Who Got the Sage?


Photo by Ricky Turner
The word trauma is often reserved for very specific catastrophic events that happen to particular groups of people. In the popular culture, we think of hospital "trauma units" treating people who have been shot or brutally stabbed near to death. We may be able to imagine a child afraid to go home from school because they will be abused. We may even be able to recall a story of a friend or family member who has suffered an extreme loss to a terrible disease. These are all valid events that we can agree, in the popular culture, would change someone's behavior - pushing them to find a way to cope.

In the actual definition, the word trauma covers a wider red swath of experiences. Events that are disturbing or distressing beyond the everyday frustration of making a life are also included. All people are capable of enduring a certain amount of hurt. How else can one grow? But what happens, when it is assumed that certain groups can and must endure more than others? That mere assumption, it seems, would be enough to push someone over the edge.

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 Masking is a common coping mechanism, especially in the Black community. We refer to gay relative's partners as their "little friend." We dress up. We coin phrases like #BlackGirlMagic when we finally get a crumb off the pie that our ancestors made. Coping mechanisms are all well and good until they stop working.

I wish the phrase #BlackWomanHealing was as popular. The "magic" of enduring pain isn't as empowering as telling the truth. Often times we are too afraid to discuss our issues, even with one another. There is nothing magical about being zip-tied by fear of judgement.

As much as we project images of strength and beauty in an anti-Black world, we must also embrace the ideas of vulnerability and reject any suggestion that we are not wanting or capable of love. I once had a co-worker tell me that "You are a strong Black woman who didn't need a man." I told her to go away and stop talking nonsense because the Devil is a lie. Do I need any ol' man like I need water? Hell to the naw. Would I like a loving and caring relationship with someone I respect, admire, and want to do naughty things to? Of course. Do I deserve that? Definitely. Being strong and coupled are not mutually exclusive. However, it is something we still struggle to master.

When I left my last job in August of 2018, I knew I needed to talk to someone. In fact, I had been talking to counselors who helped remind me that I am valuable and have a lot to offer, regardless of what a "boss" thought or whether I was boo'd up - that everything is not always what it seems. I had to reconcile that I allowed myself to be taken advantage of and take time to answer the big questions. The questions that Oprah asks her guests on Super Soul Sunday. I watched a lot of those episodes. I saw a tarot reader. I cried, but most importantly, I read.

"Black women make a mistake when we assume that closing ourselves off and wearing the mask of indifference makes us strong or keeps us well. Repressing our feelings leads to stress and that leads to a variety of illnesses... To love ourselves rightly, to love others, we have to claim all our emotions," bell hooks, Salvation: Black People and Love

Reading the researched and anecdotal analysis of the missing "love ethic" by bell hooks - in which she sites Baldwin, Hurston, Rev. King Jr, and others -  is actually encouraging. While Salvation describes where the Black Liberation movement left cracks in the foundation that needs to be rebuilt, it also offers the cement.

I have also read books to help me focus on my craft, to ready myself to make an impact at a new office, with new people, who have already expressed care for my well-being in the on-boarding process.

As the Buddhist monks recite, "Nothing is permanent," but waiting to process your pain won't help you.






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