When you operate out of self-preservation and the sheer inability to depend on others it seems to somehow morph into some kind of strength. This kind of strength is lonely. I never walk around with the “strong Black woman” badge but I cannot escape it. It seeps through my pores. What people don’t realize is that it is not an exultation of pride. It is blood, sweat and tears. A heat emanating from my body that is the incineration of all that I bottle up inside to avoid being vulnerable. My strong-black-womaness will not allow it. I am closed.
In life I’ve bounced around, I’ve been kicked out by family and non-family and I’ve been ignored, put down and underestimated. I’ve juggled; work, marriage, kids, school, divorce…quarter life crisis. I’ve continually picked up all of the pieces of each shattering disappointment. I fall down, I get back up, I get through it and I move forward. This is what others have come to expect. What they don’t understand is that there are only so many times you can glue the same thing back together. My only encouragement is their insistence that I will figure things out and that it will get better. This, is my fault.
This is where I realize that through my unintentional quest toward strength, I didn’t lean on anyone. I suffered my miseries quietly. I tried my hardest not to wear my heart on my sleeve. Failure, or the acceptance of it, was not an option. I could never tell my family I was starving in college in the big city or had a verbally abusive boyfriend. It seemed as though any time I DID accept help, it always came back to bite me. I gave up completely. Not only would I refuse vulnerability, I just couldn’t BE it at all anymore.
A couple months ago I was out in the company of a friend. He and I were at a bar. Another gentleman, an acquaintance of his, asked him did he know that he was in the presence of a VERY powerful woman? It’s the kind of compliment where your pride stands at attention. But it was a gross inaccuracy. Although I may have a commanding presence which demands respect, right then I was actually very powerless. I could stand face to face, countless times with a perfectly good man and not tell him how I feel. My pride won’t let me. I would much rather let him walk out of my life than to figure out what the hell happened to my sleeves so that I can dig my heart out and affix it there. I cannot push myself out of my own way. Where is the strength in that?
The ability to leave yourself open to disappointments, not just to get through them, is the real strength. Working through pain takes more power than to try to prevent it completely. Coming to a stage in my life where I am finally realizing that it is OK to not be OK all of the time, hopefully signifies progress. Telling me that I will be OK is not a suitable consolation for every low point in my life. I am slowly learning to accept some of the things others are willing to give. Developing a strength that is not based out of responsibility and requirements or fear and solitude, is the power that I need.