For My Daughters: Lesson 6-Learn To Rest

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Dearest Ones of My Heart:

 

I want you to remember it is okay to rest. I want you to know it does not make you less of a Black girl, any less driven, because you decide to take a nap. I want you to know that the love you bear to yourself is seen best in how you treat yourself!

It wasn’t until I became your mother that I learned the value of rest. Your grandmother, and I’m sure her grandmother before her, didn’t have the luxury of rest. From that mindset, I would run myself ragged! I would work, and move, and do because that as expected of me! I thought the best way to be the best mother was to burn the candle at both ends. I thought I was doing it right when I would collapse in bed at night! I thought  I was doing it right when you both were fed, clean and clothed–at all costs.

But, this is two-fold.

One the one hand, I learned the responsibility of motherhood. I understood with a keen focus, what it meant to be a good mother. I knew how to sacrifice, how to stretch money, how to be resourceful and how to protect both of you. I learned just how seriously I take my job as your mother!

On the other hand, I ran on less than 6-8 hours of sleep. I got so used to sleep deprivation that rest was abnormal. I ate when I was sad. I ignored my body. I ignored my personal health, because I was taught ‘Black women don’t rest.’ I wasn’t given all my personhood because that was to be vulnerable.

I break that curse over you!

I want you to learn that you are worthy, and if you want to rest–you can. Not only if you want to, if you need to! Stress is nullified when you rest:  your body is in a restorative state. Your body can process what is happening, has happened to it, throughout the day. Rest sometimes is even tears, beloveds; which, too, is restorative. Beloveds, you are entitled to rest.

 

They make beds for Queens, too.

 

Love Always,

Mommy

SABEM-Week 3: Aight, Den

 

“Success is it’s own language.” -LL Cool J 

 

This week was fortifying, family. It affirmed my gift and this talent and this knack I have for language. My 4700 English class has gotten through the marshy nature of Robert Frost, we are moving on to Lucille Clifton. In my 3800 class (the class where I has to finish the last 160 pages of BELOVED in 10 hours complete with reading notes), we are moving on to Ellison and Baldwin. I damn near wept in my Thursday 4700 class.

The representation, the claiming of that free self as Morrison says, is monumental.This week encouraged me that I and do this—better than I thought I could. Better than I thought (thought!) I ever could.  I have been analyzing words, work and language my entire 38 years! This degree is a culmination of this. No more, no less.

But one thing I had to confront was being vocal in class.

I had an issue in class where I knew answers and had keen analysis to several topics, and remained silent. Why? I didn’t want to be seen as the smart (read:  uppity) Black girl. Now mind you, I have been the smart, uppity, Black girl for my entire education. But this time, in my 3800 class–I said nothing. I had internalized that processing which said “don’t show off, don’t answer everything.” Not quite a dumbing down, but damn near!

When I recognized that, I had to snatch it from my psyche! I had to uproot it because it was, IS, toxic to anything I could and would create. I had to remind myself that I was worthy to be visible in this space–intelligent enough to be intersected in this space.

I can be Black.

I can be woman.

I can be vocal.

I can be seen.

I can be intelligent.

I told myself I would never do that again. I vowed I would never humble my tongue in this class again–the white girls didn’t! Even when they were wrong!

This week reminded me as free as I like to think I am, I have to remember I still have a way to go.

 

Jenn Harris Does It ExpediTIously

Mane.

Can I tell y’all something? On a real tip?

I am a fan of TI. I really am, and have been for a while now. I am impressed by his growth, and his transitioning from hustler, to rapper, to actor and activist. I am little sister proud of Mr. Clifford ‘TI’ Harris.  I still write and study to three of the following tracks (in no particular order):

-Big Sh!t Poppin

-King Back

-What You Know About That

-Motivation

 

Aside from his personal shenanigans with the outside kids, his wife leaving,  getting arrested outside his own house, and you can’t forget when fam when to jail (bruh!), when I saw him make this turn towards social justice, activism and attempting to a voice within the current culture? I was for him even more.

