“Heaven arms with love and laughter those it does not wish to see destroyed”Zora Neale Hurston
My entire adult life I’ve taken pride in my strength. My identity was primarily built upon how much pain and suffering I had been able to endure. Alone. I had no idea who I was or where I was going in life if I didn’t bring all of my baggage with me. But with the caveat that I was a survivor. That despite all I had gone through and was going through I was going to make it. I was a warrior! I was tough and I was resilient. And most importantly, I didn’t need to rely on anyone but me to make it. My personal motto was, “Ain’t no quit in me”. Parallel to my identity of personal strength was the belief that people were unreliable. That when the going got tough, they were no where to be found. I HAD to be strong, because at the end of the day, all I got is ME.
Others praised me for this perspective. I was admired and even envied for being SO strong. I never considered there was any other way to live or BE until my life drastically changed in two ways and I realized I wasn’t as strong as I thought.
At the tail end of 2019, I met the love of my life. The love of this life and past lives. I easily fell into a different mode of being with him. I wasn’t strong. I wasn’t a warrior. I was just me. But who was this “me”? I realized I had created an identity and defense mechanism to survive my trauma and it had served me quite well up to that point. But it was no longer necessary with this man. I had someone to rely on. I had someone who didn’t need strong Kathleen. He needed a different version of me, the me that was buried beneath all the varied layers of my pain. I had to heal to make this relationship work. And that is what I did. I lovingly, but reluctantly released the “strong black woman and I don’t need nobody” identity and embraced the vulnerable, soft, and completely open version of myself that had been dormant for far too long.
In early 2020, the COVID 19 pandemic swept the world. My daughter and I were home from school and work for months. I was no longer entrenched in our racist society and it was AMAZING. My body, mind and spirit had been in “fight or flight” mode for 12 years. Everyday for 12 years I had to brace myself for white people and their unending bullshit. My sympathetic nervous system had been working overtime with no break for over a decade. My state of being was stress and it had become so normal I didn’t even realize there was another way to live. Until the pandemic hit.
Being at home and not rushing everyday to get to school or work, not seeing white people, and being able to spend hours at the park, my parasympathetic nervous system kicked in. I was restored back to a calm and centered state of being. I spent more time with my daughter than I had since I gave birth. It was like everyday was Friday. It was the greatest unexpected blessing I had received in years.
Here I was, vulnerable, soft, and open with a man who was my rock. I was calm and centered, completely detached from white society. There was no elaborate defense mechanism system in place to survive trauma or racism. I finally began to feel what being a Black Woman was supposed to be like; truly feminine and free.
As fate would have it, the world opened back up. Back to school and work. Back to the grind. And back to white people and they fucking bullshit. I began to crumble. I couldn’t take it. My migraines reared it’s ugly head and I had my first panic attack. In the same week! My first thought was, “dang, I done got soft”. I couldn’t believe I buckled under the pressure. I wasn’t as strong as I thought. But the truth is, I wasn’t supposed to be strong to begin with. I wasn’t supposed to have had to create and maintain identities and states of being contrary to my inherent essence to survive other people’s crap. I was supposed to BE free and vulnerable, open and centered.
I find myself at a crossroads, an impasse of sorts. Now that I’ve found freedom. Now that I’ve grown accustomed to being vulnerable, and grounded in a reality outside of the one white society would love to recreate for me, I can no longer live life as the “strong black woman”. Because I’m not as strong as I once thought.