I’ve been dying to find time to write. This new job is a huge adjustment. I have so much to learn and if you know me you know that I want to know it all yesterday. I don’t have time to do anything personal at work because I am trying to learn all of the things and because we have a real deal IT department here and I’m scared of their tracking software. LOL I have yet to manage being able to carve out time to write at home and parent. I sit at the computer at home and she has a million things she has to tell me and about 3 million questions about what I am doing.
Today, my supervisors are in meetings, the office is quiet and I finally have time to write. I sit down excited and open my word doc.
Isn’t it funny how that happens? And by funny I mean infuriating. Hmph
So I guess I’ll tell you all about the new gig. I’m working for an established nonprofit organization. It started out as an orphanage in the 1800s and has grown in to a huge company that provides services to kids, families and people with developmental disabilities. I am proud to work here. Amazing work is being done here daily. The emphasis is always on the people we are serving. Training is continuous and thorough. Ethics run through every single policy. This work matters and although I’m not working directly with the people we serve I am so proud to be a part of the process.
The department that I work in is all about quality improvement. We help all of our programs to stay in compliance with local, state and federal regulations. We conduct all internal and external investigations. We write manuals. We make recommendations for places where programs can improve. Yup, everyone hates us. LOL It’s like working in internal affairs. All of my coworkers have been super welcoming and it’s always so funny to watch their reactions when I tell them what department I work in.
I walk around the campus at least twice a day. I make small talk with the kids who live on campus and those who attend school here. I’m grateful to be here. I’m excited about this new adventure and I wake up excited to come to work each day. But it’s early yet. Giggles Check back with me in a few months. J
Yesterday my four year old asked me why people kill other people. I thought she was sleeping. I had the news on. She must have been awake and listening for a while. I had no clue. Her innocent little voice broke the spell that I was under. I had been transfixed to the television listening intently to the stories of the people who lost their lives in Paris. I turned to her. I opened my arms so she could climb in to my lap. I kissed her forehead. I inhaled deeply and said a quick prayer for guidance.
I was so unprepared. We have been so vigilant with the t.v. and news coverage. We have worked hard to keep it all away from her. We have taken turns going upstairs to watch the news while the other parent keeps her occupied. Innocence is so fleeting. The ugliness of the world will touch her eventually, but not yet, we kept thinking. Not yet. But here it was. She had heard. She wanted answers.
I rambled. I spoke about good and evil. I leaned on our faith and our trust in God. I spoke about love being stronger than hate. I spoke about angry people who make angry choices. I simplified it so much that my words were honestly a lie. But how do I explain Syria and terrorism to a 4 year old when I barely understand it myself? It was beyond me in that moment but I tried.
“But when people die they are gone forever? Why would someone do that to people?”
The lump in my throat and the pain in my heart precluded conversation.
“I don’t know baby. I honestly do not know.” I cried. Quiet tears running down my face as I held her and rocked her.
I keep thinking about that conversation. My Little Bit is a thinker and I know she will have more questions for me soon. I want to be ready. I’ve been practicing answers in my head and in my journal. See, I want to be honest with her. I want to share as much truth with her as she can handle. I don’t want her to have to unlearn the things her Mommy told her. I don’t want her to bump in to the ugly truths of the world on a college campus or in a high school classroom. I want to be honest.
So, here’s my answer…
“Babygirl people can be incredibly mean to each other. It’s always been that way. Remember that little girl on your bus who hurt your feelings and made fun of you? There was no reason for her meanness. You didn’t do anything wrong to her. She was mean. And it was wrong. Remember how we talked about how sad it was that she didn’t give you a chance to be her friend? Remember how we considered that maybe someone in her life was mean to her? Maybe no one taught her how to make friends. Maybe she was sad and angry inside and she just took it out on you.
Sometimes that happens with people. Some people grow up in other countries where they are treated unfairly. Some people live in places where it is incredibly dangerous to live. Sometimes they watch people they love get hurt or killed just because they live there. It makes them hurt and sad and angry. And they have every right to feel hurt and sad and angry because what is happening to them is wrong.