There is something about his voice that reminds me of home:  accent unapologetic, raw and not quite as polished as white folk would like you to be–but it’s the truth anyhow.

The current culture also knows TI is fan of college level vernacular, and this hybrid slang of what I call hustler vernacular linguistic acrobatics. There is a element of truth uncut to what he says, with the hint of  ‘don’t try me about this shit’, that you can’t help but believe him on!

When I little birdie told the kid that TI was doing his podcast, the name of which is a word he uses often? With the swag culture offers? Bruh. I put it on my calendar! I listened to it this morning!

The language is frank, and I had the feel of coming home when I listened to this first episode. It was like putting my ear to the door of listening to my father and his brothers talk:  this mix of righteous and ratchet. But, with enough truth to keep me listening.

Aight,TI.

I see you.

 

Click here and be a part of this movement…ExpediTIously.

[image from The Source (thesource.com)]

Am I Going To My High School Reunion? (Bleep) NO.

I am the Class of 1999. Yes, the Prince song! It’s lit, carry on. But I have no desire to go to any reunion. None. I haven’t the slightest desire to be around people that I legit could barely stand 20 years ago for a night or a weekend Facebook event.

The hubs is all geeked to go to his reunion. I get it; he was born in a small town in Texas. He liked his school. He even has friends that still live there! As for me, I have no such affinity.

None.

Before you think I’m a bigger wench than I probably am, let me explain something. I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. This city is clique-based, especially around education. Namely, high school.

My school was Jennings Senior High. And I hated everyday I was there. I was bored out of my mind. I was suffering from depression. I only wanted to write! On top of the fact, my father would be dead before Christmas of 1998.

My fondest wish was to graduate, putting as much land and water between me and St. Louis as possible. I had wanted to go to New York University. I wanted to study English, and become a professor. My dreams were bigger than the halls of Jennings Senior High. Why would I want to go and remember the four most trying, depressing years of my life? Why?

Hint:  I wouldn’t.

There are only a handful of people that I want to see, and thanks to Facebook? I can find them–if I want to! But the thing is, I don’t.

JHS

This is not a dig at those whose high school years were happy. I’m glad they were! I’m happy for you! But realize there are those of us that don’t want to remember a place that stifled us, made fun of us, or kept us bored for four years! High school was not the ‘best years’ of my life. I am famous for saying, “The people that say ‘these are the best years of my life’ have nothing else to do or look forward to.”

I meant that.

I am grateful for the teachers that spoke to my talent as a writer:  Mr. Henry Barrere, Mr. Stephen Batchelor. I adore Mr. Batchelor (my Big Bro Matt)–but that is a story for another day.

Reunions are great and all, but my best life came after I left. The beginning of the awesome part of my life came when I left a place the represented everything stifling. Everything hard. Representative of everything I wanted to forget. I looked at high school, and St. Louis as what Tennessee Williams called a ‘necessary adversary’. Being quiet in high school made me observant of human behavior. It got me good a people-watching, accents, and detailing being in love–unrequited.

With the vantage point of 20 years, I can tell that awkward girl that dreamt of marrying Derek Jeter, to keep dreaming. I can tell her more than half the people in these classrooms you won’t see again.

Ever.

These girls that made fun of you, dudes that wouldn’t talk to you or date you, will not matter once you turn this tassel. Treat unnecessary people as a wind chime:  they make noise for a while and they stop. I would remind her not to get bogged down in people’s

 

I can tell her that you make, will make, your life great. And your success is not contingent on what other people believe, think or say. It is not defined by whether or not you got to be Prom Queen, Homecoming Queen, or lost your virginity after either event.

This twenty year reunion only marks time; it marks my age, and my slow, careful strut towards 40. St. Louis is home, I am an alum of Jennings Senior High, class of 1999. I also don’t give a damn if I ever darken those halls again.

SABEM-Week 2: What We Aint’t Gon Do

“And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.”

-Robert Frost, STOPPING BY WOODS ON A SNOWY EVENING

 

This whole week I have gone to my English classes this week listening to trap music. Let me tell you why.

