To My Prince and Queen: Do Not Be Afraid

To my children, my Prince and my Queen,

This week you returned back home from spending the summer with your grandparents. For eight weeks, you engaged in what so many of our people have done for generations: spent the summers unburdened by camps and activities in order to spend time with your extended family, surrounded by the love of folks who knew you before you even took your first breath. You learned a different way of being, likely seeing more people who look like you in eight weeks than you do the remaining weeks of the year at home. A friend called it “black camp;” over the summer, you received an immersion education in the ways of black folks.

Usually, the eight weeks are a time of rest and relaxation for your father and I.

Yet the events of this summer made this time less carefree than usual. More importantly, and in a manner far more dire, I’m scared about my ability to protect you.

Continue reading “To My Prince and Queen: Do Not Be Afraid”

Put on your dancing shoes

by cocoa mama contributor rlb08863/mamatiti

I know that seems like an odd title given the events of the past year. We are coming fresh off the state sanctioned murder of Troy Davis. The anguish, pain, frustration and rage are still right under the surface. There was the trial and conviction of Raquel Nelson* who was senselessly charged with the vehicular manslaughter of her son despite the fact she was not driving and did not even own a car. There were the racist anti-abortion ads that cropped up in urban areas across the country, with a keen interest in black and Latino neighborhoods. There was the day of national shame when our President had to produce his birth certificate to the nation to prove he was in fact born here, a real American and thus fit to serve in a position that he was elected to. Across our great, post-racial nation, there are laws that seem to be in competition to see who can be the most xenophobic, the most anti-woman, the harshest against the poor and working class, the most draconian against sex workers, all in an effort it seems to prove who is the most American. The year started off horribly with the news out of Cleveland, Texas where an 11 year old Latina girl was gang raped by at least 20 black boys and men. The response by that community, in particular the women, seemed to confirm that the world was in fact going to hell in a handbasket.

So it would seem frivolous at least and idiotic at the most to ask any of you to dance. For many of us, myself included, dance brings to mind images of joy, abandonment, of lightness and exhilaration. We think of proms, weddings, birthday parties, and summer barbeques. It is a time of celebration and validation. It is more though than just a good time.

Our foremothers and forefathers understood  this. They knew dance, movement whether in harmony with other bodies or swaying on its own, was a way of communicating with their homeland. It was a way of connecting with the earth, sky, smells and sounds that had been so cruelly and irrevocably taken away from them. When they got together with a drum, all of the day events, the degradation, the pain, the suffering, the blood, the sweat, the anguish was expelled just for a moment. So long as their bodies were in motion, no matter the amount of time, the dance was the spike in the eye of those who thought they owned their minds and spirits along with their bodies. As arms, legs, torsos, necks, breasts moved, they became birds, antelope, fish, butterflies, and snakes. For that moment, they were free.  Lest you think this is trivial, think to many black churches who still understand the power of dance – yes “a shout” is a dance. The transformative nature of movement still has a place after all this time.

We need to dance by ourselves, with our children, our partners, and our families. We need to put the good foot down so that our sons and daughters will see that the world has not defeated us, has not taken away our joy. We need to throw our heads back and lift our hands while we shake our tail feathers so that we can get it all out. All of the disappointments, inequalities, the setbacks, the downgrades and the layoffs. If the sweat gets in your eye, wipe it away and keep dancing. The world, the Tea Party, Republicans, those on Wall Street, the rich and elite, want us to be defeated so that we can’t fight. They do not know about our ancestors and the power of movement. They forgot – or never knew that slave revolts were started by drums.

When you dance, laugh, cry, shout, twirl. Hold your children. Be silly. Jump on the furniture. Do a conga line around the kitchen table. Do a dougie in the family room. Hell, do the Macerna.  Just don’t be still.

After you are good and worn out, rest. Eat. Laugh some more. Snuggle or meditate alone. Call someone you haven’t in a long time and tell them you love them.  Take a nice hot bath or shower.  After you put your children to bed, if you are able make love to someone you love. Sleep as much as you can. In the morning, you will be clear-eyed, determined, steadfast and most of all, ready to fight like hell.

