There is something about this year, about 2019 that calls for softness, gentleness, deep and authentic well-being… maybe because the world is everything but soft, but gentle, but reassuring. I guess part of this visceral yearning comes from wanting time to slow down, to skip a beat, to pause so as to let life unfold. Not just life though… life as we want it… life as we dream it… life as we shape it. Over the past few days, I have been watching time slip and I have witnessed my own dissatisfaction with the idea that one should fill her days in order to be active, feel whole, or needed.
I have spent a lot of time thinking, talking, watching, reminiscing too… And in the time I have allowed not to slip, I have started sketching my own idea of achievement, of success, of happiness, of wholeness. I still believe that a sort of discipline in maintaining essential rituals has its value and that despite my pure abhorrence for routine, a certain amount of it is inevitable and almost required to stay afloat or to stand still.
In retrospect, there has never been a time like this for me… except perhaps when I was expecting my daughter. In the comfort and warmth of our family home, I was both excitedly expectant and yet placidly relaxed. Poised. How many times in our lives as adults do we make time stop? What happens when we do? How can we envisage to become our own timekeepers and, in the process, become gentler, softer, more attuned to our needs and therefore the needs of others?
But watching time forces you to also watch, listen and feel what goes on in the/our world…
A lot of what I am reading, watching, listening to has to do with the experience of Black womanhood and a lot of what I talk about in my circles has to do with Black womanhood. How do we experience the world? How comfortable are we in our own skins? In our own lives? What do we achieve individually and collectively? What nurtures us? What makes us powerful? Vulnerable? Relatable?
It is not so much about searching for my identity as it is about searching for my anchorage, my inner voice, as well as my support system. I wrote on sisterhood months ago and I am still challenged by what I feel when it comes to building communities of women, and particularly communities of women of colour although I feel and know that this what I have always aspired to. But what has perhaps struck me more recently is the permanence of my community of women or shall I say the community of women who chose me.
With age comes the need for reassurance and emotional stability – to some extent (I still yearn for the crazy, the unpredictable, the tumultuous… but I lack the energy to yearn for it every day!), and the realisation that many have traveled in time with you and then moved on to other galaxies. And then… some are still time traveling alongside your flawed and emotionally precarious self (yes even at 40 or almost). I have realised that the women who chose me are deeply and passionately involved in work that centres around healing, nurturing, redeeming, professions that are exhausting for the mind and body yet also deeply rewarding. I have realised that they are often caught in between their need to care for others while deeply wanting to care for themselves and that the thin line between the two often feels more like a divide, a rupture, a border… not as easily transgressible as one would imagine. But these women are patient, diligent, stubborn workers and perhaps even more so relentless or… inhabited. The fact is how do you stop a woman who is passionately invested not only in exposing but in actually doing? Well… you don’t. And how do you keep up? By never ever stopping, by constantly rising your creative heights and by doing.
The women I know and love are weary of the sentimental relationships they engage in and in my mind, have every reasonable reason to find those relationships either improbable, or contentious, more often than not useless… Interestingly enough, they still want to believe in the possibility, they still attempt to find if not solace, a sort of tipsy equilibrium between what they are after and what seems to be available. They are relentless there too.
They are unafraid to face new challenges, new environments, new people, new situations. They set out to hostile territories and relate their stories as if the journey and the environment were only mildly relevant.
These women are serious but boy, do they laugh! They define humour and simplicity. They laugh at themselves constantly and their sorrow always rolls past, a thundering rumble that eventually dies down or roars timidly back stage. These women know… They understand… they listen… They breed wisdom, they breath hope, they whisper strength.
My community of women exhibits all the characteristics that the world has intrinsically but also needs desperately.
They are the silver lining. And I do not say this because I want you to think that they are perfect or superior in any way, shape or form. I say that because I know that many communities of women are just like mine and some are certainly more ancient than mine, or more effective than mine. But I am not here to compare or contrast. I am not here to advertise or promote. I say this simply because living is believing. Doing is believing.
Enough of the expository stance and endless fact-listing. Enough of the feminist rants that only apply to a certain category of women. Enough of the self-serving “self care” rituals that are only practiced on paper. LET US ACT. COLLECTIVELY. With the knowledge that yes the future must be female. Not because (some… most…) men have not kept up with nor protected nor strengthened nor shared with us women but because we have outrun them, outdone them, outsmarted them and THEY need to keep up with us.
We have to set the bar, set the terms, we have to constitutionalise, rally, organise and act. Fast. Consistently. Definitively. Now.
We have to build without apologising or seeking immediate recognition or approval. We have to normalise, teach and disseminate. We have to work in silos and in fora, we can decide to start small or big. We cannot be patient and we cannot be told to wait. We have to groom and remain defiant in what we believe grooming the next generation should be rooted in. And in the midst of all that energy and fire, we have to pause and laugh and recalibrate, and adjust, and adapt and in the process, listen, and communicate profusely, intentionally, authentically. We have to acknowledge our mistakes and learn ways to improve, (re)design, construct new strategies, new actionable theories, new policies at each and every level.
“Unfortunately, our over-emphasis on the male as oppressor often obscures the fact that men too are victimized. To be an oppressor is dehumanizing and anti-human in nature, as it is to be a victim. Patriarchy forces fathers to act as monsters, encourages husbands and lovers to be rapists in disguise; it teaches our blood brothers to feel ashamed that they care for us, and denies all men the emotional life that would act as a humanizing, self-affirming force in their lives.”
I sometimes wonder if the real oppression is the one we claim to suffer from or the one we choose to endure. We cannot wait for those who oppress to redeem themselves, we must break free from what we are victim of. Victimhood is not a permanent cloak to be put on and to then find incredibly difficult to remove. Victimhood can and must be banished, expelled, ousted. To recognise that the unadulterated pow(h)er to exist is eminently political and to surround yourself with those who champion and fight for the same causes while authentically loving themselves and their kin is key to making this virtual place we call society if not more liveable, at least worth living in and for. In other words, I find that black self-care can only be revolutionary these days.
My Recommended Reads and Re-Reads for the Month:
- Ain’t I a Woman?: Black Women and Feminism by bell hooks
- Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
- Why I no longer Talk to White People about Race by Renni Eddo-Lodge
- “What The Jussie Smollett Story Reveals” by contributing editor at The Atlantic, John McWhorter
- Nobody: Casualties of America’s Wars on the Vulnerable, from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond by Marc Lamont Hill