Poetry is rap, rap is poetry. 

Poetry is still elevated language.

 

But I digress…

This week I needed all my Blackness seen and reconfirmed. I needed to be seen and see those around me whom (as I say) do these words.

The aforementioned quote, I had quoted, and requoted, and forgot where I had gotten it from. This quote, this phrase, reminds that there is so much in me, and so much more that I have to do–and I cannot quit.

What made this week unique was I got humble. real quick.

For my English 3700 class, we are studying BELOVED. This is lit, especially after the loss of Toni Morrison. And my professor (in whole title, not just the colloquialism ‘Professor’), is a Black woman? MORE LIT.

But in trying to get my reading done, she was gracious enough to upload BELOVED on pdf. Now, I transferred into this class because I needed the credit, and needed Blackness and academia to intersect. I truly did! Finding this class was everything! Now, any English major will tell you that the hardest thing is the reading and keeping up with the reading. I fought with this pdf for 3 days! I couldn’t get it all to print, I didn’t see the highlighted stopping points and I wound up buying the book because the book was easier.

Enter the crazy part.

I got the copy of BELOVED. I looked at the syllabus. I got the page numbers and read. I was behind read 90 pages in about 5 hours. I thought I was caught up! But when I got to a certain point, I compared my page number to the pdf? I was still behind! Why? I had a paperback copy she had scanned the HARDBACK!

BRUH!

And although we don’t meet on Monday (my 3700 level class is M/W), we must have BELOVED red by Wednesday, and have 2 reflection papers due 9/9, and the new work started by then! The hustle, y’all. The hustle! But this is what I asked for; what God made space for.

My professor, Dr. Drucilla Wall says to never put the word, just in front of phrase ‘English major.’ Bet. Never again.

 

The MFA journey continues…

For My Daughters-Lesson 5: Struggle Love Is Not Love

 

Babygirls-

I want to you to know one crucial thing:

You cannot make someone love you. 

Here’s another one for free:

You should not have to make someone love you. 

 

If I can have you understand just how precious you are, and how amazing you will become–I think I will have done half of my job as your mother. Knowing these two irrefutable things about yourself as women–as Black women–this will allow you to be dynamic. Also, rendering you immune to the thirst to be chose!

There is this concept a friend of mine came up with. Honestly, she may not have invented the term, but for the case, I’ll say she did. She called it: struggle love.

What is this, you  ask?

This is the type of love that is toxic, dear ones. It is this promoting of the idea if you ‘just hang in there’ it’ll be better–when there is no reasonable hope of such! Now, don’t get me wrong:  every relationship has bad patches! Every relationship has moments (moments!) where you don’t like or can’t stand each other. In those temporal moments, you may have the choice to ride out the bad, knowing, seeing where the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s not dark all the time! But dark times should not be ongoing! Those moments should be few and far between.

There were men that I chased, hoping they would see how beautiful and capable I was. There were relationships that I stayed in far too long, hoping it would get better. But better never came. See, what people don’t tell you is that ‘struggle love’ takes from you. It saps your youth, strength and focus. It takes or sabotages opportunities! This is what I heard from a man that  tried to keep, that it took over three years to leave:

“I don’t want you to go out of town for school, because I would miss you so much.”

And I listened. The thing behind that? He didn’t want me to be far from him, because he was insecure. And sometimes insecurity in the wrong man leads to controlling behaviors. Or to be clingy and manipulative.

Another man I tried to date wanted to change who I was. Hated how smart I was, that I kept myself up, and that I was ambitious. It was odd:  the same thing that drew him to me, was the very thing that made him hate me.

Struggle love props up this idea of the happily ever after at all cost! It promotes this idea that everything that makes you valuable as a woman is wrapped in being with man! While doing whatever it takes to keep him! It involves ignoring or tolerating outrageous, abusive behavior because ‘he’s my man, and you just don’t understand.’ No!