* Because of the power of  black blogs,social justice blogs, Facebook, Twitter, other forms of social media and ordinary citizens who were rightly outraged by her plight, Ms. Nelson was offered a chance for a new trial.

Careless Whispers

The sound of her fingertips was staccato on the keyboard and the breathless muttering was barely audible over the tapping
“…stupid…Ugh! Not again!…”
tap tap tap tap tap
“G, you are such an idiot!”

“Excuse me”
She looked up, a little exasperated at the intrusion. her eyes wanted to know why I interrupted but her mouth didn’t move.
“Would you let someone else do that?”
“Call you stupid” And I took a sip of coffee, waiting for the answer that I already knew.
She was adamant. “Of course not!”
“Then why is it OK for you to do it?”

And so began my conversation with a co-worker about negative self talk. So often we are unaware of the things that we say to ourselves. She might not have been made aware if I hadn’t listened to her go on and on as we temporarily shared an office.
“I didn’t realize I’d been talking out loud, that was the running commentary in my head…just pointing out my own mistakes, so that I can fix them and improve.”

Many of us would never smoke, knowing the damage it can do to our bodies. We protect ourselves from physical harm and try to make choices that are positive & beneficial…for ourselves and for our children.

Think of negative self talk  as second-hand smoke. We’d never let a co-worker criticize us so blatantly, calling names and making personal judgements. But somehow it’s alright to criticize ourselves and use words that we wouldn’t tolerate from others. Just as second-hand smoke gets into our lungs and weakens them, those cutting words get into our heads and feed doubts and insecurities. The damage may not be as acute as with smoking directly but the lungs are never the same.

it’s always sunny in california

Excerpt from “The Best Interest,” LBC (c) 2010

And so at one moment on that cloudy, damp, and rather cool March day, the day after her 29th birthday, she knew who they said she was, an accomplished young woman, wife and mother, and brilliant, they called her. How does she do it all? Yes, with bipolar disorder that she’d endured for over twelve years, who was right then having a really bad episode, but still one whole person, who could predict what would happen next in a logical fashion. Intelligence evidenced by high scores on the law school admissions exam. Admitted into one of the top three universities in the country. Confident, self-assured, determined. In one moment she knew things were bad, awful, interminable in that moment but the moment, even if it lasted for weeks, was temporary, and she could handle temporary as she’d handled temporary before. Because she had to do this.

But inexplicably in the next moment a separation occurred and she was not one anymore and what was once temporary was then permanent. She’d heard of this before. She’d seen seven therapists in the past twelve years. Some of them helpful, many of them not. One whose wife died, one who was a student, one who worked at the university, even one who was pregnant at the same time she was, but in twelve years, never…They’d all asked, when she’d been very low, Nana, any suicidal thoughts? And, yes, she’d thought about suicide, and, yes, she’d thought about dying. In an abstract way, she thought about who’d come to her funeral and how hard would her mother cry, or what might happen if she stepped in front of the bus instead of getting on it. How would her bones crush and would she die instantly or would she feel pain? But she always came back to herself and her flesh and she’d touch herself and she’d be there alive. Those were just thoughts, nothing more.

But the thoughts that day were of self-inflicted death and they were real, not of her imagination. She felt death from the inside, cold and hard and permanent as it seeped outward. She saw the plan as it emerged in her mind and it was so easy, so alluring, so neat. Much simpler than when she was in the car that morning, as she drove the kids to day care. Then she thought about swerving into incoming traffic but she didn’t want to hurt anyone else or hitting a tree but they all looked too puny to do the job well. The visual of the pills was clear and direct, nothing to work out, nothing to decide. Just lie down and die. It was a picture of justice, an answer to the problem of her and her badness.

“Just do it.” She heard that voice clearly. Her voice saying, Just Do It. She was saying things she never heard herself say, and that voice was frightening.

