In my bedroom, I have a framed poster that reads “Trust Your Struggle.” To me, those words are about knowing in my bones and my being the things that I know to be true. They are about caring about the process and not just the product, and all the ways that becoming is a necessary state of upheavals, twists, and turns. As I make my way around the sun for another blessed year, I know some things to be true:
- Sometimes you ask of people things that they cannot actually provide you – perhaps because they don’t know how – and it’s okay to still love them and to accept that without compromising yourself.
- Healing is the hardest work. It takes sitting in a truth and finding your way back to it when you doubt yourself. It takes not letting others put you out of self, and to reclaim your spaces, your voice. I keep going, and the way gets more clear, more solid and easier to follow.
- My love practice – as my dear friend Tabias calls it – is continuously informed by my close tribe: Amber, Tabias, Preston, Moses, Alexandra, Vina. Our trips this year were life-giving. The things we build together are built with the foundations of care. I name people not to exclude others who are also important in my life, but to continue the practice of naming specifically when someone has been critical to my existence.
In my 29th year I traveled to multiple states with close friends, wrote more, read more, traveled out of the country with my sister, spent wonderful visits home in Indiana with my family, co-founded a business, produced an incredible storytelling show, and got a book deal. Even in the midst of so much joy, there are the weights of the world that come crashing down. As a black woman in this world, it is hard to escape the feeling of death and sadness all around. It weighs your body down, and sits perched, claws sinking in, on your shoulders. Living in the wake of death that always seems to lurk around a corner, is a particular type of work.
I asked friends to send me handwritten letters/postcards for my birthday this year. Sitting and reading them has made me laugh and cry and smile, and has been a reminder that even when that heaviness comes to sit on my shoulders or I feel like I’m behind on life milestones, that I am loved and I am doing the work to live in the wake of death. 29 taught me to honor my wake work. To solidify my joy practices. To keep drinking water and to remember to breathe.
29 was about making commitments to myself, and not just saying them, but living them. I spent a necessary evening with my dear friend Amber, and we walked through the things we wanted for ourselves; the commitments we were holding ourselves in love to follow through on. We don’t spend enough time in the midst of affirmations. I appreciate her reminders and the reminders from others that I am here and that I am loved. So each morning I read my commitment that I wrote with a marker on my closet mirror – the first thing I see each morning – and I say to myself “I am a commitment to my heart and the things I need to feel loved, wanted, hopeful, safe, and help me to grow. Those are the things that I let close to my being. And I will not allow the rest to put me out of self.”
I end 29 with the same quote I began it with. I was reminded of it again in passing and then reaffirmed that it was speaking to me when a friend sent it to me a few days ago. Not everything is equal. My love, the love others have for me, and the work I am creating is an abundance. It is multiplied over and over and over again. May the harvest continue to be plentiful in this new decade.
“divide by the deaths you had to metabolize yesterday. divide by the shot echoes in your dreams. divide by the sleep you didn’t get thinking you had to hustle harder. divide by the water you didn’t drink either.
multiply by every pore touched, every memory made skin again, every word of love and the lips that share them. multiply by the sound of children. the sound that never stops. exponent of the will of the ancestors which will be dreamt. but not slept through.
all things are not equal.
wake up.” – alexis pauline gumbs