And some of these people blame us. They are angry that we don’t do anything to stop the people who are hurting the people they love. They are angry that our government helps the people who are hurting and killing the people they love. They are angry that their kids are growing up scared. And they aren’t wrong. We didn’t hurt their loved ones but we didn’t stop it either.
These people want to hurt us. They want us to feel what they feel. They want us to be scared. They want us to know how it feels to lose people we love. They want us to make the people hurting their loved ones stop. It doesn’t make sense to us. Why would they hurt innocent people? Why would they hurt people who didn’t hurt them?
It doesn’t make sense to us. But it should. If we took a moment to think about what it’s like to live where they live and to watch the world ignore your pain we might understand their anger. If someone hurt you or someone else I loved it might make me incredibly angry.
What they did is wrong. Killing people is always wrong. But their pain isn’t wrong. Their anger at us for ignoring their pain isn’t wrong. Their anger at the people in charge of our country isn’t wrong. People kill people because they are angry. They are hurting. People kill people because their pain is ignored. They kill because the world isn’t paying attention to their pain and it seems to just go on and on forever.
You see how sad everyone is about what happened in Paris? I don’t know how much you heard on the news but everyone is sad about the people who died. People are leaving flowers and notes. People are crying and hugging each other. And people are angry about what happened. The people in charge of Paris are already dropping bombs and hurting the people who live in the country the killers came from. No one is crying for them. And this just makes more angry people who want to kill.
The world has always been like this Little Bit. I don’t know how long it will take for the people in charge to realize that hurting each other doesn’t fix anything. I wish I could promise that it won’t happen again. All we can do is try to fill the world with as much love as possible. All we can do is try to tell the people in charge of our country that we don’t want to be in the business of hurting people. All we can do is focus on the humanity of every person.
And Little Bit, we trust in God. We believe that it is our job not to be afraid but to trust in God. We believe it is our job to spread love. We grieve for the people who lost their lives but we believe that they are in heaven. Sometimes the world is full of scary things but we trust God. We will be okay Little Bit. We will always be okay. Bad things will happen but we will trust in God.
So the topic of the moment is “the Black experience” and what that means. I’m not even going to get started on how that conversation is only happening because a white woman tried to co-opt Blackness. I’m not going to mention that the only reason that some White people are even ASKING this question is because they are fascinated and appalled that someone WANTED to be Black. I’m not going to talk about how this question being asked and answered is steeped in white supremacy and systematic racism. Nope. I’m not going to talk about any of that. Nope. Not today.
I do want to talk about the Black experience. I want to describe it. I want to explain why it can’t be stolen. I want to explain why it isn’t a costume a person can put on and become real.
Black childhood is an integral part of Black experience. We all start off innocent. Race is something children see but it doesn’t impact them. It’s just what we are. I watch my almost 4 year old play with her friends of different races and ethnicities and the differences don’t matter to them. They might remark on differences in skin tone or hair color but there is no malice in it. Kids are kids. Race is irrelevant unless they have been taught that it is not. As we grow up and interact with the world we bump up against the world at large and it’s perceptions of race. I remember the first time I heard the n word. I was in 3rd grade. I came home and asked my Mom what it meant. I knew it was an insult from the way the person said it but I didn’t know why.
Depending on how the world highlights your Blackness to you it molds us all differently. Some of us strive for acceptance, some fight and indict the entire system, some try to assimilate, some give up. Having your innocence broken by the racist systems of this country is a part of MOST if not all Black coming of age stories. I remember the first time a teacher hurled my Blackness at me in the classroom. I remember the feeling. I remember realizing that this person didn’t like me simply because of the color of my skin. I remember the hurt. I remember it vividly. I can tell you what color his tie was. That’s how vividly I remember it.
To be Black in America is to be simultaneously hated and envied by others. The Black experience is beautiful in our enclaves where we eat great food, laugh, listen to music, support each other and speak life to each other. The Black experience is watching that truth be lost and lied about in main stream media which reduces us to thugs and hoes and claims us all illiterate and illegitimate. To be Black in America is to be held down and held back and made an exception to some racist rule when we succeed in spite of the boots on our neck.