Another voice, her motherly, sensible, rational, together, voice said, “Call someone.” By instinct, like a child who can rattle off the phone number of a neighbor to call in the event of an emergency, she picked up the phone and pressed call. Sorry I can’t come… she hung up, and pressed call again, this time to her husband at work. It rang and rang and rang and before she even heard the rejection of You’ve reached, she hung up. Her hand shook and then her arm and within seconds her whole body was shivering. She looked over her shoulder, and her own body moving made her think that other things were moving in the room. She saw the plan again, and felt her body walking up the stairs, toward the bathroom, toward the medicine cabinet. Sertraline, Cymbalta, Topamax, Geodon, Lithium, Triliptal, Lunesta, Ambien, Paxil, antidepressants, anti-psychotics, sleeping pills, hundreds of multi-colored tablets, oblong, circular, square, pills that she took to try halt and prevent the episodes, to stay steady, to achieve a state of equanimity. So many pills; one would never know that as a child she couldn’t take pills unless her Daddy crushed them up and mixed them in applesauce. For a moment she stood there and in that flash of lucidity she noticed the irony of how she took pills that help and pills that help the pills that help; pills that made her sleepy when sleep was inappropriate, jumpy when jumpiness looked crazy, but also calm when calming was longed for. No one would be home for hours.

Her unfamiliar voice taunted her, “Easy way to die.”

She was not so sure. But she said, “I want to die.”

Her voice said, “Let’s go.”

She ignored her and questioned her and said, “Do I?”

She stared at the life-taking pills for what seemed like hours but could have only been seconds, and she asked herself again, “Do I really want to die?” She gripped the sink and dropped her head.

And sitting there were the children’s toothbrushes, well-loved and well-worn. One blue and one pink; the little girl’s with bristles going every which way, the young boy’s neat and orderly as if right out of the package. Why or how this pierced through, one only knows, but she thought of how her children still followed her around the house the way they used to when they were babies, even when she went to the bathroom to do a number two, the smell didn’t bother them. How they pulled on her clothes and constantly demanded her attention: Mommy, mommy look at me, look at me, while they did things they knew they shouldn’t do, like stand on the couch or throw toys, their need for their mother’s attention just that great even though reprimand was sure to ensue. How they’d ask with earnest eyes Mommy are you mad at me when she’d chastise them for standing on the couch or throwing toys, or put them in time-out or tapped their hands with the wooden spoon. How they assailed her with Can you do this mommy while they’d stand on one leg or turn around in a circle or do a favorite yoga pose. How her baby girl and little boy preferred their mother 90% of the time to any other person and were so hurt by her that 10% when she became a person neither they nor she recognized. The mother’s world turned to water as she turned around, left the bathroom, and again picked up the phone.

“Hello? Hello? Baby, are you there?”It took her several moments to respond in between sobs as she tried to catch her breath.

“Baby. I can’t do it anymore. I want to go to the hospital and stay there.” That was it. She had nothing else to say.

Silence. Then a long sigh. “Okay. Okay. I’ll be there in a minute.” He’s going to be so mad at me, she thought as she waited. The front of her shirt was thoroughly soaked. As the door opened, she began, “I’m so sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” as soon as she thought he was close enough to hear. But when he sat next to her his whole torso collapsed and he just looked at her and she realized that he was tired of having to tell her, “It’s okay.” She stopped apologizing.

But not for long because in the emergency room there were many little shameful events. Events that she responded to by being sorry. Sorry that her husband had to witness the nurses questioning, “Well, why would a pretty girl like you want to hurt yourself?” And really expecting an answer. Or overhearing the cops posted outside her bed talking about the “nutjobs” they’ve had to watch over the past few days. Or during the shift change watching them point her out like she was an exhibit at the zoo.

