Their blackened souls could care less about black bodies
I wrote this post a few years ago at the peak of the #MeToo movement. Before writing the companion piece to this I wanted to repost for a few reasons. Let’s number them!
- There were some formatting issues on the original post that has always bothered me to no end. At the time it was very important for me to release this blog post into the interwebs and out of my spirit—so I did what I had to do. Secretly, I have always wondered if the poor formatting of the post somehow took away from the overall message I was attempting to convey.
- I am working on a sister piece to this that holds women accountable in dating relationships and before I write that piece I want to be sure that others have a chance to read and understand the inspiration behind the original post.
- I have been working on what it means to “show up woman” at this stage in my life which include attempting to be more intentional about how I handle heartbreak and disappointment by adapting a more pragmatic (less emotional) approach to situations. I still have a paralyzing fear of heartbreak but the realization that being alone is not the end of the world keeps me grounded. I wanted to revisit this post to remind myself that healing is not linear, and although I have trained myself to handle situations better, there are times when I still feel every single word of this post. I now have more control and accountability over how I handle my own pain…but it is still felt.
- Vulnerability and transparency in my writing comes naturally, however as I embark on the journey of practicing this in my personal relationships, I’ve realized that I’ve struggled having the capacity for both. When asked how I am able to be so open about my personal life, I can’t stress enough that baring my soul to internet strangers or people in a live audience feels more anonymous to me than one on one eye contact with a family member or significant other. I suppose I am easing myself back into the writing process by revisiting this post.
- I have recovered from this pain and am now ready to address how myself and some women who deal with similar bitterness allow it to manifest as tumors in our relationships.
The Obligation to Love Your Oppressor
“You know, you really wooed me. You are really something else,” he said softly. It sounded so kind— almost even like a victory but I knew better. It was a sentencing. Deep down I knew it was my punishment.
He then went on about his business, bedding women and taking names later. I went about mine, traveling down a slippery slope of depression that led to too many losses to count. I deserved to be punished, perhaps. We were not in a committed relationship and everyone knows that those situations are best worked out when the woman remains loyal to a man allowed to do whatever he wants. I could never be that loyal, it never seemed fair to me. So, after I begged him through the ugliest of tears to allow me the label of being his girlfriend, he rejected me. I wandered into the arms of an unavailable man and broke his shit up as badly as I had been broken.
The cycle of pain was a vortex that had me sucked all the way in. I always assumed I deserved all the heartache and pain coming to me because it was my karma.
Bubbling Over the Surface
I have been stuffing down pain and trauma experienced at the hands of males my whole life. Because it’s not trauma– how dramatic of me, it’s just the way things are. I have sat in several counseling sessions never mentioning molestation by another abused little boy because what little girl hasn’t been molested? I couldn’t play the child molestation card in life, I had to get over it. When it was time to give up my virginity there was no discussion session for me to explain that I was really scared and not ready. Sex is what you do to be accepted. Sex is something you do to gain love from a man. I had spent my high school years so lonely and unwanted I just wanted to finally feel accepted.
We would make out and pet each other on my parent’s couch. When he left, I would burst into tears and I never knew why. Looking back on it, I wonder why he never asked me why I cried. We were young–19 and 20– but isn’t that old enough to care about the woman you are with? Did this intimacy we created with our bodies mean nothing to his heart? He never cared about my tears well into our marriage. Some nights I slept in the bathtub or on the bathroom floor devastated that we were falling apart and I couldn’t save us. I was the only one fighting for us and it was taking its toll, wearing me thin. I still don’t know why I absorbed the weight of the entire marriage on my shoulders–maybe because women are the keepers of love. We fight for it and we are expected to make it work, regardless.
Nevertheless, I learned early that showing weakness is a drop of blood in shark-infested waters. To this day I hold back pain and tears because I know it causes a visceral reaction in men. “What the fuck are you crying for, that doesn’t solve anything,” they would say. I could never express the gravity of my abandonment issues, I could never level with a man about my depression or anxieties in any relationship because my traumas would always be diminished to dramatics and acting overly emotional. I was even called an emotional manipulator and I owned that title for quite some time. Clearly something was wrong with me. It was my issues causing these men to cheat or emotionally abandon me. I wasn’t good enough.
I swallowed my tears and toughened up accordingly. I came to the table with facts, a clear head and a basic desire to be treated with love and respect. I found myself being set on fire, gaslit into oblivion and treated as if I wanted too much. No man ever said to me “I was wrong, and I’m sorry,” in response to standing up for myself. I always found out about infidelities far too late in the game because I am the woman and I am supposed to trust first… right? If he tells me he’s not cheating I need to respect it and stop bothering him like a crazy black woman. We are all crazy! If I make him mad enough with accusations, then he would be justified in being unfaithful. If I notice inconsistencies, I have no choice but to let it go. That is how you support a man– you pretend to believe his lies until you’re numb.
The past year of my life I have felt a shift. I can produce a detailed timeline of when and how he fell out of love with me over the course of a 3-year relationship. I watched it happen in silence. Sometimes I spoke up about it to him, but those conversations only speed up the unraveling process. A man will take you from queen to peasant so gradually that you don’t even notice until you’re home alone on New Year’s Eve or performing on stage and returning to your chair alone as always. There is no one to cheer for you, to hold your hand or drive you home. You find yourself alone in your own relationship.
I stopped making excuses for these men. I just buried the pain away because I’m a mom and I have a career and so much going for me. I stuffed it down because I don’t have the mental capacity to deal with my issues of self-worth. I casually dated a young guy a few years ago. He said to me, “I’ve taken other women out on real dates I just never have with you.” There was a flash in my mind of those wild days, men coming to my door with a bottle of whiskey and a smile. No dates. Just my empty search for affection and their desire to get their dicks wet. A few were fascinated by my quirkiness, but it was never enough to keep them. It never made me worthy of anything substantial.
I stuffed it all down. He told me what I needed to know: there are women who are worth it and those who are not. I was not.
These recent cases of women coming forward to accuse their oppressors is triggering me. I didn’t expect this amount of pain to come to the surface and rear its ugly head. I’m just so confused. We ride for men, we don’t snitch on them, right?
In exchange for them filling the voids of our emotionally absent fathers and boyfriends we allow them certain tendencies. What kind of weak bitch does that make me if I admit just how uncomfortable dick pics are? That’s no fun. It’s greedy to expect a man to care about who you are and what you’re about AND pay attention to all that ass! He’s going to choose that ass every time. His homeboys are there for shooting the shit about dreams and building camaraderie. It’s our job as women to take care of them in all the other ways.
I was taught through many examples to stand by my man regardless of my own happiness and fulfillment. Black culture teaches that turning on a black man is the worst thing a black woman can do. I once called the cops on my obnoxious neighbor and my mother reamed me out for possibly endangering his life. (He continued to intimidate and threaten me over the incident until I moved out. I remained silent about it because I knew my husband was not the type to defend me or involve himself in the situation. I simply had to pray that it never escalated beyond verbal bullying).
Black men are an endangered species and through the years have proven most dangerous to my psychological wellbeing. I don’t know how to reconcile those two facts.