If you have any inkling; any type of ‘something told me’, any funny feeling? Believe it. This is the Almighty protecting you, warning you, from something that can hurt or trap you. The thing is, my loves, a hurt is something you can be be mended or healed from. A trap? That takes a while to get out of, and may leave scars or residue. With that residue, along with the hurt? This may make you susceptible to evil, manipulative people.

My dearest ones, my heartbeat in two places, I want better for this for you! I want you to remember you are a Queen. You are entitled to be both beautiful and ambitious. You are allowed to manifest your own destiny! You have the right to tell a man ‘no’! And that is a complete sentence! You are allowed to possess all pieces that make you formidable and feminine. Change for no one. Change for no man. Saying ‘I’m sorry’ doesn’t fix something, or everything! You are entitled to leave any relationship when you believe that you had done all you can. It does not make you less than a woman to be single or walk away from what no longer suits you! Own your power and person, my loves.

You have the right to have healthy, lasting love. You do not, will not, have to give your body to boy, a man (or another woman) not be valid, valued or loved. Love is not a struggle. It is given. That which can be given, and given freely, is never a struggle.

I love you beyond the stars, to the moon and back.

Always,

Mommy

 

 

They Didn’t Hire Me To Entertain The Staff.

Despite what the reading public thinks or says, I’m an introvert. I like to be left alone, I like quiet, and people are taxing. This doesn’t mean I’m sociopathic, or people-hating or even unapproachable! I grew up as a shy, quiet Black girl in a family of loud people. My quiet nature led to me being shy–which is not an asset in a public school.

I learned to be loud, and vocal–just like I learned to write. I learned that as a quiet, introverted kid, I needed to have a loud persona.

But then came life after high school. There was this unspokenness around me when I entered college. The school I was at (the now closed Deaconess College of Nursing) was predominately White. My high school was predominately Black. So, I really didn’t know how or where I fit in at.

But what I did notice was my White cohort thought I was unapproachable when I was quiet. Thought I was mean when I spoke my mind and needed my banter to feel comfortable. Even on some jobs that I have worked, I have noticed the same thing! When I’m quiet and doing my job, I am seen as someone worthy to be suspicious of. I’m legit just working.

But, when I am more open, soft-spoken and quiet at certain intervals, then I’m seen as a team-player, consistent in my work, and easy to work with. That is my personal favorite.

(Thee personification of my silent rage.)

When I came across this article on BESE.com by Sequoia Holmes, I rejoiced. Every woman in me, lived before me who had taught those women, telling them to hold on for me, screamed.

Can I not just come to work, make this money and leave?! Please?! Damn!

But I know that predominately White places police anything and everything which isn’t White, or White and male! From the names on resumes, to if you bring a dish to the office party or participate in Secret Santa. You are consistently monitored to see just what kind of Black girl you are.

If you don’t play the role of a Mammie or a Sapphire, then you have become identified as a problem. White America loves sexy, sassy, loud Black girls! Introverted Black girls need not apply.

Let me help the White folks you work with right quick:

The powers that be did not hire me to entertain you. They don’t pay me enough to banter with you, make up nicknames for you or teach you how to twerk. Don’t touch my hair when I change it. If my door is closed to my office do not knock. I meant to close it, I do not care what y’all are getting for lunch. You slick wanna see what I’m doing. If I am at my cubicle working quiet, that means I am doing just that.

I’m minding my business.

You should try it.

Black women have to be and do so many things just I have peace walking through the world! This none so apparent as when we work in predominantly White spaces. It is tiring: enter code switching, shifting and have a persona you put on from the moment you darken the door in the morning.

You cannot just go to work and be left alone–because introverts need to recharge from people. It’s just how we are wired. But Black girls are expected to be on in order to have some peace at work.

At work.

My job is to do what my job requirements are, and no more. Not every Black girl is Tiffany Haddish or desires to be! Not every Black girl dances or watches Scandal or Power. I don’t have to placate your expectation about being Black people to be seen as valuable to a company.

The same respect you give to David who never opens his office door until he leaves, to Becky that brings her cat pictures to work because it soothes her, is the same respect I need when I come in and sit at my desk to answer emails.

Let me be Black and remain employed.

Thank you.