Around six he said, “It’s getting late.”  “And someone has to pick up the kids.” And of course it was not just someone, it’s him, he had to pick up the kids because she, the psychiatrist on duty had just told them, was about to be admitted into the hospital, taken up to the psychiatric ward. “Okay,” she said, “You should go.” She didn’t want him to leave, she was terrified, but she didn’t want him to see anymore of her degradation. She didn’t know what was up there and she wanted to be able to take it in and understand it before he did. She told him she would just be going to sleep. She didn’t look at him. “The kids, they need their routine. Stability. They need you.”  She paused again, wiped her eyes. “Make sure you give them a bath, read them a story.” Her husband looked at his wife, and let out a deep sigh. He said nothing, just grabbed both of her shoulders, hard, and kissed her on the forehead. He turned, and walked away.

“How are you feeling this morning? Your breakfast is waiting for you in the lounge.” On her first full day in the hospital, she asked her nurse if she could take her breakfast in her room. She dreaded what, and who, she would find in the lounge. The answer was a polite but unyielding no. “You’ll feel a lot better once you get up, get dressed and eat. So let’s go.” Her nurse took her by the arm and gently but firmly pulled her out of the bed.

It was hard not to look into the other patients’ rooms as she walked down the hall. There was a woman she noticed last night who seemed to constantly be on the verge of hysterical tears. This woman, thin and blond with glasses, always had a tissue in her hand, close to her face, and her knees drawn into her chest. Another woman, at least 60 years old, was waif-like, nothing but skin and bones. And another, young, with skin like milk and jet black hair cut into a chin length bob, whose entire room was covered in sheets. All were white. All of these women were being coaxed out of their rooms, into the lounge for breakfast.

They sat at a small dining table that would seat about 10 people, but there were only seven of them that morning. There was construction being done on the floor that day, so their introductions were conducted over the dull noise of a jackhammer. Of the seven women, she came to find out, five were mothers. Five of the women at the table, situated on the 4th floor of the University Hospital, on the psychiatric wing, were away from their children.

Deadlines make me feel like this. Caught in a downward tailspin. So hard to get out. Thank God for the sunshine and the no-rain. I need to make it through this week. Cause I can’t go back there.

A Legitimate Question, I Think

I’m going to act like a a martyr in this post. I apologize in advance for that. People who act like martyrs have always rubbed me wrong. For one, I was raised in a suck-it-up kind of a family in which you might get some measure of sympathy if, say, there was a lot of blood or a broken something or other. But anything short of those two and you were more than likely on your own. And it was not until I met my husband—who comes from a quite sympathetic family—that I realized anything may have been out of the ordinary in my upbringing. At my husband’s urging (and particularly since we’ve had kids), I’ve tried to be more “compassionate” about complaints that I would have been laughed out of town for when I was little. (Let’s just say there’s a lot of “I’m so sorry your feeeeelings are huuuurt” bandied about in our home and I even manage to not say it sarcastically.)

In the last ten days or so, most of us had that big flu slash respiratory sh*t storm that seems to be going around lately. First my daughter, then my son, then me. We fell, one by one, like dominoes. When my daughter got sick, I was there 24/7. When my son got sick, I was there 24/7. And then when I got sick … well, there I was. My two beloved girlfriends helped me out with rides here and there, but for a couple of days there I had to slog through about eight hours of the most essential chores, including driving (and trust me, I had no business behind the wheel), when all I wanted to do was collapse under the blankets. And given how much school my kids had missed when they had been sick, not going to school and a half-dozen after-school classes was not an option.

And my husband did his best to be helpful but ultimately he had to go to work and even though I wanted to beg him to stay home because I really, truly, could not move, I didn’t. I felt guilty.

I even tried to hire someone but as it turns out that is not so easily done: (a) at the last minute; (b) on a short-term basis; and/or (c) on a budget.

So here comes the martyr part: I want to take a moment and ask a question. I really need to know the answer because maybe I’m missing something here: When anyone in the family’s sick, mama’s looking out for them. But who exactly is looking out for mama?


