Saturday, December 28, 2019

The Only Life You Have

Nothing impacts your perspective on life like having a close friend or relative die. This year, I've lost one of each within weeks of each other. So I am ending this year in a place of emotional turmoil.

I will dedicate some time to write about my friend in a separate piece. I can say a little about my cousin here, and then expand on how all of this has left me reeling at a time when I feel like I am on the precipice of something big. I had hoped that for all of the unrealized promise of 2019 (projects that I started, but didn't complete), I could simply get back on track and take off. I could return to my #HBCUJustGive interview series and publish those articles in February. I could schedule the photo shoot that I kept rescheduling because I didn't have enough models or creative imagination. I could revisit the #BlackonBroadway series that I didn't finish last March. I could plan to go to my college Homecoming, right after I help plan my 30th high school reunion. I could make some progress on getting rid of the clutter that has engulfed my house.

I could get to everything because tomorrow is another day. So I thought.

My cousin used to be very close to my Mom because she was only a few years younger when she came up to DC to live with my grandmother and attend high school. Her son and I are six months apart in age. She came up from the country (Fredericksburg VA) to family gatherings and sang at my parents' 40th Anniversary Party. She was a prolific Facebook poster...much like the older people we joke about who unwittingly spread viruses by challenging us to share memes about Jesus. I never minded that though. She was the sweetest person, and I will miss her sense of eternal optimism.

When she passed the week before Thanksgiving, it was a shock, especially since I found out on social media. Sadly, that is how we announce tragic news these days. If you're lucky, someone might include you on a group text in advance. Which is how I found out about my girlfriend--no less shocking, even though I had been prepared to face the unimaginable with a 9th hour flu shot and a summons to her bedside while she was still conscious.

I am NOT okay. I have played the straight woman for days, stoically relating the news because doing so while bawling my eyes out seems unnecessarily dramatic. I hadn't allowed myself to cry because Black women know better...our tears don't influence judges, juries, police officers, public opinion polls, or Senate committee members. So we save them for the shower or for church when someone gets the spirit.

Instead, we indulge in destructive personal behaviors like emotional eating, solitary drinking, not talking, and excessive spending. Therefore, at this, the worst time of year, I am guilty of all four. I had ice cream earlier, and I just finished off a bag of chips. I am drinking whisky by myself while my family sleeps, and I don't know how much I spent on Christmas presents. I don't want to talk to anybody about how I feel, even though I know that I should. And for added TMI, I haven't showered. I'm sleeping too much. My solution for trying to find some form of consolation is to write a rambling piece about my grieving process, such as it is.

I am not okay. I am thinking about my cousin, whom I just lost last month and I am trying to wrap my head around what that means. What does it mean to lose someone who has known you since the day you were born, someone to whom you promised to post a picture of from your parents' hippie Afro-centric wedding but never got the chance to do so because you assumed that you had tomorrow...until you didn't. What does it mean to visit your friend on her deathbed, knowing the ultimate outcome of her situation, but not believing it because you just cannot bring yourself to accept the truth? What does it mean to have plans in your head to make sure that she wouldn't be alone for Christmas, then to learn that you were too late?

I will pull my shit together eventually, but right now, I AM NOT OKAY.

Yet, I am fortified by the faith that my grandmothers sang about from the old-school mourners bench and those never-ending prayer circles. My hope is built on nothing less. My all is on the altar. For every mountain, I will lift up mine eyes and shake myself out of this (sleep it off). I will reach out to my cousin's siblings and find the words that I have been searching for and maybe those will be comforting or incredibly awkward enough to be hilarious so that no one walks away feeling some kind of way. I will do whatever task I am given to honor my girl, because she was my sister, and not just someone I've known since I used to look up to her when we were kids. This ain't nothing more than I can bear.

But more importantly, I will tackle my undone or incomplete projects, not only because tomorrow is not promised, but because I don't want the world to know how messy I really am unless I have no other choice (that is my vanity expressed through my tipsiness). I got a world to conquer in this next decade. I am not sad about whatever I didn't get to do in the 20-aught-teens, because I accept those were the choices I made, and in some cases the cards I was dealt. Everything in its whether it is more traveling, cleaning my house, raising this headstrong girl-child, drinking more water/eating more salad, or really seeing this Busy Black Woman project become a profitable business venture, I pray that I am blessed with more time.

This is it y'all. My cousin's gift was singing, which she got to do in different parts of the world. My girl's gift was being a badass and brilliant and bossy (I've got stories). But we've only been given a lifetime to share ourselves with the world, so what are YOU waiting for?

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