When Your Tired is Tired

I’m fucking tired, to be quite honest. And the word tired doesn’t even seem strong enough to adequately describe how I feel.

The Erasure of History

I can recall standing up with my peers and reciting the pledge of allegiance every morning throughout grade school. I can recall the start of sporting events having someone sing the National Anthem. We learned about the Declaration of Independence, Emancipation Proclamation and other “influential” moments in history that shaped this country. And in these recitals, songs and teachings, we were academically brainwashed by a white curriculum to believe that America was the greatest country. That we were the land of milk and honey. The true standard of living was being an American because of all the opportunities and advancements other countries couldn’t create for their citizens.

“Land of the Free”

We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Preamble to The Declaration of Independence

Yet here we are, two hundred and forty four years after this document was signed and the general disdain for black life and rights in “the land of the free” is prevalent. he abolition of slavery, the erasure of segregation and the amendments to the constitution…we still see the disdain. We see it through the micro-aggression when white people clutch their purses or lock their doors when we walk by. We see it in the workplace when we are described as articulate or one of the good ones whilst simultaneously asked to style our natural hair in a professional and aesthetically pleasing way. We see it in the education of our black children. We see it in the hardship black businesses have in securing pandemic relief funds. We see it in childbirth, where black mothers are more likely to die than their white counterparts. We see it in healthcare with the medical biases of doctors inserting their prejudices with over the health of black patients. We see it in the harsh sentences of black people when whites have committed heavier or the same crimes–and we see it in everyday activities that result in the death of another unarmed black man, woman or child. Somehow, a group of people comprising barely 13% of the United States population are seen as the biggest threat just from the color of our skin. So perhaps the word I’m looking for here is, enervate: to feel drained of energy or vitality: weakened.

I’m drained of energy because I have to worry about things that white people have the privilege to do freely. Seldom, do I carry a purse into a store otherwise to the loss prevention team who are trained to believe that all black people are thieves, I’m subject to being stopped for shoplifting. I use an umbrella instead of wearing a hoodie to protect myself from the rain otherwise I could be racially profiled. I don’t leave my house without some form of ID so if my body is found, I won’t be tossed aside as Jane Doe left in the street. I pray for the black men in my life more than I pray for myself because I want them to arrive home safely so their children won’t know the pain of being raised without them. I survey an event to determine if it’s a safe space for a black person because more often than not we’re made to feel as if we don’t belong or inherently become the go to person for all thing culturally related.

I’m drained of energy because when the world sees me, they don’t see my education, awards, volunteerism, career or leadership. They don’t see my worldly experiences. They don’t see my talent. They don’t see that I’m a daughter, sister, aunt, niece, cousin, godmother, loved one or friend. They see a black person and a threat. And nothing I can ever amount to, do or be in this world would ever save my life when face to face with a racist. Speaking candidly, what I’ve done or accomplished in this world shouldn’t be a prerequisite to racial encounters. The fact that I am human should be the only qualifier to morality and common decency.

I’m drained of energy because I have to constantly have conversations with my nieces and nephews about encountering police. My youngest niece is just over a year old. She’s vibrant and full of personality. There is an unnerving and looming heartache in knowing that inevitably, one day soon she’ll be stripped and robbed of her innocence because black children don’t have the privilege of being sheltered from racism. How do you prepare a child to venture into the world without your protection whilst simultaneously educating them that the world hates them just because of the color of their skin? I hear the pain in their voices when they feel the blunt of racism in everyday situations. Despite being the best providers, leaders and parents from the moment our children are born they are given a cross to bear that we can never take from them. Immediately, they have unnecessary pressure to “better than them” because we don’t have equal playing fields. How do you groom a black child to be a protector when there’s no one to protect them in the presence of white supremacist disguised as law enforcement, teachers, coaches and neighbors? When talking to them about their goals and aspirations, we have to ask them if they know what to do in a racially charged situations so they can have the best chances of coming home rather than become another trending hashtag on Twitter. That’s the value of black life in this country it seems, a fucking hashtag.