Now that educated and independent women are on the rise we’ve been elevated to gods and expected to do even more. We should be honored to be side chicks! We need to protect our men and submit and cook and clean and ride for them. If he hits you, you can’t call the police. If he cheats on you, you have to become a detective and figure out what you did wrong. It’s your fault for not keeping him happy. Life and society have torn the black man down, we must be a source of peace! My heart is in turmoil, I have been let down and lied to and made to feel so small and worthless and not good enough by the very group of people I am supposed to protect. While black women are protecting our men, who is protecting us?
Trauma Does Not Equal Drama
I resign, black man. I used to write passionate poems for you to remind me why I loved you. Maybe I really wrote those things to drown out the voices in my head crying out in pain.
I can’t allow another man to inflict damage upon me without taking responsibility for it. I can’t allow another man to introduce trauma into my life then accuse me of being dramatic when it’s time to work through our issues. I cannot play these games that men and women silently play but no one ever really talks about. It’s not a stabbing or a shanking it’s tiny little cuts that lead to small infections until it begins to spread. It’s all over my skin and I have never been able to properly heal.
If a nigga would show up just one time with a pack of band aids and some antiseptic maybe I would have it in me to try. But you keep throwing salt on the wounds created by you and the men who came before you and I can no longer expose myself to that kind of abuse. Gaslighting is abuse (I could write a book). Name calling is abuse. Abandonment, both physical and emotional is abuse.
I don’t have the energy or the desire to woo or impress a man anymore. Every time I have fought to assert my worth It has meant nothing. I have no desire to save or fight for a man any more after being hung out to dry and left completely alone and unprotected too many times to count.
I no longer feel the obligation to love you. I’m done.
*Leave your thoughts in the comments and stay tuned for the sister post to this blog: Please Don’t Leave Me: An Accountability Post coming soon!
A Particular Petty
In many ways I would truly like the year of 2019 to go fuck itself. However, I’m aware that I shouldn’t make such negative declarations because of the many lessons that life has taught me this year. I have had this premonition for a while now that I still had a major transitional phase left in my life, and from what I know of life so far, I knew that it was going to be ugly. This year has been ugly.
I started off the year making great money with plans to pay off debt, travel and to FINALLY be able to 100% support my children’s expenses. I write about what it is to be a single mother managing her own mental health yet it is always with the caveat that I am privileged to receive a ton of help from my parents and other family. I am grateful for the support, but I also feel like a failure as a mother who requires so much assistance. It has been a long-term goal of mine to relieve my parents of aftercare and babysitting duties forever. I could taste the reality of the making that dream come true this year. I finally felt as if I had my life together! I even had a cleaning lady, was on my way to good credit and looking for houses to rent for the girls to have a larger space to grow.
Fast forward to today and I’m working out deals with the leasing office of my apartment building to avoid eviction and I’m pretty sure my car is going to be repossessed this weekend. I have exhausted all resources and I am, quite frankly, completely defeated and not sure I have it in me to be a phoenix rising from the ashes YET AGAIN.
My 35th birthday was April 15th of this year. On April 2 I lost my job. A few days later I found out a friend of mine had passed away. A few days after that my car was rear ended on my way to a performance.
Back in the day, a series of unfortunate events used to be just what I needed to kick into high gear, motivating me to sacrifice and rebuild. This time around I knew I didn’t have it in me. I knew that I was going to have to take those upper-case L’s while allowing myself to slow down and face the failure and despair of it all. For the longest time I didn’t tell anyone I had lost my job because I felt completely ashamed and I didn’t want to deal with anyone else’s disappointment in me without first dealing with my own. I was also harboring a ton of fear and panic because my major worry was that I was no longer mentally equipped to juggle 9-5 office work. (At the time I did not realize that it felt pointless to me to work so hard toward goals that did not belong to me, and in my opinion, did nothing to edify the world. I later discovered that my true passion is to be employed in the nonprofit world).
Honestly, I buried away the stress of that job because the money I made was finally going to allow me to provide the life I only dreamed of being able to provide for my girls. I wanted them to trust that I could take care of them without anyone’s help. I wanted to be an example to them of a winning woman who could do things all on my own. By the time I resolved in my mind that I needed to figure out a way to manage my stress, quit my poetry and performance endeavors to concentrate on my career and building a life for us— it was already too late for me. When I am stressed and overwhelmed, I tend to shut down and I can’t think straight or make good decisions. These factors had already taken their toll in my work environment and it was too late to fix the mistakes I had made.
So, there I was: unemployed with an entire poetry tour booked and prepaid. There I was numb, unable to process the unexpected death of a friend. There I was just trying to stay afloat without swimming or treading water because managing my own depression already feels like drowning—if these waves were here to take me out, then so be it. The practical portion of my brain set up a plan to focus on full-time artistry, to maximize on the free time I had on my hands to write more, promote more, improve my marketing skills and use the money from my poetry performances to support myself in between finding a “real” job. My productivity lasted about a week before I began to panic.
And it’s strange because I started to live this double life. I was able to fake being ok (and even felt ok for the most part) for two months until my children went off to be with family for the summer. After that, I split my time between hanging out in my apartment binge eating and watching tv all day and on stages performing and hosting events. I didn’t want to “fake” good energy or feel like I was pretending at my performances so I came up with a routine that consisted of sitting in my depression all day, then an elaborate bathing, saging and self-compassion meditation ritual that I would complete before each show. I wanted to allow myself the room to still show up in my authenticity— a little weary and broken— but to also use performance to bleed out my anxiety on stage.
I know that I didn’t act entirely responsibly during this time. I put off filing for unemployment because my brain didn’t want to go there. I wanted to triumph over the circumstances, but I wasn’t necessarily putting in the work to do so either. I couldn’t rise out of my depression, especially when anxiety and resentment came to sit alongside it. I resented how much I had to lean on others for help. I resented that I had to share my embarrassing story before asking others for help. I resented that I had to hustle more to sell books at gigs and to land more paying gigs when I just wanted to stay at home and sleep and write and cry. Whenever I allowed myself to think of my predicament and the future ahead my anxiety would build, and I would fall into a spiral of negative self-talk that would sink me into a deeper bout of depression.
At one point I had put off the thought of suicide so often that I had to allow myself a few hours to journal about the scenario because I couldn’t get it out of my head.
The Things I Tell Myself to Be OK
You are not a fuck up…
There are disastrous people on this planet who just can’t seem to get anything right. They blame others for their problems and seem to be in constant need of SOMEthing from SOMEone at any given moment. Their lives are one highlight reel of poor decision after poor decision while others stand back and observe the continuous loop of shit show that can be cringey to watch unfold. Some days I feel like I fall into this category or n’er-do-wells. I worry that my life will be a constant cycle of digging myself up out of the trenches only to fall back in again. What usually happens is that at a time when I need minimal help that can prevent a downward spiral, I end up trying to handle everything myself because I don’t like to put others in a position to judge my struggle.
In my first session with my recent therapist she said to me, “You don’t do well asking for help, do you?” and I thought to myself, ‘Of COURSE not!’ These days it seems to me that people go out of their way to make you feel like a loser if you need help. Or, without your knowledge, whatever deed was done by the Good Samaritan is kept on a scoreboard and if your actions don’t comply with what they expect of you in the future then you are forever villainized as needy and ungrateful. Which is yet another aspect of asking for help that I struggle with; gratitude. Most of us have a love language or some feeling we need to receive in return to help us feel as if we have made the right decision in helping someone in the first place. For me, I always thought the best way to show gratitude is to pay it forward but I’m finding that this concept doesn’t satisfy everyone. So, there is the anxiety of feeling like a total loser/fuck up for having to ask for help, on top of having to share my personal business with someone, plus trying to figure out the best way to display gratefulness. I have anxiety just thinking about it! I typically just opt to isolate myself and try to avoid the hassle of involving anyone else in my problems altogether.
