Over the past three months, I have randomly sent that message in a text to various friends of mine. I always feel that I should check up on more friends and definitely on more of my relatives, then I try to rationalize my neglect...I am the Busy Black Woman, after all. But still, if I have not checked in with you yet, trust that I will do my best over these next few weeks.
Because I need you to survive. I need us to get through these public heath crises of pandemic and racism. I need us to have the strength to keep marching and protesting and agitating for our babies, our siblings, our parents, and our neighbors. I need us to make it.
Thus, in the midst of the crazy, I have done the opposite of what I would normally do. I have not been down to Black Lives Matter Plaza to join any protest marches. I haven't written much for the blog in days. Instead, I have been in my back yard, sitting in the sun and sowing seeds/food scraps in the container garden that was intended as a stay-at-home project to occupy my daughter. It has now become a necessary retreat for my peace of mind.
Lord knows I need it. As the outside world reels from COVID and protests against racial injustice, my Mom has been hospitalized for dehydration and other health concerns. We'll be facing a very different care dynamic once she returns home. My daughter has been lashing out in anger, frustration, and distress as the isolation from friends, family, and normal routines has dragged on for over three months. My temper is short. I barely have enough energy to do anything significant.
I have friends who have lost parents and loved ones in this pandemic. Folks have lost jobs and businesses. I have stopped commenting on the actions of the DESPOTUS because those of us who are perpetually horrified remain so, while those of you who have an insatiable appetite for his crap sandwiches are all lined up for that rally in Tulsa (please wear a mask). I had thought that Dr. Fauci was ghosting us, but there have been sightings. However, nothing he has said in those periodic pop-up appearances has been reassuring...
I started on this piece when the news was shared about the sudden death of the staff writer from This Is Us, a show I used to watch (no I haven't taken the time to catch up). Her name was Jas Waters. At first, I thought she was another COVID-19 tragedy, and was all prepared to lament the disproportionate health outcomes for people of color, but then the truth was revealed. She had committed suicide, so my lament turned to that other health disparity that we're not discussing because we would rather focus on racist food packaging.
Black woman cannot save the world if we cannot save ourselves.
However, before I drill down on that point, I need to go back and emphasize that the world is literally upside down for so many of us because nothing is as it should be. So everything is messing with people in untold ways. The sad story of Jas Waters reminded me of Lorna Breen, the New York emergency room doctor who committed suicide weeks earlier. She had recovered from COVID and was convalescing at home in Virginia with her parents. But the emotional toll of watching countless people die was too much for her, but it was only a 12 hour news story that we just shrugged off because mental health only becomes a big deal when it manifests in harm to others.
Throughout this pandemic, people have been posting those well-meaning (yet meaningless) status updates where they implore others to reach out if they need help. Let me tell you, that shit is as annoying as those like-if-you-love-Jesus chain letters. If I need a suicide hotline number, I promise that I won't be scrolling through your FB timeline to find it. And heaven forbid, in the moment when one's mind wanders to that dark place, I hope the the last person I would want to speak to is a stranger. I would like to know that I could turn to a friend.
And that is always the unspoken problem with depression. In the times of greatest need, no one wants to talk about it. I had a rough week, and after crying, eating, drinking, and sleeping my way through an emotional roller coaster, I am still not that keen on discussing my feelings. It is too exhausting. And I am not in the mood for a disingenuous pep talk about how I can make it through if I just blah, blah, blah. Don't worry, I'm not suicidal, but I completely understand how someone who is on the edge can prefer disengagement to outreach.
Thus when someone asks, it is so much easier to lie and say that things are okay. That is the most noncommittal and honest assessment I can offer most of the time. And while I know that if someone is responding to my texts with that same mindset, saying okay doesn't set off the alarm bells for me to spring into Busy Black Superwoman mode (yeah, sometimes I must amp up my mutant powers for good).
I can't save you if I am also drowning. And let's real talk the fact that what I really mean by 'saving' anybody is just listening and possibly going to the liquor store. We can tread water together.
I won't conclude this piece with any profound insights. These past few weeks have been Hell. We might have to endure several more weeks of disaster before shit evens out, and that might be worse than where things are now. If we only have control over our response, then let's start there by taking these calls for self-care seriously. If that is bath salts, candles, loose teas, gardening, hiking, and yoga, or going to bed in the middle of the day with a pint of ice cream, a fifth of vodka, or some racist pancake mix--so be it.
I am joking about that last part. DO not eat anymore racist foods. And if you find yourself reaching for the vodka more often than you are heading outside to take a walk or to garden, then be honest about that. When someone asks how you are, tell them the truth, that you are not okay. They might not be able to say or do anything useful to help, but knowing that people care is important. People do care and they will mourn you (but you won't know that). If no one has reached out to inquire about your well-being, then start the ball rolling on your end. You might save two lives with one phone call or random text.