Some may say it was a physical manifestation of my inner being; the extra weight in my cheeks and thighs as years of heaviness dropped my emotional heart to my stomach and often stayed there, digesting and internalizing what my eyes saw and ears heard. I've since observed that anxiety presents itself in my life through binge eating, and stress the only contributing factor to my chronic body aches. Alas. It was not well with my soul.
Growing up a Black girl in the United States of America is a long walk towards an undoing. Because no matter how hard you work, or perform, or present, it is your Blackness doing the heavy lifting when it comes to how you're received. At some point, all that hard work, all that performance, all that presentation to make yourself fit in a world that was never meant for you to exist, let alone thrive -- at some point it's gonna to have to give.
"Like ships in the night
You keep passing me by
Just wasting time
Trying to prove who’s right
And if it all goes crashing into the sea
If its just you and me
Trying to find the light"
My parents have been spending a lot of time these past few quarantined weeks looking at old family photos. I see in my eyes exactly how I felt: I didn't like myself then. For all the effort my parents put into telling me I was beautiful, the world I lived in made it clear that something about my dark skin and kinky hair and puffy cheeks and pudgy legs made me a pariah of sorts. I knew it wasn't something to be proud of, let alone something worth loving. And so I actively rejected my parent's persistence. I decided I'd never be loved, so if God was going to make me stay here, I might as well make myself useful.
So I built ships for shoulders. I made myself available to anyone and everyone. I had no boundaries. I offered my services free of charge and often went into debt trying to buy my way into shaky friendships, fleeting romances and rocky partnerships. I was lost at sea; my ship-sized-shoulders took on way too much water and she began to sink. But I kept working, kept performing, kept presenting anyway. I cringe thinking about it now.
"Come to me all you who are heavy laden and I will give you rest." The voice that cried out in the darkness of my soul beckoned me to lift my eyes to the hills; help was on the way. Like Peter, I'd lost my focus, choosing to fix my eyes on how much the world hates Black bodies, especially those with vaginas. (crude, but true) Until I began to readjust my vision. To look beyond the lies and embrace something stronger: the truth that God, who began a good work in me, would be faithful to complete it in this life while waiting for the hope He offers through Jesus Christ in the next.
I finally reached out & showed up at my first appointment with a licensed therapist on October 20, 2017 in Guayaquil, Ecuador and began the hard work of my undoing. Things got darkest before the dawn, but as I began to learn where my boundaries had to be placed, and began to remove the ships and allow my shoulders to just be... shoulders. I found rest for my weary soul at the feet of Jesus.
The past few years has been me on this continuous process of learning to be more and more comfortable in the person God had always made me to be:
I went off script last night during a group conversation, and I freaked out afterwards, thinking I said all the wrong things and brought bad energy to the gathering. I asked a few good friends about their take on it and was reassured that I was in my head. One responded that I always seem to know what my boundaries are, and when I'm being pushed in a way that may cause it to break, I will express myself. Ha, well, that's a confirmation I'm on the right track, closer to freedom than I've ever been.
I'm coming out of hiding. No more anchoring myself to destructive lies. Black girls and Black women are beautiful just as we are. We must no longer work so hard, perform so polished, nor present an image of what we think the world wants to see. Loving a Black woman is a risk that seemingly few are willing to take; but I see you, and I finally believe you.