I am working on it, along with working on self-compassion affirmations to remind myself that I am not fuck up for making mistakes and to not let anyone treat me as if I am. This practice is definitely easier said than done because in this world where everyone is so FUCKING perfect, most jump at the opportunity to judge someone facing a hard time—especially if you are a person who is (by society’s standards) supposed to have your shit together. Single black mothers are the most marginalized women in the world yet expected to be amongst the strongest. We are to sacrifice for our children, grind, hustle, lose sleep, earn degrees and smash our career goals to pave a better way and provide better for our children. I want to do that; however, I crave the outlet of creativity. Stage performance looks like self-indulgence and ego and selfishness, so I am not that mom. I know I am not that mom and I feel the shame of not being that kind of mom every day. Being different does not mean that I am a fuck up.
You have more control over your life than you think…
I say this to people all the time as much as I struggle to believe it myself. The worst thing about depression, for me, is feeling as if life is an unpredictable crashing wave that will drown me every time I think I’ve finally learned to swim. I become fatigued of feeling overwhelmed and powerless so I am constantly trying to find ways bounce back and stay afloat. This year has been especially difficult because I think my super black woman survival mode powers are temporarily broken. When it comes to fight or flight, I used to ALWAYS be the bitch to put up a fight but this time I allowed myself to run away. I was too weak to deal with the shame of being on unemployment yet AGAIN, on food stamps yet AGAIN, of harassing temp agencies for work yet AGAIN—so I made the very stupid decision to wallow in my own depression and hope for the best. I allotted myself time mourn and process the shame of my situation which ended up being the best decision for me, although on paper it looks like the worst possible thing I could have done.
When it became time to clean up my mess I did so without desperation and anxiety guiding my actions. I took time out to face the reality of my situation and to mentally prepare myself for the worst-case scenario which was: losing my apartment and vehicle and having to completely start over again. Once I was able wrap my head around those scenarios, I felt more powerful than ever because I knew that it would be difficult to rebuild again but also that it would not break me. I had given myself some time and some self-compassion both of which led me to feel as if I could mentally handle whatever life would throw my way.
It’s still ok to hope and dream…
I am working full-time again at a mental health based nonprofit organization. I am making about $12,000 less than what I used to make, which is a large hit to the lifestyle I had hoped to create for myself and my girls, however I am working to make sure this doesn’t deter my goals. I still want to be independent; I still want to rent a house and clean up my credit and all the other goals that seemed a lot more achievable when I was making more money. I can sometimes get caught up in the despair of a situation and say things to myself like, “Well, get used to living in a cramped apartment with your children because there is no way in hell you can afford anything more than this.”
I refuse to limit my dreams like that anymore. At this moment I am in rebuilding mode so I have no idea how I am going to accomplish those goals, but it would be silly of me to completely erase them as viable options. I don’t know what it’s going to look like, but I can remain determined and I can hold on to hope.
It’s ok to be the only one who cares…
I hate that I am the only one who cares about me sometimes. It feels lonely for the most part, but life doesn’t guarantee that others will care about your issues or about you to the extent that you want them to. I think in all of my romantic pursuits this has been my driving force; to find a partner that truly cares about my wellbeing and to have a partner to help problem-solve life with. Now I think I just accept the fact that it’s up to me to give a shit about ME. Sometimes others don’t have the capacity to care—which is legit, therefore it’s up to me to continuously rise out of the ashes to champion for myself. As I said, it’s an isolating feeling but it is definitely a better feeling than simply allowing myself to drown. If there is no lifeboat you just have to find the strength to save yourself by swimming to shore. This time around it was so so hard and honestly, I relied more on prayer and fate than anything. I barely had it in me to fight. I only knew that as long as I cared enough and had hope in my future and my children that somehow things would be ok.
Enjoy the sun…
On top of everything that has happened this year I have been struggling with releasing an emotionally oppressive past relationship, sexual assault, being separated from my kids (until I can financially rebuild) and other issues that I keep locked in my privacy vault that I am not comfortable sharing. There is a part of me that worries that happiness will never find me or that I will never be able to properly experience joy, but then I remind myself that feeling pain and sorrow so deeply means that I am also capable of experiencing deep joy.
I refuse to allow a dark cloud to hover over any joyous or peaceful moments in my life. I refuse to believe that there is always another shoe to drop, tough lesson to be learned or fight to be had. Sometimes in life, we simply reap what we sow and have to deal with the consequences of our own bad decisions. It is important for me to remember that bad decisions do not make me a bad person. I also do my best to sow goodness and kindness into this world—so when it’s time for me to reap those things I should allow myself to feast on the harvest.
In 2019 I finally acknowledge that I have been showing up a little girl in many aspects of my life. Six years ago when I started this journey—this blog and the Whiskey Girl brand—I didn’t know where it would lead me and only a few years ago I realized that this was my path to healing. Healing would be lovely if it were a one and done kind of thing but I can attest to the fact that there are levels to this shit! I have been so resistant to pain, rejection, heartache and abandonment that I allowed that little girl inside of me to take over and wreak havoc in my life. In 2019 I realize that it is time to let her go. It is time to clean up and handle my life as a woman. What I didn’t realize about healing my inner little girl is that I would go through a mourning process letting her go. I feel guilty for letting her down, for not showing up woman for her— and I feel sorrow that she didn’t get to experience the happiness I wanted for her. However, I can’t let her rule me any more and the best thing that I can do for her, to honor her and my children and my future is to finally overcome my patterns of darkness and make the conscious effort to enjoy the sun…
A sign of growth is usually categorized as a 180°, meaning you have completely changed, done an about face and are no longer engaging in the same actions you were before. From the outside looking in, this year seems to have been a 360° for me. I travelled on a path in the past six years that has led me right back to where I was: rebuilding after major mental health and employment setbacks. I am even back working at the very same job I had two years ago when I just knew that I was on this upward trajectory of success and more money. I returned to my old job a little different than I was before; I am rebuilding a little differently than I have before. I am more grounded in my identity; I am less afraid of the unpredictable happenings of life. I am less controlling, I am wiser, I am freer. It has taken me years to get back to this place and when I made the decision to accept the offer to return to a career I had left years ago I did it because I realize it doesn’t matter how others view my progress. To others my life may look like a giant step in the wrong direction, but in my heart I know that I have returned to a place that is more suited for me except I am wiser this time around and determined not to take anything for granted this time. I will take a 360° over a broken circle any day.
I am complete.
There are a ton of bad bitches on the internet who give great advice about processing romantic rejection and focusing on being THAT BITCH. I find wisdom in their mindsets and it helps me to cope whenever I find that rejection feels so deeply personal to me. I enjoy the humor in it and their callous disregard and disinterest in men provides the kind of “tough love” example that I need to snap me out of my emotional intensity.
However, even after absorbing myself in their blogs, YouTube videos, books and other content, I usually come to the same conclusion in the end: I’m not going to dial back my intensity; I’m just going to become more selective about access. As I learn more about myself I am also examining the things I like about me that I don’t want to change–my sensitivity is one of those things. I don’t want to become tougher and change my mindset on how I love and open up to others but instead I wish to become more protective of my own emotions. For me, a major part of this journey is to learn healthy ways to process rejection in a way that doesn’t make me believe that there is something wrong with ME.