I’m drained of energy because I have grieved the loss of hundreds upon hundreds of black people that I have never met. 9-1-1 has become a personal customer service hotline for the theatrical distress of white nuisances pretending to be top flight security. We’ve witnessed families torn apart at the hands of racism. And like clockwork we’ve seen murderer after murderer walk free. Yet we’re still expected to have faith in those obligated to fulfill the law from blue badges to judges. On every side, as a black person in this county we are failed because we refuse sit silently. We refuse to “shuck’n’jive” and refuse to accept that this will always be a way of life.

No Justice, No Peace

I won’t be linking any videos or articles because we’ve witnessed, watched and heard enough black deaths. What the world is seeing unfold these past few weeks in the wake of George Floyd’s death and the Minnesota Riots is the straw that broke the camel’s back. You name it, we’ve tried it: complying with police, peaceful protest, voting, rallies, kneeling during the National Anthem, forums, sign petitions, running for public office and not a damn thing has changed. However, criminal white men like Dylan Roof are treated with respect, honor and dignity when being arrested. The key word here is arrested because police encounters for black people are often met with public humiliation and brutality proceeding death. We as a black community are enervated. Enervated because the very people who want to maintain all lives matter, have no respect for ours.

It Ain’t Over Bitch

Creator: KENA BETANCUR, KENA BETANCUR | Credit: AFP – Getty Images

After the death of Philando Castille, when I was blogging on “The Fat Girls Life” I wrote a piece called “The Second Wind” In that article, I shared the following:

If you’ve ever watched a boxing match or fight, there’s a point where one of the fighters may become visibly tired. Their opponents seem to be gaining on them. Their punches may slow down. Their feet may stumble backwards struggling to maintain balance. They may even miss a few punches. As the clock is winding down, it seems as if the opponent will get the victory. All of sudden, the energy is back. Their energy is renewed. They are focused on the end goal: winning the fight. That’s where we stand as Black Americans. We’re tired but we’ll continue to fight for what’s right. We’ll continue to use our platforms, influence and voices to be the change we want to see in the world. We’ll continue to demand justice. We’ll continue to educate. We will continue to support each other. We will continue to lead by example.

Racism isn’t new, it’s being recorded and televised on the six o’clock news for millions to see. In the midst of a global health pandemic, in which African Americans are at a greater risk of contracting, we’ve had to risks our lives to attend protests about the injustices continually unfolding. While the general sentiment shared in the aforementioned quote is the same, I believe we are far past education and leading by example. Despite the popular Martin Luther King Jr quotes white people use to ease their guilt, much like the scriptures to do the same let us not forget that “peaceful” Martin also said that riots are the voice of the unheard. The same peaceful Martin, they killed by the way. Undoubtedly, property casualties and loss of jobs are unfortunate but if all this shit needs to be burned down before we have accountability and dismantle a system that was never intended to protect black people…let it fucking burn.

A protester runs in front of the burning Third Precinct building of the Minneapolis Police Department on Thursday. (Julio Cortez/AP)

The Montgomery Bus Boycott lasted 382 days. The Greensboro Sit-Ins lasted 6 months. The Freedom Rides lasted 7 months. The Birmingham Movement lasted 37 days. Keep your foot on the gas, it’s far from over.

Self-Care is The Best Care

If you follow me on any of my social media, then you know that self care is my jam. With the past year of events, this month which is recognized as #MinorityMentalHealthAwareness is a good time to tap into what self care really looks like.

What Does Self-Care Even Mean?

When you think about self-care, what comes to mind? The majority of people who has answered this question for me, give answers like a relaxing bubble bath, having a spa day, or buying themselves a little treat. All of these things are great, but, self-care extends into other parts of our lives as well. 

Are you taking care of yourself financially, physically, emotionally and mentally as well? Are you checking those bad habits? Are you disassociating with toxic people? All of these things work together as a demonstration of how we love ourselves because when we master these skills, we won’t accept anything that prevents us from showing up as the best version of ourselves in these areas.

Allow Me To Introduce…She Matters!

So, imagine my surprise when I found “She Matters by Boxed In” a Black and woman owned small business that curates self care boxes catering to every aspect of who we are!

