A Weary Heart

I find myself bursting into tears randomly over the last several weeks since I returned from vacation. It’s literally only been 20 days since I arrived back in the U.S. and I have knots in my neck. My stomach is always upset. My herniated discs are more active than usual. I’ve been thinking that maybe it’s my punishment for having had such an amazing time over the summer. It’s like reality hit all of a sudden.

I’ve waned to write a post that would be educational and informative on some subject we all care about, but I’ve just been dissolving into tears. So I decided that in my usual fashion of being honest, I would tell you that I was doing exactly what I just said. For a good portion of my first week back I was dealing with car troubles and the costs associated with that had me in tears. Soon after, this stress paled in comparison to how I was feeling about some changes at work. And then that paled in comparison to a couple health scares that have yet to be cleared up. In the middle of this, I paused to help my baby sister move into grad school. I had to keep it together while I was getting her ready to move. The whole time, all these things have been happening, I’ve had to be a professional, training RAs and trying to press the Diversity agenda, because frankly who else will? I mean, I know it shouldn’t necessarily be coming from me, but it’s not coming from anywhere else and I care deeply, so I must. I’ve been feeling caught in the middle of demands on my sanity.

So at first I thought vacation was too good and now I’m paying for it (just a balancing by the universe), then I thought, it’s that “any3n” (evil spirit) that some of us Africans are at times obsessed with. Or maybe it was dropping one of my meds. Then I realized that it’s the political climate. What’s happening in Ferguson is messing with my mind. I’m weary. Period.

A lot of thoughts about the situation have gone through my head over the last ten days since I wrote “Our Skin Is Trouble” and I haven’t had the wherewithal to put any of these down. I’ve been wondering if I am paranoid about the different incidences in my life over these last ten days since I became saturated with Ferguson. Did that driver try to run me over in the crosswalk because he didn’t think I belonged there in the first place or was he just an a**hole? Was the doctor dismissive because I was a Black woman? Did he think I was taking advantage of the system? Was he sure I was on assistance? He had them do two pregnancy tests because he was sure that’s what I was presenting with even though I told him, that was not the case. Did he make me wait four hours in the ER while he tended to all the other White patients because I was Black or were their cases really more severe as the nurses claimed? The answer is: I will never know. Because I doubt my experiences and I’ve begun to do so more rampantly these last few days. Because the system is set up for me to do so. PTSD is alive and real. I’m feeling a lot of remorse for the days when I used to doubt my other Black siblings. I get it now. It’s exhausting! It doesn’t help when my White friends and other POC suggest that I am overreacting or perhaps too sensitive. Since this morning, I’ve come to claim that I am indeed Weary and they don’t know my experience so they can’t tell me what I am or am not. I am the only one who knows my experiences. The real issue is What is causing me to doubt my experiences.

Over the past few days I’ve also thought rather deeply about all the places my Western ancestors never used to be able to go. I’ve eaten out several times. I’ve been to the movies twice. At one establishment I sat at the counter a couple feet from the cook at the grill. At another I sat right in the front of the room. As I ordered and was served and chatted freely with the cook or server all of a sudden the reality of the situation hit me. Even as I’ve been given the “right” to be in these places, some people still strongly believe I don’t belong there. I myself sometimes slink in the back, or take a back table because I don’t want to draw attention to myself then I remember, I belong there!

Several people have suffered for me to get there. If my ancestors have gotten me this far, don’t I owe it to them to keep going and bettering it for those who are coming after me? But what did these ancestors have to say about being Weary? Is it Ok to pass? Am I a traitor if I’m not on that Freedom Ride to Ferguson? Is it Ok to just interrupt racist comments and keep moving? Or do I really not have a choice? Do I have to pick up where they left off?  

This is why my FB statuses have been so bleak lately. I am tired of second-guessing myself. I don’t doubt that I belong here, as in on earth or in this world, but I second-guess myself about incidences, stares, comments. About being in the Berks where people don’t look like me. Where sometimes I wait more than 5 minutes for a car to stop so I can use the crosswalk. Am I really being too “sensitive” “paranoid”?