At the beginning of a new year, as I take time to re-evaluate things going on in my life, choices I’ve made, and experiences I’ve had over the last year, I come to the place of contemplating inspiration. Maybe we can think of it as motivation, though I think there are some variances in the definitions of the two words.

My greatest inspiration is my son. When I think of why I do just about everything I do, I always come back to him. My divorce, my weight loss, my move, my financial planning (thus my career choices), every thing I do, I do for him.  It’s interesting how someone so small, so young, so innocent can inspire me in so many ways. We’d like to think we’re supposed to be the inspirations for our children, and we are. I just offer that the level of inspiration we receive from them far outweighs that.

I wonder what I did before I was a mom. Wonder what fueled my decisions… what was my motivation. I can’t even remember and at this point, it doesn’t matter.

I wonder, though, what happens for those who lose their children. What becomes their inspiration or motivation? This forces me to consider how immensely changed my life was the moment I became a mother and how, in all of my efforts to do so, reclaiming the “me” before I had a child is impossible. I will never be that woman again. I might lament the loss of “freedom”, the loss of “fun”, the loss of being responsibility-free, but to what end? What I’ve gained, at the very least in form of inspiration, is incomparable, irreplaceable.

I love my son. I need my son. He inspires me.

Who inspires you?

What inspiration do you draw from your children?

What has becoming a parent changed for you, in terms of your goals/plans?

Holiday Time!

I’m just regular and plain, Black people brown #3. My hair is natural though my curls are inconsistent. I don’t have light eyes or big breasts, not overweight or thin. I am really just average and normal and unremarkable. I dress conservatively, though I love a sexy shoe. The only thing that might grab your attention if you passed me on the street is my height, which I had nothing to do with. My teeth aren’t perfectly straight nor have they been professionally whitened. While I’d love to have First Lady Obama arms I do nothing to tone mine. I’m sure I had a waist before becoming a mom, now a muffin top is my reality. I’m not down playing any attributes I have; only confirming the simplicity of my existence and my complete alrightness with it. I haven’t always been so accepting.

Like many people, I played the compare & contrast game relentlessly, oftentimes coming up short. Even though everybody does it, self-judgment is a wickedly personal game – without a winner. The feeling of not measuring up is certainly easy to luxuriate in as there are so many opportunities to learn how to improve yourself or get the latest on who has it better than you. TV shows and magazines bombard us with information about who is wearing what, what her trinket cost, how many cars he has. We get advice 24/7 on where to shop, vacation, get educated…how to have sex, when to have sex, what kind of socks keep you warmest….no matter the topic there is always a better (possible) way.

Does this obsessive focus inward serve us? I think not. America seems to have a national do-it-yourself psychosis where the number one project is self. We spend so much time and energy focused on getting better that our time spent BEING

  • happy that your plant is still alive
  • excited about getting a close parking space
  • comfortable in a bed with fresh, clean sheets
  • relaxed, enjoying a glass of wine
  • enchanted with snowflakes

    is limited.

Of course I understand that not every day is giggle worthy and that people can be a pain in the ass. I could certainly lose weight, eat healthier, meditate and rearrange my closet. There is so much improvement possible!

Right now though? I’m declaring myself satisfied. On this day, I’m good. I’m giving myself a break from the pursuit of possibility, the wonderings of what if. I am exactly what I need right now and my offering to the world is complete in this package, nary a bell nor whistle in sight. I accept my regular self and invite you to give it a rest and just BE.
Celebrate with me! December 9th is I’m Good Day.

Inspired by an excellent article on the price of the (obsessive) pursuit of happiness, found here

Killing My Superwoman…I think

I’m a Superwoman. But I don’t want to be.

But maybe I do.

The Superwoman concept, as applied to Black women, is often called a myth. As in it’s not really true. No one can do it all, really, people say. I beg to differ.

