Dec 28, 2015 @ 12:21 pm | By TheFeministGriote | 3 Comments
“Fuck wondering if you’re lovable. Fuck asking someone else, “Am I there yet?” Fuck listening for the answer. Fuck waiting, alone, for a verdict that never comes. Don’t grow up to be one of those women with a perpetual question mark etched into her brow: Am I good? Am I lovable? Am I enough?”
That quote is from the epic ass Ask Polly column entitled Why Don’t The Men I Date Ever Love Me, which is featured in the New Yorker and is written by Heather Havrilesky. It was published in September 2014 and I’ve probably read this article 10 times since then. When it first was published, I read it, I printed the article out, and took it home and at my next therapy session, I quoted the above quote to my beloved therapist, Lisa. It was the first time I had language to describe to Lisa that I no longer wanted to be that woman. Fast forward to December 2015, I think I may have finally broken ground on creating the foundation to becoming the woman who no longer has a permanently etched question mark on her brow.
Last month, I was invited by FIU North Women Center to give a keynote for their celebration of International Day of Violence Against Women which they centered on #BlackWomenMatter. Rarely are the psychological, emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being of Black women centered. Instead of preaching to the choir about why #BlackWomenMatter, I chose to center my keynote on “internal abolition,” a marvelous phrase that I heard Darnell Moore mention, while talking with bell hooks at New School on subject of from Moving from to Pain to Power.
The phrase Moving From Pain to Power convicted me on a cellular level. As a Black woman living in the United States of America, I am keenly aware of the ways in which I metastasize pain and trauma. There is the ancestral pain and trauma of being a descendant of enslaved folk. The cultural trauma that I have from being reared by immigrant parents, who migrated here on a boat. There is the pain and trauma of being a hyphenated American, the pain and trauma of being Black in U.S., and of course there is the pain and trauma that I personally acquired by simply living my life. However, in that talk, I heard bell hooks encouraging me to think about how can I move from pain to power in my own life. How can I tap into my inner power and create a situation in which I can thrive as a Black woman taking up space in this time and space context. I am of the opinion even in the most oppressive systems and circumstance folks can still practice resistance and exercise some agency.
Since hearing that phrase, I have been digesting it, metabolizing it, and trying to appropriate it into my being. What does it mean to be free? What is internal abolition? What is the work required to be a free Black woman in the U.S.? What is the blueprint for this freedom? Do I have the prerequisites to get this work done? It is possible for me to do this for me?
Here is an excerpt of my keynote that I am trying to put into praxis:
In the words of the Miami philospher Ebony Rhodes, “the only thing that is holding Black women back is who we are indebted to.” Who do you feel indebted to? Your past, your perfectionism, white supremacy, toxic relationships both political and romantic? Also, when was the last time you centered your pleasure. When was the last time you allowed yourself to relax and netflix and chill with yourself or your bae? Or are you too busy staying busy and chastising yourself for not being busy or involved enough? BW we are powerful we get stuff done and every social justice movement wants our co-sign and physical and emotional labor, but what are we getting in return? Are we demanding that our allies, lovers, and comrades do more on our behalf or do we resign ourselves to accepting crumbs of love, acceptance, and solidarity. As we denounce and say no to our oppression, I would like to challenge us all to say yes to our desires, our dreams, and our healing. The sacred yes is going to be very vital and important to our internal abolition. To who and what are we saying yes to Black women? Are we saying yes to all parts of ourselves? When was the last time you let the little Black girl in you go out and have fun and play…One of my favorite lines in Sula is when Nel is asking Sula why she didn’t have any children and Sula responds, “I don’t want to make somebody else. I want to make myself.
As we get ready to close 2015, I find myself willingly undergoing the beautiful, scary, overwhelming, work of deciding what self I am creating? I recently broken up with someone who I thought was the answer to my prayers, but in reality they were more like a painful insomniac episode and towards the end they became a nightmare. As an overly ambitious person, I fell in love with this persons ambition and the fact that they were borderline genius. But as the relationship matured, I found myself not being allowed to connect with other folks, being responsible for their feelings, being their social worker, and mammy figure. I found myself accepting verbal and emotional abuse and being in a constant state of fight or flight. My PTSD was weaponized against me and I ignored the signs and in therapy I made major excuses for this person. When I finally mustered up the courage to walk away (literally) from the situation, my therapist told me that she considered safety planning with me, but assessed that the situation did not quite warrant it. I sobbed when she told me that because it wasn’t until that moment that it hit me how knee deep in the bullshit I was.
Emotionally the situation definitely warranted a safety plan. I am being super vulnerable and candid in sharing this because as I figure out how to really love and accept myself fully, I want us to remember that Harriet Tubman set herself free first before she led others to freedom. Healthy people create healthy communities and also have healthy loving relationships. If #BlackLivesMatter then we must heal ourselves, be accountable to members of our community, and stop romanticizing the dysfunction that is too common place in our love spaces. In the words of Audre Lorde, “the personal is political.” In saying that we must decolonize our minds and reframe our understanding of love.
I am learning from reading the cult classic self-help book “The Road Less Traveled” by M. Scott Peck that “Self-love and love of others goes hand in hand but that ultimately they are indistinguishable… Love is as love does. Love is an act of will-namely, both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love.”
Therefore, in my quest for internal abolition, I am asking myself: who do I love, why do I chose to love them, why do I chose to be in relationship with them? I needed to be reminded that in laying the foundation to love myself, I am also strengthening and expanding my ability to love others. A hard, painful truth, that I recently had to reconcile with was, is that my life is like an engine I must build as I continue to drive the car. For the first time in a very long time, I feel hopeful. I think that I may have finally overcome my dysthmia, though I suspect this is just one of a myriad of positive things that have come from my recent breakup. I am on my journey to be my own Harriet Tubman and free myself. I hope to see as many of you as possible on journey to wholeness and freedom.
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