I was going to go get it back no matter what. And I knew that I could. And I was telling her about this and while we're having this conversation, she has gotten on her phone and bought two tickets to Madison Square Garden --.
Tracy: [crosstalk] What?
Ashley: To see Shania Twain and wants me to go. And I went and I sat and I like had the whole -- It was, it was great. And Shania Twain wrote an electrical bull over the crowd. Like she --
Tracy: Over the crowd?
Ashley: Yeah. Like it was like one of those crane things that came out and she was on it on an electrical bull.
Tracy: [crosstalk] That sounds dangerous.
Ashley: [crosstalk] So at one point, she was right above me, like riding this electrical bull, telling me that I don't impress her much. [laughter] And I was losing my mind. I was so into it. I was having a great time. Like I remember her singing, "You're Still the One." And I used to always hear Shania Twain's "You're still the One" and think about what it would be like when I had someone who I loved and we had been together for 10, 15, 20 years. And I'd play this song and we'd like dance together in the living room or something like that. And she starts singing, "You're Still the One" and I felt like it was about me to me.
Ashley: Like I felt -- I thought about--
Tracy: [crosstalk] Come through self-love!
Ashley: Right? Thought about how old I was the first time I heard that song, which was like 10. And that was really kind of the ages where I most -- like that's like the last time I remember really liking myself. Like, really, really liking myself. And hearing that, you know, and I mean what like I mean, I had already been, I think, on the path to getting to this place of liking myself. But listening to "You're Still the One" while she's on stage and thinking about, you know, how I felt about that song, it was just like, no, this is, I'm still the one.
Ashley: I'm still the one for me.
Tracy: [crosstalk] You better be the one, girl.
Ashley: [crosstalk] Like, I'm still the person I was then, you know. I mean, it was it was great. I'll never forget that night.
Tracy: Aww. You've even made my cold, dead heart feel some kinda hope! [laughter] Magic! .
Tracy: Fast forward to today.
Tracy: You got a, you got a nice little ball and chain --.
Ashley: [crosstalk] I do. I do.
Tracy: [crosstalk] As they call them. Your husband, Kelly. If I believed in love, that would be my relationship goals. But I know the jig, I seent it when I was little. [laughter].
Tracy: What does this relationship have that your others didn't?
Ashley: Kindness. Kindness as a rule and not an aberration. Kelly is generally kind. And not just with me. You know, that's really important to me. Misery is not content to be attached to joy. It either has to overtake joy or eventually be dismissive of the joy.
Tracy: Or just consume it all.
Ashley: Or consume it all. But Kelly is kind and patient. And the biggest difference between my last boyfriend and Kelly is that Kelly does not hesitate really to put in the effort. I don't worry about Kelly giving up on me. And I definitely don't worry about Kelly wanting me to dim my light so that he doesn't have to feel negatively about his own or anybody else's. Kelly is my biggest fan. He will not be out-fanned.
Tracy: Challenge accepted, Kelly. [laughter] We'll see about that, buddy.
Ashley: I mean, good luck cus he doesn't play well. He will not -- Kelly will not be out-fanned. Like for him, being my supporter and my biggest supporter is part of the role. It's part of the job of being my partner in life and being my husband. And he takes that so seriously. And, you know, luckily, the good thing with Kelly is that he takes it seriously enough to work on liking himself more because he understands that the better he treats himself, the better he'll treat me.
Tracy: That's amazing. Do you know how many years in therapy I've had to spend to get like [laughter] -- like okay, I hear you but it still sounds fake. Like that's kind of where I am right now. But that is so -- it's so real.
Ashley: I mean but there are things you've said that you've learned in therapy that even though I've been in and out of therapy since I was 18, there are things you've said that -- online -- that I was like, oh, I never thought about it that way. And actually, that helps a lot.
Ashley: I remember one time you did a tweet thread about your anxiety or the anxious parts of yourself and how that -- those were almost like, like it's you, but it's like another person who remembers and is trying to protect you.
Tracy: Yeah. Yeah.
Ashley: And talking to it like I hate my anxiety or I wish this shit would go away is like talking to you -- this part of yourself that way. And you have to talk to it patiently and with love and with understanding and saying like, hey, I understand that you're trying to protect me from something here.
Tracy: [crosstalk] Yeah. And I appreciate you trying to. Yeah. Yeah.
Ashley: [crosstalk] And I appreciate you trying, but I've got this. And I'm okay. And I remember reading that, and that was the first time that had ever been explained to me that way. And that changed a ton for me.
Tracy: How does Kelly show up for you? Like, what does that look like? Aside from like rolling your joints and making you go to bed at a decent hour?
Ashley: Kelly -- I mean, that's part of it. Kelly's a very -- like part of his love for me and way of showing love and be -- and making room for me, it can be very domestic at times. Kelly takes care of a lot of the things in our home. He takes care of a lot of things to the point that at one point I -- like he was gone and I had to vacuum and I couldn't figure out how to turn to vacuum cleaner on. [laughter] Cus I had never used it before.
Tracy: If for no other reason, that's why I need a husband. [laughter] Taking out the trash, especially --.
Ashley: [crosstalk] Oh yes.
Tracy: I just will -- I will not. Even if I could, but I shan't.
Ashley: Kelly takes it out. He takes out the trash, which makes me very happy. But, you know, I take care of a lot of the organizing stuff and schedules and traveling and making sure things happen with the dog and making sure the bills get paid. You know, and I -- you know, I'm the one who leaves for work. All of Kelly's work is at home. I'm the only one who has to leave the house to sometimes go do things for work.