She Matters by Boxed In May Box

I was immediately drawn to these subscription boxes because they are unlike anything I have ever seen before. The boxes are curated with the help of therapist , mental health advocates, financial experts, nutritionist fitness gurus and other industry professionals alike that create the ultimate experience for growth, relaxation and inspiration. Every month is true treat indeed!

What I also enjoy about this company, is their Instagram page that chocked full of helpful information on mental health, self care and the benefits of prioritizing both. These gems of hints, tips and tricks can also be found on their self-care blog!

Informative Carousel from She Matters Instagram

Who is She Matters?

The woman behind She Matters is Alicia Walton, who started her business just last September! Yes, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, sis launched a business! We stan. The inspiration behind Alicia’s business came from her own journey to find ways to prioritize self-care in her day to day life.

Alicia Walton, creator of She Matters by Boxed In
Tap In

I’ve received several boxes and have truly enjoyed each one. The contents of each box varies month to month of course but every time feels like Christmas! In other words, sis don’t miss! Whether you’re struggling with self-care or looking for ways to elevate your self-care practices/routine, this is the box for you! There is an option to subscribe monthly or make a one time purchase. Plus, there’s two box types (standard vs. deluxe) to fit any budget. Oh, and if you sign up for the newsletter, you’ll receive 10% off your first order!

New Year, New Me?

Here we are.

January 1, 2021. 

Day one of the next 365 days.

There’s a swarm of social media posts sharing goals, aspirations and resolutions for the New Year and while they’re certainly inspirational…it’s not something that I will be participating in.

For starters, it’s hard to create a list of goals because I am constantly working on myself and mostly anything that could be a goal, is something that my adult ass should be doing anyway. 

However, last year, one of my Instagram followers (Ashley Amber Photography) posted a list of words to pick from to carry us into 2020. The three words that I chose were intent, consistency and finish. With the dumpster fire we just escaped, it goes without saying that I waivered shortly into the new year. No worries, I was still that bitch, ok?

Photo provided by Happiness is Homemade via Pinterest

In keeping that new tradition going, my word for 2021 is “love”. I want to speak more from a place of love. I want to move in love. And I want to extend more love, freely. After all, there’s a whole painful tattoo across my shoulder blade dedicated to a scripture (1 Corinthians 13:4-7) that speaks of love. I should be striving to exemplify it, right?

Reflecting on the interactions and relationships this past year, I realized that I was the one giving life to a lot of dead situations. It was me being the bigger person after a disagreement. It was me inviting people to do things. It was me sending random and/or celebratory gifts to people just because I was thinking of them. It was me initiating conversations. Some of the people I was holding on to showed me on more than one occasion with their insouciant miens that unless I had something to offer, my presence wasn’t needed. So to the nearest exit they went. And by nearest exit, I mean text thread deleted, photos cleared from iCloud, number blocked and access to me…REVOKED. And while I understand that life was beyond words last year, this isn’t a new experience for me with people like this.

With that in mind, I have decided that I was deserving of the same kind of energy and love that I consistently extend to others. Part of letting love carry me through this year (and beyond) means not accepting anything less than what I want from anyone; be it romantic partners, friendships or relatives. We are all deserving of reciprocation, support, and love from the people we allow into our spaces. Anything other than is exhaustive both mentally and emotionally. Ain’t nobody got time for that! I will no longer water myself down. In fact, I will no longer be breaking myself down into bite size pieces to make myself easier to digest. They can choke. 

Here’s to 2021…may it be a year of love. 

It’s Father’s Day, so How Come He Don’t Want Me, Man?

In eight grade, the rings of my trapper keeper got a little wonky causing it not to close correctly. There was a girl sitting in front of me, Jennifer, and I asked for her help. After a few minutes, she turned around to pass my trapper keeper back to me and said, “ I couldn’t do it. Just ask your Dad to fix it when you get home. I didn’t have a Dad at home to ask but I replied, “Oh, yeah! I can ask him!” That exchange runs through my mind far too often. 

I went to Connecticut, the summer between 5th and 6th grade, I spent the night with my Dad. As we were having breakfast, he asked “September 12th, right? That’s your birthday?” My birthday isn’t September 12th. 