I am raising two children under the age of 5. Two boisterous, active, strong-willed, opinionated, brown beauties. I’m up at 6:30 am, with my kids doing dressing, breakfast, brushing of teeth, putting on of jackets, and the long, slow bike ride to day care every morning. I co-op at the day care at least once a week, three hour shifts taking care of not only my kids, but other peoples’ 3-5 year-olds as well. I don’t do it alone, I have the support of my wonderful husband, but we all know – in the early years, mommyhood is a 24-hour job.

I am a 4th year sociology PhD student and a law student. I am currently writing my dissertation proposal. When I defend it in January, I will be ABD. I don’t technically have to defend until May 2012, but my project requires collecting my own data over time, so defending early is necessary. I’m also taking law classes, at least two each quarter, six a year. Exams start next week. I do pro-bono work too, helping homeless people with disabilities get social security benefits.

Are you impressed yet?

I’m such a Superwoman, I simply have no time to take care of myself. Yoga? Meditation? Girl, by the end of the day, I am dog-tired, with all that mothering and student-ing I do all day. Eating better? Did I tell you about my stomach issues? Going to bed at a reasonable hour? But then how would I get to get in my twitter and facebook and nytimes and, my god, my TELEVISION time?

And furthermore, many of my needs are met by being a Superwoman. You are impressed, and I like impressing you. (Don’t act like you’re not.) You ask me, “how do you do it all?” and I can say, “I don’t know…” when I do know. It really feeds my ego. When I drop a ball, or a few, I have ready made excuses. Nothing is really ever my fault. I can fall apart and go to bed at 4pm and everyone understands. Or at least they should. And if they don’t understand, well, fuck ’em. I don’t care. (sniff.)

Don’t you see I need to be a Superwoman? I love Her.

She’s a superhero. For everyone.

Except me.

I have fibromyalgia, aches and pains over my entire body. And bipolar II, which is mostly depression in my case, with some highly damaging hypomanic episodes interspersed. I checked myself in the hospital 2 years ago. I have anxiety that grips my chest and makes me think I’m going to die. I have gastroparisis, where my stomach doesn’t empty in a normal way. It means I’m nauseous a lot, and have developed a fear of eating a lot of foods. I have to eat low fiber and low fat. That means I don’t eat a lot different foods. I have an irritable bladder, which means I have to pee constantly and it hurts, but I’m supposed to hold it to retrain my bladder. And I recently found out I have a virus that’s been suppressed for years but my immune system is weak so now its reared its ugly head.

My body is shutting down, saying its taking a break, forcing a time-out whether I want it or not. My Superwoman is killing me, from the inside out.

What will it take for me to kill my Superwoman, before She kills me? Obviously the fear of changing is greater than the pleasure derived from staying the same, even given the pain.

I want to change, be healthy, be the woman I urge other women to be. But if I kill Her, my Superwoman, who will I be?

Will you still be impressed with me?

Should I even care?

Learned Incompetence

“You don’t think any of it is genetic?  None of it has to do with inherent gender differences?  The ability to multi-task, even?”  This was the question I asked a colleague as we discussed an article that concluded, yet again, that women do more than their fair share of parenting, regardless of whether or not they work outside of the home.  This colleague is the only woman I know who seems to have gotten pretty close to a 50-50 parenting split with her husband.  Among other things, not only has she changed very few diapers, but she has also never given her 19-month old son a bath.  Never.  “Please,” she said.  “That very question—why men do less—is asked through a cultural lens.  It’s all learned incompetence.”

“Be careful about the patterns you set early in her life; they’ll be hard to undo later.”  Those words were spoken to me by another female colleague, warning me that my job flexibility would lend itself to a division of parenting between my husband and me that would tip in his favor.  One year into parenting, it turned out she was right; the scale did, indeed, favor him.  She’s wrong, however, that the pattern began early in my daughter’s life; rather, these are patterns that have been setting long before my daughter’s birth. There may, indeed, be a genetic basis for different brain wiring that make women better at multi-tasking, coordinating, or scheduling.  But the parenting imbalance we witness today in so many marriages is more nurture than nature.  It’s learned; learned incompetence on Dad’s part, and learned competence on Mom’s.