If you are like me, perhaps hyper sensitive, introspective and reluctant to trust others with your emotions in the first place, I have written this for you. It can be difficult to deal with negative feelings or the realization that just because you have taken a giant romantic leap with your heart it does not mean the situation will turn out the way you wanted it to. In this day and age there is pressure to be so bad a bitch that these things don’t effect you but I wanted to write this for sensitive women to let them know that it’s ok to be disappointed and hurt and let down. Its ok to feel your emotions and it doesn’t mean you are giving the rejector any power over you, it just means you are willing to give yourself the power to FEEL your feelings (which personally, makes me more excited/prepared to date and/or face unexpected rejection in the future).
I should also mention that as a performer it is in my best interests to learn how to experience and heal from rejection because it is not always guaranteed that when I perform or audition for shows that I will be well received. This is a toughness I need to build within for so many reasons!
Below are a few tips that help me:
Dealing with Romantic Rejection
1. Severing ties with the person who has rejected me. In this day and age we like our ambiguous relationships and to stay on each other’s radar via social media. If it’s a trigger for you and leaves you jealous and pining or stalking: don’t do it. It doesn’t matter how it looks to the other person if you need to unfollow UNFOLLOW.
2. Processing the pain and shame of the situation as soon as possible. I try to take time to name the reasons why I feel so rejected and to also pinpoint other intense feelings that may have been triggered from the situation. I allow myself a timeline of how long I can dwell, commiserate with friends, journal then wrap it up and start to move on. My timeline is typically based on what I feel is reasonable depending on how meaningful the person was to me and I am ok to extend my “mourning period” if necessary because as I always say: self-compassion is a thing. (I just also have to be mindful of when I am dwelling in hurt feelings for too long!)
3. Acknowledgement that closure is a personal journey and that adult relationships are complicated. Sometimes we don’t get straight answers especially when we incorporate God and timing/seasons,etc. It’s not up to the other person to explain much to me or to provide closure. It’s up to me to accept the new reality and to nurse my ego back to health.
4. Remembering Madonna’s quote: “Power is being told you are not loved and not being destroyed by it.”
I was very moved by this quote years ago and never knew why but the older I get the more it resonates with me. In spite of having two children and a robust network of creative acquaintances I lead a pretty solitary life and I’m very picky about those I let into my world. Once I let someone in I’ve done so because I believe they can handle what it is to get to know the real me–if I am then rejected by someone who has seen who I truly am it sometimes hurts a million times more to me. It helps me to remember that not everyone who sees me will love or understand me, and my power is to not allow other’s acceptance or rejection of me to hold so much weight over my life.
I adore bad bitches on the internet with their “fuck that nigga!” advice, but I take it all with a grain of salt because the softness is missing for me. In my mind it is perfectly ok to allow myself to feel and mourn the end of a connection. It’s ok for me to be human and process negative feelings without villainizing men (or whoever has hurt or rejected me).
Healing lies in the willingness to be open and upfront with myself about my emotions even if it makes me appear weak.
Journaling tip: think of ways you can apply these tools to help you handle all types of rejection. Do you have your own tips and tricks to help you to process disappointment and rejection?
Summertime! A collective warmth has spread over us all as the desire to shed layers of clothing and inhibitions run rampant. The cuffing season buddy from the colder months is left on read and we hit the streets with alcohol pumping through our veins and Lizzo on our playlists. As black women embrace sisterhood, self-love and shea butter I must say it’s shaping out to be an amazing summer for the ladies. Another summer prediction of mine—the men will lose.
Summer Dating Fail
Each summer my kids go off to Virginia Beach to live their best lives with family members and I find myself with extra free time on my hands. The thought of dating always starts out as a cute idea until three weeks later when I am looking at my message inbox like “How the hell did this happen?” Yes, casual sex can be fun but I suppose I don’t remember when it became the only available option. No one seems to want to meet up, be cute and flirty and go with the flow anymore. I am not speaking of the ambiguous “go with the flow” men toss out as an option when it really means they are trying to trap you into a situationship. I am speaking of going with the natural flow of fun hang outs with sexual tension in the air minus the useless “wyd” texts and dick pics. I understand how males feel about sex, like WE ALL GET IT! I just didn’t realize that sex became the only thing males think women are capable of offering. (And it’s a shame that things have shifted in this way during a time when I think women are at our most interesting and self-actualized!)
Planning a date with a male is like pulling teeth because he’s likely not going to plan
anything. Personally, the story I always hear is that he prefers to hang out a few times before deciding whether a woman is worth it enough to take on a date. This is because we are known to use men for free food. HAHAHAHAHAHAA—first of all, food is #BAE and I’m not about to sit in your whack ass company at the local TGI Fridays just because it’s free. I have a job I can pay for my own meals so finessing one out of a nigga is not really my ultimate goal in life. Second of all, what usually follows the “I don’t pay for dates” conversation is the “I’d like to come over watch some movies and chill” proposition. Personally, I have no problem with this because I used to be a hardcore Come Over and Chill girl but you really have to peep when a woman is in that particular mindset. I would like to get into these Black Mirror episodes minus all the heavy petting and small talk because being alone is dope. I am more weary about inviting men into my vibe because usually they don’t have anything to bring to the table but a hard dick and maybe some alcohol.
A come over and chill date can perhaps start off well with some insightful conversation and a roll in the hay but too often has ended with a stream of empty “wyd”, “how was your day” texts and aggressive efforts to arrange to come over again. What you don’t know is that this time when he comes over he has zero conversation, zero personality, zero game and zero bottles of vodka—he has shown up with the bare minimum plan to get his rocks off and get the hell out of there. All of that is fine and good, but males miss out on the best pussy by not showing respect or interest in the woman attached to it. Casual sex is no strings, but we are not prostitutes or flesh lights! It would be nice to share a joke or two or establish basic comradery/familiarity before you attempt to keep filling our bodies with your mediocre penis. (And that’s me being a little mean because there is surprisingly a lot of great dick out there, however you lose points when it’s attached to your shitty personality).
Furthermore, males (and some women) still surprisingly stick to these antiquated viewpoints and lose respect for you if they feel you have allowed them sex too easily. I think this is bizarre and hypocritical for obvious reasons but on top of that I don’t understand why women have to do so much auditioning to prove to males that our self-worth is intact. With all due respect, fuck niggas opinions! I am writing this blog and the males who read it are likely to take immediate defense without attempting to understand the POV in its entirety. Also, some will likely start searching through my social media to prepare their “this bitch is ugly and bitter” defense. I probably would be bitter if masturbation and tv didn’t exist but I’m okay. Also, lack of “beauty” is a card that males tend to play without realizing that they are perpetuating the idea that if you are not attractive your opinion doesn’t matter and that would take a separate blog post to unpack how deeply problematic that is. And anyway, I write this blog post more as an empathetic person whose main desire in this world is to make meaningful connections with people. I share my personal opinions and experiences as a woman, writer, poet, mental health advocate, etc. and I receive plenty of DMs, comments, emails and conversations from women all over who feel similar. If you follow any meme account that is geared toward women, you will plainly see that women’s connection/intimacy with males is slipping into oblivion because there doesn’t seem to be any real effort on their end. The whole thing is silly to me because the effort it takes for males to be so boring in their whack ass game and lazy texts, they could actually just be themselves and probably drown in endless pussy because they are finally presenting something authentic.