Tracy: You bringing home the bacon.
Ashley: And I bring home a lot of bacon. [laughter] And I share it with everyone.
Tracy: Aww, you sure do.
Ashley: So I -- So I -- you know, but I'm happy to do that because I don't have to do work that kills me inside. If I had to do work that killed me inside, then maybe I'd be like, I don't want to work. I want to do nothing.
Tracy: [crosstalk] Yeah. Fuck everything and everbody.
Ashley: [crosstalk] I wanna stay at home. Do you know what I mean? But doing work that lights me up, that makes me feel good like -- and then getting paid well for it, that's the dream. That's a blessing. The only thing that would make it better is if it was available to everyone.
Tracy: That is the, the sweetest and most purest thing I've ever heard you say.
Ashley: Shut up.
Tracy: At least to me. [laughter] Ashley Ford, this has been a fantastic conversation.
Ashley: Thanks for having me.
Tracy: In spite of the way it may seem, you are one of my favorite people. And I just really want to say thank you [crying] for existing.
Ashley: I love you so much.
Ashley: We're gonna be friends forever. So just prepare yourself for that.
Tracy: Okay, this is a legally binding contract.
Ashley: I said it publicly.
Tracy: Yep, that means, it's done no matter how bad I talk about Indiana. [laughter]
Tracy: I had so much fun talking to Ashley. She has this way of making my cold, bitter, half dead heart, thinking about warming up to the idea of love. Right? Crazy. You know who else does that? My homegirls. They have given me validation, affirmation, confirmation, all of the really, really important things that end in -ation. And most importantly, relationship advice, which I sometimes need, even though I personally don't believe in love's existence. So I gathered some of my best homegirls over before the pandemic hit for some good old food and drinks in my cozy apartment in Brooklyn to talk about [clears throat] [singing] love, a word that comes and goes. And how, you know, when you fallen in it. If you get this musical reference, by the way, please Tweet me so that I can add you to my best friends list expeditiously.
Tracy: Cheers everybody! Does anybody else believe that love at first sight is real? That it exists?
Drea: I think feelings and intuition at first sight can happen. But love? Like I'm not going to jump in front of a car for you. And I just met you like --.
Drea: I mean, and that's drastic.
Tracy: Good point, good point.
Drea: But for me, like, there's a certain type of love that's like if I was put in a position where I had to die for you then like that would happen. I just saw you. Like, yeah, you look good and all this stuff. [laugher] And I'm feeling all the things but that's not happening right now. So.
Bim: Sometimes you open yourself up and you're like, meh, wasn't worth it. Most of the time. [laughter].
Tracy: I was about to say, I was about to say.
Nicole: But the good news is you only need it to happen one good time.
Bim: That's it. That's the maths.
Trent: I don't know about one good time.
Bim: Several times, but you open it up.
Trent: If you're a marriage person.
Nicole: Oh right. For a -- oh you're talking about marriage.
Trent: Like, you know, your person.
Nicole: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Trent: You're one.
Bim: I don't believe in your person or your one.
Tracy: I don't either anymore. Like, so --.
Nicole: That's when I'm like, it only has to happen once.
Tracy: Like logically doesn't make -- [crosstalk] there's too many people on the earth for there to be one, one person out of everybody.
Trent: [crosstalk] I used to think that but I don't no more. Cus I'm still --
Bim: There's too many variables. What if your one dies in childbirth?
Tracy: [crosstalk] Yeah. You just happen to live in the same city as you know --.
Bim: What if your one had measles and that was it? [laughter]
Nicole: Like my one might be married with two kids. Like, the person --.
Nicole: The person who I think knows me better than anybody, he is married. He has two kids. I think about it a lot of time. Like, I'm really -- yeah. I don't --
Trent: [crosstalk] But you know, see -- you gonna have that until you find the next one.
Nicole: You think so?
Trent: Here, because I get that feeling. Like Bim was saying, you fill full up. Or she imagines. That is how it is and you feel so full that you are very light. You're so right with it. You know, like, everything is bright. It's brighter when you're in love. Like, the sun is diff -- like all that shit. All the stupid cliche shit [laughter].
Tracy: Thank you so much for tuning in. Going Through It is an original podcast created in partnership with MailChimp and Pineapple Street Studios. Executive Producers for Going Through It are Jenna Weiss-Berman, Max Linsky and Agerenesh Ashagre. Shout out to the Producers of Going Through It. Our Lead Producer is Josh Gwynn, production by Jess Jupiter and Emmanuel Happsis with production support by Janelle Anderson. Our Editor is the always there when you call. Always on time. Leila Day. Also, thank you to the voices of the folks that you heard sound off in this episode. Yo DJ, drop thoss names!
Tracy: Our original music is by Daoud Anthony and our engineer is Hannis Brown. Special thanks to Eleanor Kagan for being the originator of this entire operation. Stay in touch, please. You can find me on Twitter and all the things @BrokeyMcPoverty. Tell your friends about the show. Tell your family about the show. Teach them what a podcast is and how to go find it. Make sure to rate and subscribe to learn through it on Apple podcasts, Spotify and wherever free podcasts are sold. And that's it! That's our show. We will see you next week. Goodbye.
Shania Twain: [singing] Man, I feel like a woman.
Listen as 14 talented women tell the story about pivotal moments in their lives when they had to decide whether to quit or keep going. The new season, hosted by Tracy Clayton, is out now.
Listen as 14 talented women tell the story about pivotal moments in their lives when they had to decide whether to quit or keep going. The new season, hosted by Tracy Clayton, is out now.
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