As I was writing I caught parts of this song on the radio: “we are only dancing on this earth for a short time” (Yusuf aka Cat Stevens)

If we are indeed “only dancing on this earth for a short time” then is my calling to have the best darn time I can have with no regard for anyone or their needs or issues (so long as I am not doing harm, that is)? If my time is short, then should I be concerned with leaving a legacy of some sort, setting examples with my life, or being a pillar for other people, most especially POC (even more especially, young POC)? One morning, after being too saturated with news from Ferguson, I posted “I just don’t want to be Black today!” And for that entire day, I kept thinking of the various directions in which my days would go if I didn’t have the added task of shepherding the students of color on campus. If I didn’t have this calling of educating folks. If I wasn’t doubting that I was getting a fair treatment. All day I wondered: what does a day lived as a White person feel like?

All this pondering done I questioned: should I follow my calling knowing that most of the White kids I interact with, will probably never walk in worlds where women of color are in power? That I might really be their only example. Should I continue to be the go-to for all things Black or Diverse? Should I mind the pressure to be a shining example of what “edumacated” Black folks look/sound like? Or should I pass and enjoy my short dance on this earth? Truth is, for me as a Black woman, this is not an option. Most days I wish this were not the case. This however does not preclude me from being Weary.

[Rant alert: On the real, POC need to be granted a day off from the world. We deserve to take that Sabbatical a year before we are due for it, because we work more than double time and our POC wards demand our attention over and above what we are “required” to do. So I am torn knowing very well, that we are not granted any concessions because really, who am I fooling?  We are “lucky” to be here anyway and we better work real darn hard to keep being here. (“here” is anywhere POC have “been allowed” to be.)]

So I’m not quite sure how to end this post but to say that this week, I’ve come to feel more intensely that indeed the struggle is real, and that I feel the need to share my ruminations my life and to explain the silence.

 

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9 comments

  1. Oh dear Kuukua. I feel you on all of this but I know that you’re feeling it more, as a Black woman, a queer woman, as a woman of color in the Berkshires, as a diversity teacher and go-to person and example, and all the many many more things that you are that I am not. I don’t think you’re being too sensitive and I don’t think you’re paranoid. As we live in this society, so we absorb certain assumptions. Those drivers and that doctor (and WHAAAT on the pregnancy tests ugh) have internalized certain assumptions, as have you, as has everyone, below even the level of what we know consciously — so who’s to say we’re wrong when we imagine every interaction is racially laden (and also potentially sexist, etc)?

    I often think, too, about how to balance self-protection/care/indulgence/focus versus our responsibility to others, given that we do dance on this earth for only a short time. Sometimes I think it’s my right to be entirely self-centered. Sometimes I think it’s my obligation to do as much as I can for others. I think that, as with so much in our lives (and creative lives), it’s okay to not always come down on the same side of this; sometimes we’ll give and give and give, and other times we really just need to tend to ourselves. I hope that balance finds you. You’re not alone in feeling weary, and you’re not without support. Love and hugs to you. So much.

  2. Kuukua, I wish I could reach over and take some of that weariness for you. You already know — I don’t have to tell you so I’m just reminding you — that you are not responsible for the ignorance of the world, only for the light you are able to shine in it. Pick your fights. Take care of yourself, particularly when your health is poor. And find a balance that you can live with — not the perfect balance or the ideal balance, but that balance that you can live with. And right now, please focus on getting better! I haven’t seen you in years, but I always think of you as a very bright presence, so please take care that that brightness doesn’t get dimmed by ill health or weariness.

    • Hi Claire,
      I have such fond memories of my summer with you. Thank you for popping up here and there and reminding me. Thank you for what you did for me back then. I am grateful for your friendship no matter how virtual it is at this point.

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