We’d Rather Be Alone Without Your Bullshit
These millennial artists write lyrics chock full of dysfunction, but we’re smart enough to enjoy the melodies without adopting the mentalities. If you come with bullshit we don’t want no parts! This is because, black women are doing the work. We woke up! We don’t want to be depressed anymore, we don’t want any more toxic baby daddies and bottom bitch relationship positions. We have our careers and independence and now we are seeking the stable mental health to go along with it.
Black women are putting in the work—what does that mean? Great question! It means…
- We are seeking mental health counseling
- We are practicing self-love in word and in deed
- We are breaking cycles of pain and learning to recognize and escape all forms of abuse
- We are redefining “strength” by no longer associating it with the amount of pain we are able to endure
- We are calling out toxic behavior
The main result of this movement is that women are learning not to attach our self-worth to the opinions and standards of males. The end result is less confusion and turmoil in a woman’s life because the standards of males are all over the place so it would be impossible for us to attempt to live up to them anyway. How can you strive to sleep around and collect bodies of women you can’t hold a conversation with then expect to settle down with a virginal, good woman that has the body of an Instagram model and attends church like a deaconess? (She also cooks, cleans, throws it back like a porn star and raises your perfect babies– what exactly are you doing in this scenario and how does this seem like anything but a punishment to any independent women?) Furthermore, respect from males seems to be tied to whether they deem a woman is a hoe or not and has nothing to do with personality, accomplishments, how a woman runs her own household, shows independence or flexes her entrepreneurial skills. We can no longer keep up with this invisible “dope chick” scale of standards males are using to determine who is wifey and who is only good for sex– so we’ve adapted by not caring the male opinion at all.
Another wonderful result of women putting in the work is that “pick me” bitches are starting to be outnumbered. We are moving into a sisterhood of support and standing up against toxic male behavior because we realize there is more to life than having a man and settling down. Some of us don’t even want to settle down, we want to travel and pursue our individualistic passions. Fuck your “come over and chill” there is an entire world out there! Hot Girl Summer has less to do with waiting for a nigga to think we are worth the trip to Ruth Chris (which there are nicer restaurants than this, do a fucking OpenTable search ONCE—find a restaurant you personally like instead of doing the same shit everyone else is doing!) and more to do with the liberation of not having to care about a male’s opinion one way or the other. You can own your own hotness minus the thirsty DMs and heart eyed emojis from niggas with empty intentions!
I am so sorry but you all did this to yourselves. As our respect and love for ourselves grew, we attempted to shout it to the rooftops—beefing up our selfie game on social media and believing in the mantras and affirmations to boost our own self-esteem. For every 5 positive posts of a woman loving herself there’s at least two toxic comments from some nigga trying to bring her down. Then we get called hoes for quoting City Girls without realizing that the lyric we quote the loudest is declaring that we no longer care about you. “Real ass bitch give a fuck about a nigga” is our shit because we feel it so hard– most of us can take or leave the rest. We are not for real off some City Girl stuff we got babies and jobs, just like you don’t cook drugs and are not a billionaire. Males are butthurt and defensive because they think we’re up to silly hoe shit trying to finesse money and meals when really, we’ve just wanted the bare minimum of effort and respect.
We stopped explaining this because males don’t listen and because the response is never to simply try a little harder. The response is usually to degrade women even more and at the very worst try to attack our self-esteem by making vicious comments about our looks. In my opinion, males are the grinches who have attempted to snatch the fun and freedom out of summer by….
- inserting the opinions of their male gaze about women’s bodies (hair, makeup, etc)
- by refusing to develop the basic social skills to flirt and show baseline interest in women
- and by using technology as a database to collect empty interactions instead of finding a few women you can actually be yourself with and enjoy their company thus enhancing the casual sex appearance for everyone involved and not unnecessarily wasting anyone’s time.
I personally choose to assume that males have become so uninteresting because they have overloaded their rosters and don’t have enough personality to spread around. I have to believe this because it is truly depressing to think that you all might actually be this boring.
*an actual text conversation I’ve had*
Me: What do you want from me?Him: To get to know you better
Me: Oh, cool so what do you want to know?
Him: Everything in due time *proceeds to send 4 consecutive “good morning, beautiful” texts with his picture attached for the next week
Summer dating is a bust, my ladies. Let’s pack up the rental and have a beach photoshoot by our damned selves because none of these niggas are about that life. Let them walk around pale asf this summer waiting on the right woman whose ass is big enough, skin light or dark enough, toes perfect enough—or whatever the standard is these days. I can tell you what the standard is not: being a multi-layered individual that has more to offer than a warm pussy, cool apartment and Netflix account.
But Wait, Is There More?
Men lose this summer because self-love wins. Fuckery gets blocked or ignored and we are no longer accepting “that’s wild” as an adequate response to what we have to say. We are people, not just pussies and if you want access to the precious it’s really not going to kill you to be an active listener over some ice cream, or walk in the park or *insert date activity that involves some kind of bare minimum planning on your part*.
I have much more to say on the topic, including a breakdown of the different types of male summer losers and even some cheap ass, free ass date ideas for the males who want to attempt at winning this summer. And seriously, I am super annoyed that I even have to write this because to be completely honest, most women don’t care about the money you have or your looks or status—we just want to be treated with respect and the baseline level of interest that most human beings are able to express to one another. If you are not interested in a woman enough to show her any real personality or true effort to get to know her as a fellow human being, then why are you so anxious to put your penis inside of her? When is it time for you to know YOUR worth, King?
But more on that later…part 2 coming soon!
My father refers to parking and traffic tickets as the “stupid tax” and he’s not wrong. Yes, it enforces the law but it’s also a great way for local governments to bring in some extra revenue. I live in the Washington, DC area which is a confusing place to drive, so as I have been racking up amazing performance and hosting opportunities around the area, I have also been racking up traffic tickets.
It’s really stupid, but I can actually explain. Let me walk you through the process…
Wait, I Can Explain!
I drive somewhere to a gig or to meet up with a friend. My mood is already anxious as I am trying to navigate (I have a very poor sense of direction) as well as curate my own mood by listening to soothing music or breathing deeply the entire ride. (Sometimes it takes a lot to maintain my good cheer! I don’t know when I became this person and I have mixed feelings about it, to be honest). Anyhoo, I likely misinterpret a parking area or I don’t notice that I’m going over the speed limit in a monitored area because I also daydream a ton so I don’t notice at the moment if I am breaking the law.
Weeks later I open the mail to a special envelope from the good ole Motor Vehicle Administration. My heart accelerates by a smidge and I feel a tiredness in my bones. Money is needed for the 12-year old’s field trip, we have to stop by the Target to replace the 7-year old’s broken headphones, I have to prep for a work meeting, I need to follow up on several emails, I have clothes to wash, I have dinner to cook…a nightmare to-do list that never fucking ends! Now here I am with this envelope of more responsibility that I am unequipped to handle because I’m lazy and prone to dropping the ball. Untrue.
Actually, I am struggling to function through my own depression.