Speaking of summers, in 2005 after I received my report card in the mail I called him. I was officially a senior and beyond excited. So many expenses were coming up, but all I cared about was him coming to my graduation in June of 2006. He told me that he would be busy, and probably couldn’t get the time off work. He had a year to make plans, but he didn’t come.

When I taught preschool, on more occasions that I could count, I cried when my students’ dads would pick them up. It was sweet to witness but reminded me of something I never had.

So here we are, Father’s Day 2020 I thought today would feel differently and initially it did. But then, VH1 had the audacity to play that infamous “Fresh Prince” episode (we all know the one) and a flood of emotions started. The pain in Will’s voice when he asked, “How come he don’t want me man?” is a pain that resonated with me. To this day, I can’t watch that episode without balling my eyes out. After years of rejection, I got to the point where I was tired of reaching out, trying to make amends and extend olive branches. I was the child, this shouldn’t have been my responsibility. I still don’t know why he chose to be an absent parent to me but a present one for my sister. I do know, that even in his absence, I lived a good life thanks to my mother.

This isn’t a post meant to bash men, though let’s be clear, if I wanted to that’s my business. Rather, a moment of transparency to serve two purposes:

First, to let all the fatherless girls around the world, that you’re loved and whatever feelings you have today, are more than valid. I hope that you find both peace and healing because you deserve that.

And secondly, to let the men know that you are needed. Your love, your guidance, your support, and your pleasant memories are needed by your children. Don’t let anything or anyone else tell you otherwise.

This was a long introduction, but I wanted to share two previous posts written about my father, below.

Sending love and light.

Never Been A Daddy’s Girl

I waited for you. All day. I wore jeans and a white shirt. And I waited for you. I remember being so excited! Yes, FINALLY…I would get to see you.I sat on the front stoop of our apartment; And I waited for you. My friends kept urging me to come and play. But I wouldn’t leave that stoop. I sat there. All day. Lighting up like a kid on Christmas with each car that passed by. And the sun began to fall from the sky. Still I waited for you with a smile.Hot, hungry and sweaty…but I didn’t budge. All. Damn. Day. I waited for you.But you never showed. And you never called to say why. That was the first time I recall being let down by a man. You were supposed to love me. And show me how to protect myself; from sorry, lowdown, no good, trifling ass men like you. So I stopped waiting. I stopped caring. I stopped wanting to be close to you. And I had no idea what the side-effects of you would be in my life. So here’s to you…Dad. Here’s to you. For breaking my heart; before any guy ever could.

Grieving A Stranger

Like so many girls, my first heartbreak came from my father. The man who was supposed to love, protect, support and guide me throughout my life. The man who was supposed to be there for my chorus recitals, poetry readings, and cheering me on as the best damn performance of Jack’s Wife in Wintergreens Elementary’s three night showing of Jack and The Beanstalk.  Most of the times I referred to him as my sperm donor because he didn’t seem worthy of any other title. We were flesh and blood strangers, sadly. I had reached a point in my life where I was simply tired of trying, ya know? Reject me once, cool but to do so over and over was something that I just couldn’t tolerate any longer. For my sanity, I withdrew and carried on with my life. And though I deemed myself as “content” without him, it was a lie. I needed and wanted my father. I needed his love.

My favorite part about being a teacher was Daddy Days. Those were the days when Dad would oversee picking up the little ones. To see the look of joy, I mean unadulterated joy when Dad walked into the classroom was priceless. And on more than one occasion, I shed a tear because it was a reminder of something I didn’t have. My grandfather was monumental in my life but it wasn’t the same. Father’s Day was something I looked forward to but hated simultaneously. So many people had excellent fathers so I loved seeing their happiness but at the same time, it saddened me that I couldn’t take part in the celebrations. It had become my prayer that God would bless me with a husband that had an amazing relationship with his father so that I can share in some of that. And of course, I hoped and prayed that I would be able to shield my future kids, my daughter(s) especially from that same kind of void.