To be Black in America is to start behind the rest of the folks at the starting line. Money can move you closer to the start line. If you come from money and you are Black you get a little closer but you are still Black. You are still starting behind. Does this mean we can’t win? Nope. We prove it all the time. We can and do win in spite of the obstacles in our paths but even on the winner’s podium people will deny that you had to run harder and faster while dodging obstacles your opponents didn’t have. To be Black in America is to be forced to cling to your truth in the knowledge that others may NEVER embrace it.
The Black experience is schizophrenic in many ways. I’m proud and happy and grateful to be a member of this group. But I’m also always in a rage against the many micro and major aggressions we face daily. Have you ever had a drip in your faucet? Those little drops of water can stain your sink basin. Just little drops of water hitting the same spot over and over and over. That’s what microaggressions are like. Things like people touching your hair, questioning your background, being shocked that you attended college, making assumptions about your marital status, asking questions about the hood etc etc etc. These things have a way of constantly othering you.. Constantly letting you know you are different. And most of these are delivered with a smile. If you dare to be angry well then you are overreacting and now you have become the angry Black woman. It’s exhausting ya’ll.
The Black experience is to know that we have no rights that cops or really anyone is bound to accept. The Black experience is feeling unsafe when a police cruiser passes you. The Black experience as a parent is knowing that you can not protect your child from overzealous police officers or neighborhood watch men with guns. It is a powerlessness that renders you impotent. So you instruct your child on ways to survive these encounters, knowing that even compliance will not guarantee their survival.
The Black experience is a choice between white washing our names or knowingly facing housing and employment discrimination.
The Black experience is more than hair or music. The Black experience is more than adopting Black children. The Black experience is NOT a feeling it’s an actual thing. And although there is variety in it (like any other culture) it is a very real thing. You can not co-opt it. You can not wear it like a costume. You can not lie your way in to it. It’s all bad and all good at the same time. And THAT is the truth.
And even writing all of THAT you won’t understand it if you don’t LIVE it
He kissed her tears softly then pulled back and looked in to her tear filled eyes.
“You know that no one will ever love you like I love you, right? No one will ever see the beauty in your brokenness like I do. It’s okay love. Stop crying now.”
She swallowed hard, trying desperately to stop the tears. She forced a smile on to her face but it didn’t reach her eyes.
“I’m so sorry baby. I’ll go make something else for you right now.”
“No, I’ll go out to eat. I’m sure you will just mess that up too.” He walked to the closet, unbuttoning his shirt as he went. “Don’t wait up for me. I’ll be late.”
“Yes dear,” she answered.
“Dear?” he asked with one eyebrow raised.
“Yes Patrick,” she quickly corrected herself.
As she watched him dress for dinner she wondered what color the lipstick on his collar would be tonight when he came home. She wondered if the perfume she would smell on his shirt later would be recognizable to her. She wondered how she had let her life turn in to this mess. She wondered when she became broken and who was responsible for breaking her. She wondered how she could get out, get away, get free.
She turned her face to his as he quickly kissed her cheek and rushed off, phone to his ear, her presence forgotten already.
I’m a pretty cerebral person. Anyone who knows me can tell you that I over think things. I often get paralyzed in my own head when given too many options. I can research a topic for months and still come out unsure if I know enough to make a decision. I love information. I adore facts. I crave them. I want to know everything. And even though I know this is impossible, I try.
Enter parenting. LOL Parenting is something that defies research. Parenting happens in the moment and reveals your truest self to a person who barely reaches your waist. I have learned a lot about myself while parenting a toddler and a lot of it ain’t pretty. *hangs head* I have also learned that toddlers care not for logic or research. LOL They are 45% emotion, 45% stubbornness and 10% germs. True story.
I have found myself attempting to explain myself to a 3 year old on many occasions. I can HEAR you laughing. But it just seems logical that if I can explain WHY I don’t want her to put dirty things in her mouth she won’t. I mean who wants to get germs, get sick and end up in the hospital? Not me. So I explain. Two seconds after the explanation and her declaration that she will, “not do that again Mommy. Only food goes in my mouth Mommy,” I find her licking a yoyo that was in the bottom of her toybox. “Didn’t we just talk about this?” I ask. “Yes Mommy,” she answers while getting one more lick in. My brain literally wants to weep. How do I reach you little human? I’m literally stuck.