I always say that the hardest part of living with depression is pretending to be ok all the time. One of the main reasons I am so transparent about my struggle is because I want the space to not be ok—I want people to know. Ok is for other people, sometimes it’s not for me. I think of everything I have to do and I find myself becoming overwhelmed. If I don’t take care of business people will notice and judge me for not being the perfect mom or even the perfect ADULT.
So, I end up in bed all weekend obsessing about all the things I need to do. Even if I have a productive weekend, I still haven’t put a dent in the laundry, or the blog post or washing the girls’ hair. The knowledge makes me want to bang my head against the wall and cry—which I do for the first few days of the next week. The chores I didn’t do over the weekend add to the list from the week before and swim around in my thoughts, increasing the anxiety and chaos that already reside there.
Any thought of taking care of parking tickets falls by the wayside.
Clean Up, Clean Up—Everybody Everywhere…
That is until I’m at the MVA for a full day each fall using my entire paycheck to set up payment plans to lift violation flags to renew my vehicle registration. I also have medical bills, student loans and miscellaneous bills that float around in the atmosphere unpaid. Since my separation from my ex-husband almost 10 years ago, I have left many “adulting” things floating around in the atmosphere unresolved. In recent years I’ve decided to start taking the slow steps to rebuild.
I told a friend of mine who totaled his car in a suicide attempt that, unfortunately, it is up to us to save ourselves. We find ourselves alone in our dark moments and it can lead us to make decisions or fall into a state of indecision that has negative repercussions on our future. Once the fog of depression clears (for those of us who survive it) we are sometimes left in even more chaos than we were trying to escape in the first place. The idea of picking up the pieces can seem daunting. I am still in the clean up phase of my own mess so I can’t provide a concrete solution but I can offer some ideas and suggestions.
Don’t be afraid to utilize your resources.
Recently I have been working on being more candid with my inner circle about my life struggles. I am practicing the simple art of reaching out when I am feeling low. Ultimately, I have to do the work of settling accounts, cleaning my house etc, but I have found myself pleasantly surprised by how friends have been able to step in and ease some of the pressure. Non-judgmental friends can be a wonderful sounding board to help you brainstorm solutions or connect you with other people who can provide additional help in the form of knowledge or valuable services. (Speaking of which—anyone good at taxes? Asking for a friend!)
When I think of my running mental to-do list, I feel FUCKED. There are one million things I need to accomplish just to keep my household running. I have now also made a list of other items that are less time sensitive but still necessary business that I need to handle.
Don’t be afraid to write it down! How are you fucked? List everything, the big and the little things, then close the list and walk away from it for a few days. Come back to the list and start brainstorming ideas and/or coming up with a plan for how to resolve the open-ended issues in your life. You may find that some of the issues causing anxiety are quick fixes or are simply a matter of research and the right resources.
Bonus: if you need the emotional release you can also jot down your personal feelings associated with each task and the specifics of why you find it stressful or why you’ve been putting it off.
Take your time.
I don’t know if you can tell but I like writing lists 😊. My problem is that when I am confronted with a list it is accompanied by an accelerated heartbeat and the feeling that IMUSTACCOMPLISHEVERYTHINGONTHISLISTRIGHTTHEFUCKNOW! That feeling is my own personal anxiety bullshit that I need to overcome. If your credit is bad, paying a past due bill is not going to increase your score overnight. If you need to clean out your cluttered house for peace of mind, you can start the project in phases instead of feeling as if it needs to be done all at once. Society runs on a sense of urgency but that culture does not have to be a part of your personal mindset. Yes, life is short, but you also have time—it’s a great paradox. Take advantage!
Practice preventative maintenance.
Overcoming bad habits that I’ve picked up during my low moments has been a journey. It is not an easy thing to teach yourself how to be mentally strong but the good news is that you don’t have to do it alone. Mental health professionals and counselors are not a sign of weakness but of accountability and sometimes, getting ahead of an issue before it becomes a full-blown problem. In addition, a simple thing to do would be to consciously work to break past behavioral patterns. Now, if I get a ticket in the mail I’m more inclined to set aside 5 minutes to pay it right then, or be sure to budget it into my next paycheck before the fee doubles and I end up feeling double-fucked. (Of course, the best solution to get ahead of these things would be to pay more attention and work harder to be a traffic law abiding citizen!)
Fuck the haters!
No one understands the life you live but you. The best thing I’ve ever done for myself was to stop caring about the opinions and expectations of others. I didn’t sell any cookies for my first year Girl Scout this year because I was going through a rough time during the last half of last year and struggling to balance work, parenting and my own mental health issues. Most of my guilty feelings about it stem from being the only mother in troop who didn’t sell cookies but honestly, I’m not all that upset about it and neither is my daughter. Next year we are going to kick ass with sales because we know what to expect and I can mentally prepare for it. The entire point of enrolling in Girl Scouts was because she wanted to participate in the activities and hang out with her friends. That mission was accomplished and then some—the cookies can wait.
I am a huge fan of assessing situations and figuring out what can be done to relieve some anxiety so that my problems seem less daunting and goals more attainable. Sometimes it can look like riding the bunny slopes of life but if that’s what I need before I can climb big mountains, that’s totally fine. Those who are gliding down huge slopes should really be focused on their own business instead of paying attention to what I’m doing anyway. The secret is…most of the time the are!
If you are mentally strong, this post likely does not apply to you. I do, however hope you read anyway because there are likely people in your circle who seem very happy and well put together but may be well skilled at hiding their depression from others. If someone were to reach out for help or a listening ear it is my hope that more people will learn to practice compassion and judgment-free listening. I think it’s silly how the world falls apart with shock at celebrity suicide deaths and murmur things like, “Wow, you really just never know.” Correct, you never know what demons others face on their personal journeys but you can choose to be a light. Empathy and love are a scarcity in this world and I just want to do my part to provide the other side of the story to promote understanding above all else.
I also want to stress two final points.
- Struggling to keep your shit together is not only a symptom of those who are on the low to high functioning spectrum of depression. A sudden slump in productivity and overall dreading of every day “adulting” can also be a sign of burnout or a part of a larger issue (i.e. the side effect of co-dependency which can find you so wrapped up in caretaking for someone else that you forget or can’t find the will to take care of yourself).
- I am not a psychologist, counselor or trained professional. I read a ton of books and I research to find ways to make the journey a little easier on myself as I navigate life as a person who “thrives” with mental health issues. I share thoughts and reflections on my journey because I want people to stop projecting their own perfectionism and mental competencies onto others. We are living in a tumultuous time in this world and the good people who spread love, who are vulnerable, empathetic and sensitive are in need of a little extra support and strength.
Thank you for coming to my TED talk.
I am on several journeys…
-to live more authentically
-to live life more abundantly and as depression free as possible
-to learn discipline by taking control of my compulsive habits
-to find balance between chasing my dreams and active motherhood
-to practice gratitude
That last one nearly flew out the window altogether this morning when I woke up to discover my car not in the neighborhood parking spot where I left it. Lately I have been meditating on what I am grateful for in an effort to combat my negative thinking. If I don’t reel in my negative thoughts they have the tendency to spiral out into full blown mental distress, so taking a moment to think about what IS going right in my life has been helping me to curve my thoughts. However, once I realized my car had been towed I knew I was in for a stressful day. My morning alone consisted of several calls to the bank to release funds from a check, several cab rides (to the bank, home, bank, towing place) and countless deep breaths of me just trying not to snap. Focusing on the positive was not helping me, I had to dig down into the nasty stuff.
