Searching for joy feels like an act of defiance in a world that would rather I, and other women like me, have none. That choice to choose happiness above everything else is the impetus behind our Find the Fun theme this year and the reason we’re still here pushing through all the murk that is 2020 — and for me personally, the last ten years of my life.
The Black Woman’s Lament™ is a song that’s been wailed from the fringes of society for generations. Living is hard and there are rarely easy answers to the many problems we face, especially when those problems are created and perpetuated by a system that gathers its strength from our submission and pain. Being weary is a part of the story; it’s not the whole story nor is it the part that we want our lives defined by. Fannie Lou Hamer famously said, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.” Me too, Ms. Fannie. There hasn’t been a better way to sum it up since 1964.
It’s hard to love, to be free, to sleep.
Luckily, my community saves me every single day. We check on each other asking “Sis, are you okay, really?” both knowing we’re not, but we’re trying anyway. Admitting we don’t feel strong and want to shrink away from the duties we have to be friends, lovers, sister, daughters, activists. We shout for the right to simply exist.
There is no true place of peace on this planet for a Black woman. Often I fantasize about what it would be like if the world didn’t actively work to harm us: to be able to sleep peacefully in our beds at night and know we won’t be killed by state sanctioned violence, to embrace our true selves when we were born in the wrong body and not be murdered (and forgotten for it), to give birth and know our fears and concerns will be addressed without hesitation, to refuse to uphold a white supremacist standard of beauty and not be demonized for it.
I have a Pinterest board titled Unbothered which serves as the entry to a fantasy world of Black women living at peace, smiling, and doing mundane things. That’s a tiny illustration of how much I long for us to be left alone. Being free to do whatever is enough of a fantasy to warrant a mood board about it. Damn. Y’all. That’s — I’m not asking for much! Yet, I sit here in this reality knowing that moments like that are fleeting.
If I have to escape for a while in my imagined world for some respite, I do so unashamedly.
I put on some good records, maybe cook up a delicious meal, have a soak in the tub, play in my hair, or watch Black Cinderella (I have the DVD but you can watch it here) for the 900th time. It may sound like your run-of-the-mill self care day, but for me it’s much deeper than that. I’m going to be happy whether the world likes it or not, damn it.
It may not be enough and I find it difficult to give advice when I’m still figuring this out for myself; but if you can find some spot of peace, embrace it with everything you’ve got. Look into therapy if you haven’t already. Therapy For Black Girls has an incredible network of providers and a bomb podcast too. Forgive yourself for not always feeling up to the challenge to take on the world. Give yourself grace when you fall short of your own expectations. And finally, love yourself deeply and with all the wild abandon you can muster.
Because music can communicate things that are otherwise hard to say, here’s a Spotify playlist for you. It’s all Black women from a range of eras and music genres that I think are worth a listen. Put it on when you want to feel free and easy. Tell us what songs you’d like or what songs you’d like to add in the comments.
I see you, sis. Are you okay? Really?
Header: Ian Kiragu