November 2016, while scrolling social media there was a  photograph captioned “I’m going to miss these moments” Wait, what do you mean? Was someone moving away? No, someone had died. Yeah, I found out through Snap chat that my Dad had died. Classy, eh?  I jogged that night-no really, I did. Each time my foot hit the cement, the tears fell even heavier until I couldn’t see a thing. My glasses were foggy, I’m panting and heaving—just completely unprepared for this impromptu run to process my emotions. There was probably some snot too. Anger, fear, anxiety, disbelief, hurt, you name it, I felt it. Every single chance at reconciliation was gone.  What if I had tried one last time? I should have just messaged him on Facebook. Did he regret anything? Truthfully, I had no intentions of going to the funeral. Why the hell was I going to miss work, and travel from Florida to Connecticut for him? But being the true saint that she is, my mother suggested that I go for the closure if nothing else.Needless to say, overwhelmed was an appropriate feeling. From meeting with the funeral directors and seeing his corpse to the actual service and sleeping in his home, everything about that experience was surreal. Everything I ever wanted to know about him, I learned while packing up the remains of his possessions. We were so much alike, he and I. We both doodle while on the phone which included jotting down bits and pieces of the phone conversation and the response that we would want to give. We have the same tastes in movies. Food—not so much. He was a real country boy so I’ll pass on the backwoods cuisine but fishing was another common ground. People spoke so highly of him and his big heart with a strong work ethic. I’ll have to give him credit for those traits as well as my mom.  But more importantly, my question was finally answered- yes, he did love me. I wondered that for 28 years. For 28 years, I thought he couldn’t possibly care but I was wrong. That was such a defining moment. I don’t know his reasons for choosing to be an absent parent but the past can’t be changed.  Sarah Jakes Roberts shared a post, stating that “Closure is not a moment between two people. It’s demanding yourself to stop reliving your history and let go of what-ifs. It’s embracing that every ounce of pain you experienced was necessary for your growth, peace and joy. It is a reconciliation with one’s self.”  I firmly believe that. So, when we buried him, I didn’t bury a stranger, I buried my dad. I buried my father, along with my insecurities and resentment. I buried every ounce of doubt and piece of negativity that came along with the memories we formerly shared. I forgave him and I received the closure that I needed.

I Think Jesus Can Use Some Help: Mental Health in The Black Church

This might shake the table, in fact I hope it does because this is a conversation that we need to have. In this good year of 2020 there needs to be an intersection of black Christianity and mental health awareness, it’s long over due.

My Mental Health Journey and Observation

I grew up in a Christian household, southern and black. This means that church was a mandate, not an option. Every service, every revival, every bible study, even the youth choir rehearsals when I have no true singing ability; I was present. Somewhere around my junior or senior year of high school, my mom gave those magical words: “You can go, if you want to.”  The freedom in the ability to choose something for myself was liberating. I am very grateful for my religious roots but somewhere along the way my connection to the church became one of habit and obligation. I went to church see my friends, half the time never even making it into the actual sanctuary. Like many people who grew up heavy in the church, we waver and eventually have that prodigal son experience.

The thing no one prepares you for in adulthood is that pivotal point when you began to unpack things be it trauma or characteristics to truly understand how you are as a person to initiate growth. We get tired of the same things, yielding the same results. Unpacking emotional luggage (carry on and checked bags because I was a mess) inevitably caused me to to become more conscious of my mental health . I learned that you can’t heal when you don’t acknowledge the pain. Most importantly from introspection, I realized that a lot of things that I passed off as “that’s just my personality” were in fact the tell tale signs of anxiety and depression. Yes! The happy, larger than life, outspoken, confident person that I am battled anxiety and depression on a daily basis. And I still, do. It’s important to note that mental health has a wide range of diseases, disorders illnesses and it does not look the same for everyone. For me, procrastination and avoidance was often anxiety about bigger issues. The ability to sleep for 10 plus hours, wake up to pee and then sleep for another five was more than exhaustion…it was depression (with a little bit of vicarious trauma from my work in child advocacy). I had to do the work to learn my triggers, and then figure out how to show up for myself everyday through gut wrenching transparency and vulnerability. And it’s so very hard to do. It’s more than affirmations. It’s more than mantras. It’s more than the feng shui of your space. And yes, Christians…it’s more than just prayer.

