So what exactly do y’all think would happen if I gave up my Strong Black Woman card for a few hours, a few days, a few weeks, shit a few years even? Would I ever get it back or would it be permanently revoked? I understand that as Black women we are supposed to be all things to everybody cause that’s how our mamas did it, our grandmas did it, they mamas mamas did it…that’s how us Black women have survived through slavery, brutal rapes, family separation, Jim Crow, the Great Migration, segregation, discrimination, racism, strife, disease, poverty, and just regular day-to-day living. But I gotta admit something, I’m tired. I need a break.
I do have what seems to be that innate gene in Black women that makes us feel that we have to carry the world on our backs, like Atlas. But what if we shrugged? What if we took time for ourselves and did what made us happy for once? Forget what our friends, our family, our church, our co-workers say we need to do, should be doing, haven’t done, please volunteer for this, please cook something and bring it to the potluck, teach Sunday School, chair this committee, read this essay for your cousin applying to college, help mama with this, the dishes need doing,twin A gotta go here and twin B gotta go here, the baby sick, somebody can't find their wallet, and your husband or man needs loving, the kids noses need wiping…what if we just said screw it all and lived for us?
This subject has been on my mind since I saw Keyshia Cole’s reality show The Way It Is on BET. Her sister Neffe went to a medical facility to be tested for STD’s because she found out that her last partner was a drug user. What she found out instead was that she was 6 weeks pregnant. Now this is a woman who already has 3 children, who is separated from her husband and has had a lifetime of hardships and strife. When she found out she was pregnant, her face fell, her whole body language just screamed defeated and you could tell that she was not prepared to have another baby.
Now, I could have gotten on my high horse and criticized her decision making skills, but the following scene with her riding in the car from the clinic shook me to my core. She started yelling and screaming and it was clear that it was misplaced anger about finding out she was pregnant. And then it hit me. She is the face of depression. She is so many Black women who mask their depression by putting on that Angry Black Woman and/or Strong Black Woman façade…you know the two can be interchangeable right? And sometimes they happen at the same time, when we get to sucking our teeth, rolling our necks, cussing and kicking that man out, talking bout we don’t need nobody. Like so many Black women, Neffe had shoved her sadness into a deep, dark place and what we saw was merely a manifestation of that depression.
We are carrying that tired, old, heavy mantra that we “can do it all by our damn selves.” Um, we can’t. We shouldn’t have to. We have to shift some of the weight (easier said than done, I know, I know). Alright then, we’ve got to drop some of the load. Admit that some things and everything just can’t get done. Admit that you need help. Cause you know what happens when you don’t. Depression reveals itself in: anger, overeating, low self esteem, substance abuse, sex, anything to numb the pain. In an effort not to go this route I tend to lean the other way and just not speak...I figure this is my way of not going the "angry black woman" path.
When I look back at my childhood, one thing I admire about my mother was that she always took time out for herself. She always made time to get her nails done, her hair done, to hang out with her friends and be away from work, husband and kids. Sometimes she would close her bedroom door and tell me and my sisters that she needed to be alone and not to bother her unless we were bleeding. And we did as we were told and left her alone.
Sometimes when I tell this story, people (women in particular) can’t comprehend that my mother made time for herself. The fact that she took a few hours to herself seems so selfish. But I think that she understood the importance of being with herself, in stillness, peace and silence. I think this kept her sane, grounded and strong. Really strong. Now sometimes she took on more than she could handle, But she always managed to do for us and herself.
As I get older, I find myself taking on a lot of responsibilities. And sometimes it becomes overwhelming: working, side hustling, volunteering, trying to fulfill my personal dreams and have a social life. And I wonder, who can I turn to if I’m always the one who is called on? When do I get to crack? Sometimes I fear that maybe I say “yes” to too many things, so that I don’t have time to be sad or think to much. And that’s not the way to go either. Balance is necessary. Listening to my body and accepting my emotions are necessary. I am reminded of lyrics from Jill Scott’s song, I Keep : I keep smiling when I come through, and I cry when I need to…So, I am learning to find joy in all aspects of my life. I am learning to stop worrying about what I don’t have yet and just keep moving towards my goals. I’m learning to take care of myself because it’s the most that I can do. I am beginning to accept that I can’t do it all. And I’m not even going to try. So let me get that Strong Black Woman guest pass.
That’s my time y’all!