And so it is that my learned competence began 30 years ago, having witnessed my mother run our household without my father’s help.  She’s a consummate scheduler and meticulous planner.  She did all the food shopping, and coordinated all of our meals.  She did all of the school shopping, from new clothes to classroom supplies.  She signed all permission slips, orchestrated all doctor and dentist check-ups, shuttled us to all sporting events, signed us up for extra-curricular activities, and nurtured any new interests we had.  She kept track of our family life, our social life, and our academic life.  Although formally married for all of my childhood, functionally she was a single-parent from the start.  And she was damned good at it.

After having my own baby, I picked up where she left off.  My husband is not my father, and is eager to do his share, especially if I ask.  Nevertheless, I insisted on becoming the expert in baths and hair washings, mealtime and sleep time.  I made the toy and clothing purchases; I scheduled the doctor’s appointments and play dates.  Because my work schedule is fluid, I picked up the care-giving slack, pushing my work off to late nights and weekends.  And at the end of my daughter’s first year of life, I was out of balance because of it: tired, out of shape, and often resentful of my husband.

“I have to take responsibility for what I let happen in my relationship,” my mother says of her marriage.  I used to think it absurd that my colleague had never given her child a bath, but today I applaud her for refusing to become the expert in all matters of child-rearing.  I now recognize the brilliance of learned incompetence on Mom’s part.  My colleague was right: the patterns that I set, patterns that I began learning a long time ago, are indeed hard to break.  But my mother is also right; achieving balance in my parenting life is partly my responsibility.

The other part of the responsibility belongs to my husband, and despite the difficulty of breaking old habits, my partner and I are setting new patterns.  On most days, he takes care of our daughter for half of her waking hours all on his own, and in recent months he has given me a few tips about mealtime.  My learned incompetence has resulted in a better balance, and my well-being, as well as that of my family, has improved because of it.

Chronically Colored

I have chronic illnesses. I have bipolar II, fibromyalgia, gastroparesis, and now something wonky is happening with my bladder (sorry if that is TMI). When you have chronic illnesses, you have to be chronically on it – taking care of yourself is not an option, it’s a necessity. Especially when you have other folks depending on you. But especially because you have you depending on you. You were put on the earth to do great things, and you can’t do them if you are always sick.

Sometimes I forget this. I don’t do things that are “bad,” like smoking cigarettes, or doing illicit drugs, but I do things that are “bad” for me, in my personal situation. I might have too much wine. I might not get the 9 (yes 9) hours of sleep that my body demands. I might drive my car to campus instead of riding my bike, removing the little bit of cardiovascular exercise I need to ward off the depression. I might “forget” to eat. I might be on the internet for hours instead of getting my work done. I might overcommit. I might say no and feel guilty. I might not go to church. Things that help me heal, I might not do.

Having chronic illnesses means being constantly on the watch. I have to watch myself, watch my moods, watch my habits, watch my bodily functions, watch my behaviors. Whenever I think things are okay, that I can back off, turn away, something happens and… BAM! I’m sick, on my ass, clawing my way back to the light. I have to be forever vigilant if I am to stay well.

It’s kind of like being a parent of color.

As a parent of color, we are constantly on the watch. I’m constantly listening to my children’s language, making sure no words of self-doubt or self-hate have crawled into their mind space. I’m constantly monitoring their daily interactions, wanting to be sure that the adults around them are affirming of their existence. I’m constantly aware of the children they play with, noting if issues of skin color come up, noting who they naturally veer toward, noting who they avoid and who avoids them. I can’t listen to the radio in the car, or watch BET, cause my own people are conspiring against them. I’m constantly thinking these days about the kindergarten that will happen next year, how my boy might be the only black child in his classroom, and subsequently, his sister left behind to be the only black child left in her preschool classroom.

Being “colored” is like a chronic condition. Just when you think it’s safe to be “normal,” to be a normal mom who sends her kid to school with no worries other than will she finally let go of my leg this morning….BAM!

Be vigilant.