What I noticed in my mental health journey is that “The Black Church” still isn’t ready to fully talk about depression or other aspects of mental health. In my experience its rarely acknowledged. The few people that were “open” about it, were simultaneously elusive about their mental breakdowns, use of Prozac and weekly couch sessions. They had so much shame in the journey it took for them to become the best versions of themselves because the church pushed the narrative that all you need in life is Jesus. And that’s wrong. Looking back at some of the members in the church I grew up in, there were multiple incidents were the solution was prayer or the person was thought to have been possessed when these were probably genuine mental health issues on full display. Depression in particular, was considered “a spirit” and we were often told to just pray about it or it’s just a state of mind. And of course that classic line from so many black parents: you have nothing to be depressed about. (Go depress them dishes, was familiar to far too many people on Twitter). Somehow there’s a misconception especially within the [older, Christian] black community that these things are a luxury of the wealthy & privileged. I’ve heard countless folks within the black community from parents to faith leaders alike refer to therapy as “something for white people”. I’ve witnessed people from my childhood make posts on social media alluding suicide and the responses from church members were often “I’m praying for you.” People are dying and the best solution we have is prayer?

We Prayed. Now What?

Now, before you get twisted into a pretzel I do believe in the power of earnest prayers and I do believe that through prayer things change. However, as the good book says faith [without works] is dead therefore prayer alone is not effective in combating life’s stumbling blocks, hurdles, or struggles. In conclusion: we can have Jesus and a mental health therapist too. We can shift the narrative, especially within the church and here’s how:

(AP Photo/David Goldman)

1. Drop the stigma: Ordinarily, being proactive in varying aspects of your health is praised. If a person is making physical changes to prolong their life or attending couples therapy to save a marriage those are met with open arms. The same should be happening with out mental health as well. In order to do this, we have to remove the stigmas and the default reckless labeling of those who seek help. In 2014, almost 6.8 million black people had a diagnosable mental illness within the past year. People who rely on their religion and it’s leadership for spiritual guidance often turn to the church to combat issues. Through the earnest removal of these stigmas, when people are confident in whom they can confide, they are more likely to confront their struggles head-on instead of alone. 

2. Start the conversation: Host an open forum for church and community members alike. Within the safety of this forum, attendees should be able to speak freely about their struggles, concerns and pinpoint potential solutions. 

SAULALBERT/FLICKR (CC BY 2.0) HTTP://BIT.LY/2BI1DYD

3. Education and Awareness: 1 in 5 adults experience a mental illness. Contrary to what we may have been taught through the lenses of Christianity, mental health is not a “spirit”, it can’t be treated through prayer alone & it requires a lot of temporary discomfort for the greater good. Pastors and leaders (especially youth leaders) should work with national, state or local mental health organizations such as Black Mental Health Alliance to become educated on racial disparities and signs of mental illness to be cultural competent allies. This should be in addition to addressing the immediate needs to make mental health services accessible to everyone. Use any available opportunity (conferences, outreach events, etc) to educate people on mental health and the resources available to them. 

4. Faith & Work: In order to heal, it’s important to appropriately identify traumas, triggers and their accompanying emotions in a healthy environment. As faith leaders, encourage your congregation to be their best selves. This includes utilizing whatever solutions suggested by a doctor whether it’s prescribing antidepressants or counseling. Prayer in addition to tangible, physical help will aide in the healing process. 

5. Hire a Mental Health Professional: What better way to show support and encourage mental health than having a licensed professional and advocate as apart of the church staff? While religious people seek spiritual guidance, they may not always want or need a spiritual response to their situations. A mental health profession can bridge that gap.

It’s time to be our best selves, in every area of your lives! I encourage you all to champion change within your faith groups and religious communities by helping get the conversation going! 

Help is Just a Click Away

If you are struggling with suicide, depression, anxiety or any other mental health illness, you are not alone.  Help is available by texting the Crisis Text Line or calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. To connect with a therapist, the following organizations are available: National Alliance on Mental Illness, The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation and Therapy For Black Girls.