I was feeling resentful. I resent that small setbacks have the power to mentally derail me. I resent that sometimes I don’t get to take the mental health breaks that I need to recharge. I resent that when I have to cancel an event or obligation I have to reveal to others that I am not doing as well as I’d like to be doing or as well as I sometimes portray. I resent that I have to decide whether to let the kids know when things are going wrong or whether I should hide it from them and continue to pretend everything is ok. I want to be transparent with them but I also don’t want them to worry that I don’t have a grip on my responsibilities as their parent. These were the thoughts crowding my mind and causing anxiety– yet somehow, by naming my thoughts and the feelings of resentment behind them I began to feel a little better.
I realize I was only doing half the work. Practicing gratitude is not the sunshine and rainbows of thinking only happy thoughts to push away the negative thoughts. The first step is to name the negative emotions, feel the negative emotions then to counter them with thoughts of gratitude. At least, this was the epiphany for me this morning and a formula I have found that is vital to my healing, coping and growth process. I have to feel and completely expel emotions by identifying them first, acknowledging why I feel the way I do and then thinking of positive aspects of my life I am grateful and thankful for that put me in a position to recover more quickly from potential depressive episodes.
What’s eating you? Write about your different moods you have felt over the last few months. Is there anything weighing on your mind or subconscious? Are you in any physical pain? Is there a negative recurring thought that you have yet to address? If so, what do you suspect are the possible triggers? (Are you burned out? Stressed? Fearful of happiness? Etc)
What’s feeding you? Write about what’s made you smile over the last few months. Is there a consistent need in your life that is currently being fulfilled? How are you better off than you were the previous few months? Make a list of what you are grateful for. (This can be a living list that you add to throughout the day or over a period of time. There is no pressure to come up with a lengthy list right away!)
Tip: Definitely stay away from comparison to others. Gratitude has to do with personal progress, people, situations and things that you are grateful for in your own life whether considered a huge deal to other people or something small and seemingly insignificant that still warms your heart. You are free to take pleasure and find accomplishment in even the little things!
Bonus: I am also on a journey of practicing self-compassion. I am aware that I am functionally depressed to some degree and keeping up the façade of wellness takes its toll on me. The best way for me to go a little easy on myself is by realizing that I am not alone in this battle. Click here, to read an amazing blog post about high functioning depression and I challenge you to go a little easy on yourself. You are not alone. Life can be difficult– it is totally ok to admit as much while putting in the work that it takes to be ok. The road to wellness may be difficult but I am determined to believe that it is well worth it.
I apologize I couldn’t make the workshop today, but I will plan to see you Saturday, March 23!
Good Vibes Always
I don’t remember ever wanting to be a mother. When I was a teenager I fantasized about being married and having a great career, but that picture never involved children. At 15, my first job was at the Roy Roger’s across the street from my school, I would have been horrified had someone asked me to babysit their snotty-nosed little kids! For as long as I could remember, I thought of children as loudmouthed little rude people whom I wanted absolutely nothing to do with.
Fast forward to me at 21 years old, freshly married, waiting in the doctor’s office for pregnancy test results with my heart beating loudly in my chest. My husband (now ex, of course) was grinning widely—elated by the idea that just weeks after getting married we would soon be bringing new life into the world. I was heartbroken. We had literally just started our lives together, we were super active in our church, we had awesome friends and threw awesome parties, I had an awesome little figure I used to dress to the NINES in my awesome clothes. Now I was going to get fat and have to raise a child with barely any time to spend alone with my new husband. I was not happy.
When my daughter was born I was surprised by how instantly my figure bounced back and my maternal instincts kicked in (yes, in that order). I remember breastfeeding in my skinny jeans while my husband doted on me, thinking “Maybe this life isn’t so bad after all.” Then the storm came… I began to hate my marriage. I recognized that my husband was a great dad but not really that great of a husband. (This is the point in the story where I get really vague about the details that led to the ending of our marriage. There is a spattering of former mutual friends that likely read this blog and if the information got back to him I would look like the bad person so, I will skip the gruesome details).
We divorced. I fell apart. I still had to raise my then 3-year-old daughter and I didn’t really know how to do it on my own. I didn’t want to be a parent in the first place so how the fuck had I ended up raising a child alone?! In the beginning of our separation I had my daughter with me full time. After we figured out an alternating weekend tradeoff deal, I began to feel my freedom a little bit more. Or, so I thought. I spent my child-free weekends hanging out with friends laughing and laughing to cover up my loneliness. I constantly surrounded myself with people so that I would never have to feel alone. Until I was alone.
The Great Depression
I was lonely. When my daughter was with her father and my friends too busy to provide a distraction, I spent my time binge eating, drinking, crying and contemplating suicide. The loneliness was unbearable. I was naïve at that time, I had no idea that life was capable of such darkness and sadness. I had thought that those painful chapters in my life were over after the depression I suffered during my high school days. I knew I had to do something about it. I knew that I had to find love.
I needed a man’s love to pour into me. I needed a man to heal my broken heart and bring me to life again. I wish I could say that I rushed my healing process because I wanted to be well enough to become a better mother to my child but I wasn’t that emotionally woke back then. I was looking for balm to soothe my open wounds because at 25 I didn’t understand that healing is a whole ass journey and most times it is a lengthy one that can only be accomplished alone.
I sought love purposefully. I had a childhood friend I knew had always carried a torch for me, so I sought after him and prepared myself for a re-awakening. This was the man who would make up for all the pain that my husband had put me through. He would sweep into my life with right amount of affection and attention— he would appreciate all that I had to offer as a woman. I would slowly be made whole again… I had not taken into consideration that this man had lived an entire life since we’d last exchanged innocent, child-like flirtations. It hadn’t even occurred to me that I could have my heart broken twice in a row. I just knew that the next man I came across would be a savior.
When I found out I was pregnant with his child I was living with my parents after having given up the house I was renting. I was panicked, scared and, as it turns out, still suffering from depression with an added touch of low self-worth. How silly was I? Involved in an uncommitted sexual relationship with someone who was vague about why they didn’t want to be with me while struggling with their own personal demons. I was a doormat. I was a ball of emotions held together by his attention and approval. My pregnancy hit us both like a nuclear bomb—there was no time to react or think, we both just exploded.
I checked myself into a mental institution the night I realized that I didn’t have the guts or the violence to properly kill myself. I didn’t have the violence in me to have an abortion, either. I knew deeply that I would be unable to survive it. I held that razor in my hand, sobbing in the bathtub of my parent’s bathroom, cursing myself out for not having the balls to do the damned thing already! I barely survived that night. I spent my entire pregnancy malnourished and depressed. I worried I wouldn’t be able to love my child because I was too sad. I was prescribed Zoloft but I never fulfilled it because I was too afraid of who that would make me. I didn’t think there was anything that I could do to shake the feeling that I was drowning.
I spent years underwater.
I was not alive for the first 3 years of my youngest daughter’s life. I still look at her in awe of how she is such a bright and happy spirit considering how completely broken I was when I carried her. I loved her instantly, but I still hated myself so my love wasn’t enough to raise me out of my funk. I was a single mother with two children, two baby daddies and suicidal thoughts. I was a lonely ass target for men to sweep in and woo me with empty words as an entry pass into my body. Sex was the only time I felt alive, the rest of the time I was just pretending. I maybe mentioned this in a blog post before but I still think of how my little girls used to follow me around our apartment watching me with their large eyes. Finally I asked them why and my oldest responded, “We just want to see you.” I realized at that moment that I was a zombie.