My child is stubborn. She has a will of steel. Lately she has been asserting this will at the strangest and most illogical times. 10 minutes in to our walk to school she declares, “I hate this hat! I won’t wear it!” But it’s already on her head. It’s the hat she begged me to buy, with tears in her eyes. It’s the hat that is on her head under the hood of her coat. The hat, that she is now frantically trying to rip from her head, confused and enraged that it won’t come off. I watch her…fascinated. What the hell just happened? What am I supposed to do now? Who let ME be in charge?
“Nia, if you take your hat off you are going to be cold.”
Success. She has removed the offensive hat and flung it to the ground. I’m amused by her passion but confused at the same time. I pick up the hat and put it in my bag. I’m not fighting about this one. But she isn’t done.
“Why did you buy me that hat? I want to wear my princess one.”
“The princess one is at home. YOU wanted this hat”
I realize I am traveling down a dead end street with this conversation but it’s like the brakes are gone on my car.
“I want the princess hat NOW!”
“That isn’t happening. We are almost at school.”
She dissolves in to hysterical tears. Snot is running from her nose. Sobs are racking her little body.
I hold her hand and continue walking in silence.
I’m wondering what I should be doing? Should I empathize with her about the hat? Should I tell her to tighten up? Should I ignore her? Should I reprimand her? Force her to put the hat back on? Lost in thought I realize she’s stopped crying and is talking to me again.
“…and I love you Mommy.”
I grab a tissue from my pocket, look down at her small little tear stained face and whisper back, “I love you too little bit.”
No books prepared me for this. I want my money back.
Seriously, you have never met someone better at blocking their blessings than I am. If someone handed me a winning lottery ticket I would put it through a shredder. I am THAT serious about not being successful. I have talked this out with countless friends, family members, therapists, strangers on public transit, my journal, poetry etc etc.
I still can’t stop doing it.
For the past 9 months opportunity has literally followed me down the street, rang my phone off of the hook, blown up my email and straight harassed me. “No thanks,” I reply. Then I spend my nights dreaming about said opportunities.
I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I seriously don’t.
“Just do it!” I know. I know.
But I don’t.
I am worthy. I am talented. I am good.
I wallow in mediocrity.
I wish I had a happy ending for this post. LOL Some story of how I overcame this thing.
I had an opportunity to do something big and it didn’t come together. I let that hurl me into the depths of self doubt, despair, and hand wringing. I punished myself by not making time to write.
That was a lot of honesty right there. Here’s some more, I want BADLY to delete that.
Life happens. Most of the time we can not control what happens to us in life. What we can and do control is how we respond to it. I had a disappointment and my response was to have a temper tantrum that has poisoned every area of my life. I did that.
I have been a crappy Mom, a crappy friend, a crappy girlfriend and an all around crappy person because I made a choice to wallow in disappointment, fear and depression. I struggle with depression every single fall. When the leaves start to change I have to work harder to find my smile. I have to work harder to feel my joy. I know this. It’s been this way forever. But this year I just slid in to it. I didn’t fight or resist at all.
On the surface I probably looked the same. I stayed busy. I wore my public smile. I showed up to most of the places I am supposed to show up to. I started house hunting. I started the process to get a NACA loan. I did stuff. But inside? Inside I knew exactly what was happening and I let it.
I put my pens and my journals away and I slid in to this depression. I welcomed it. It’s been so long since I truly stopped fighting and just let it be. And I know. I know the consequences of falling to the bottom of the pit of depression. I know how much longer and harder I have to swim to make it back to the surface. I know how impossible that swim feels when I am exhausted by simply breathing. I know it all. But I still did it. I still let it happen. I shut off the voice that keeps me treading water and I just slid down in to the water.
Here’s the thing….I can’t breathe underwater. So now it’s time to swim or drown.
And I can’t drown. I have two big beautiful eyes watching me navigate life now. I have a precocious, beautiful, strong little girl learning how to deal with life from me. And I’ve been giving horrible lessons lately. I’ve been yelly and disengaged and miserable. sighs I own that too.
So today, I’m typing these words without proofreading. I’m ignoring the work on my desk.