I still couldn’t do much about it or figure a way to dig myself out of my infinite sadness. It was around this time that a friend’s comment about my mental health pushed me into the decision to start writing again. I started this blog as a way to tell my story and to experience a release. I felt an awakening whenever my finger hovered over the “Publish” button for each post. I was surprised by the positive feedback I received and the fact that anyone even read my posts at all! I began writing poetry in journals at that time and came up with the idea to read them at local open mics to try to get more people to read my blog. I never imagined I would receive the kind of response I did the first time I shared one of my poems on stage. I was nervous but I was also tingling with excitement and anticipation—for the first time in a long time, something that I was doing felt right!
For the first 2 years of my “career” I was selfish. My brother lived with me at the time and he was a homebody type so as soon as I put the kids to bed I was making my way to the next open mic. I learned something new about myself each time I hit the stage and I never felt more inspired to write. I was finally waking up, but it still didn’t make me a good mom. Well, actually I should practice some self-compassion here and say this: I ALWAYS had food on the table, a roof over our heads and a stable well-paying job to sustain us. I have always been the champion and poster child for functioning depression mainly because I didn’t want to be a completely shitty mother and because I cared a ton about how people would perceive me not having my shit together. (Low-key I still do not have my shit together. I have so much catching up to do from years of not properly taking care of my responsibilities—that’s a whole other blog post!)
The more I wrote, the more I expressed on the mic and connected to people who appreciated my point of view, the more I smiled. Instead of moving silently through our apartment or barking orders, I spent more time talking to the kids and getting to know their personalities. Who knew that I had spent years sharing a space with these cute little people who were funny and fun to talk to?
Motherhood has since changed so much for me over the past 3 years. In the beginning I worried about how I was going to pour love into little babies when I had no one to pour love into me. I was obsessed with my own loneliness—but once I began to write I was able to enjoy my alone time. Blogging and performing poetry started out as a release and ended up being a beacon of hope that has led to a complete change in my lifestyle and mindset. On top of that, hanging out in creative spaces with like-minded individuals helped me to realize that I was not alone. A great deal of us are suffering in life and artistic expression provides therapeutic healing.
Sometimes, in the middle of a dance party with my daughters or while gossiping about that day’s school events I marvel at how much I appreciate my life now that I find joy in motherhood. I had gotten used to living a life of striving for perfection but after I came to the realization that we are incapable, it relieved so much pressure! I wasted time anxious about screwing up motherhood, while I was screwing up motherhood by being anxious and depressed. I was focused on all of the wrong things. As it turns out, all I needed to do to be a good parent was to allow myself room to be imperfect and to actively pursue mental wellness. Writing, speaking, sharing my story and connecting to others helps me to stay mentally well.
I have wacky friends, I work too hard, I might be a little too honest and psycho-babbly toward my girls but it’s who I am. We all do the best we can with the resources that we are given so I’m sure I’m going to screw them up somehow—at least I am authentically myself. I now have a better understanding of my role not just as “caretaker” but as the person who will embed life philosophies into their little brains mainly by example. I’m tired because I work a ton but I am present. I am at Girl Scout meetings, nagging about clarinet lessons, organizing birthday parties, shopping, chatting, singing pop songs, doling out advice, embarrassing them in public and all the other bullet points to the job description of mother.
Showing Up Late
Have you ever showed up late to a really great party that seemed like it was doing just fine without you, but now that you have arrived everyone seems so offended by your tardiness that they ruin your good time? I have—it’s called motherhood. My least favorite thing about being a single mother is the stories people make up about my life because of their own perceptions. For starters, parenting is personal. There is no formula that every mother should follow and there is no official council that adjudicates how well or how poorly we are doing. The only measurement of success is that you do the best you can. Obviously, if you are prone to depression like me, then you have to find ways to do what’s best for your mental wellness so that you can be healthy enough to take care of your children. As I said, I still have pieces of my life I am mending back together because I allowed so much to fall apart when I wasn’t well.
It doesn’t help me to dwell on that fact. It doesn’t help me to scroll through my social medias and wish I were more like the supermoms who constantly post pics and updates of their children’s lives and seemed totally immersed in and fulfilled by the motherhood role. I have made a lifestyle choice that is frowned upon, why? Because single mothers are supposed to sacrifice and center their entire lives around their children? Nah, it’s just not me! To be completely honest, I think it is a stifling and super unhealthy and unrealistic expectation. Black women especially, we like being seen as strong and selfless but nobody wants to be depressed or stressed so we end up hiding that part of it from the world. My identity includes “mother” but is not the whole of me.
I just want to type it again: My identity includes “mother, but it is not the whole of me. I make sure my children understand this about me because I want it to be an example for how they live their lives. I think women have a tendency to bury themselves in motherhood because the process of finding out who you are outside of everyone else (after baby daddy dumps you, completely abandons the family or even dies!) can be daunting. Growth and self-discovery can be very painful, survival mode and coping mechanisms become our go-to moves. I don’t want to just survive I want to chase my dreams and individual goals while being a kick ass mom. As long as my children are happy there is really no need to care about how others perceive our lifestyle.
Lastly, I just want to share my biggest pet peeve of being a single mother: people seem to be so caught up on the terminology. As soon as you say it, here come the questions and inferences:
“Don’t you share custody with the fathers?”
“Do the fathers contribute financially?”
“Aren’t the children gone all summer?”
“Don’t you receive a ton of help from your parents?”
My close personal friends are aware of my reality, I do not understand why I am expected to explain this to strangers or people who perceive that women use the terminology to play on other’s sympathy. Do people want single mothers to suffer? Are we not single mom enough if we’re not working three jobs with government assistance as our only support system? I do have help. I do have family support. I save a buck or two by having the kids hang out at their grandparent’s house after school instead of paying daycare. I pack the kids up and have them stay with their aunts over the summer, I beg and bribe my siblings to watch the kids whenever I have gigs. They receive clothes and gifts and hugs and laughs and texts and birthday cards from a whole community of support.
The same community that can’t always be there. They are not there when I am lugging eight loads of laundry in and out of the car or when I’m three seconds away from a nervous breakdown while ironing uniforms for the next morning. Community is not there when I am in full blown, exhausted introvert mode smiling animatedly and engaging in deep conversation about My Little Pony. The Community does not make up for the absence of a father figure in our household. I feel hopeless and scared and exposed—if something were to happen to our family I would have very little to defend us. I put on a strong face and bear the emotional burden of raising those little girls while making sure my depression, wavering self-esteem and self-doubt never touches them. I am the main parent. I am the person who can do the most damage to their lives if I fuck this up.
I fucked up. I fucked up for years, but I am present now. I forgive myself for being late, I can’t dwell on it. My twelve-year-old is blossoming into a feisty little beauty, they are both hella smart, creative and fun. I’m just so happy to be at the party I don’t care what anyone else thinks or has to say about it! I am here now, and I am having a wonderful time.
I am afraid. I’ve always been afraid and left to fend for myself. I hide within my fear. Survival mode sustains me, I rise up and boss up because that’s what black women are expected to do; ALWAYS.
But if something were to happen to me, who would tell my story? And were I to suddenly go, these niggas knocking on my door wouldn’t even show up to my funeral.