Ever since I was a little girl I’ve been running. Running from food stamps, running from a father who never showed me love, from bills, from weight. From myself.
I only stop when I hit a wall. Like when I finally had to take time off to deal with my fibroids. Or that time when I was so stressed that I couldn’t pee. I’d sit on the toilet for hours waiting for a stream that would never come. It took walking around with a catheter strapped to my leg and eventually running to another city to shake that trap. Even when I had my babies I didn’t stop.
“Sleep when the baby sleeps,” people would say. But they were clueless about my life. When the baby sleeps is when the work begins. One time just a week after giving birth to my child I broke down on the way to Target. Mental and physical fatigue set in and I couldn’t remember what was so important that I needed to get in my car and go battle traffic. Before I knew it, I pulled over to the side of the road and cried til I ached. Maybe it was just hormones, but I cried like that earlier and I haven’t had a baby in years.
Lately I’ve been crashing into my husband and my kids. I’m either dismissive, not present, or just plain mean.
My husband shared a poem he discovered online with me this morning and I was so far away, thinking about work that needed to get done, bills I needed to pay. It almost felt silly. To think that I could listen to poetry. Then after our blow up he says, “After 15 years you still can’t talk to me?! You can’t tell me that your mind is somewhere else?”
No. ‘Cuz I’m going to try to handle everything with as little disruption as possible. Why? Because I’m already on to the next thing. It’s not that I don’t care. I absolutely care. That’s why I run. It’s how I show my love. If I run fast enough all of our problems will disappear.
Sometimes I envy my friend who just shuts down. She’s the only Black woman I’ve ever known to just stop getting out of bed for weeks on end. I never understood how she could do that because if I’m not moving I’m dead.
This running didn’t start with me. It was my mom and her mom before that. My mom doesn’t sleep at night because her mind is running like a motor that never stops. She’s taken three sleep studies in the past three months and doctors don’t know what’s wrong. I do. It’s called Black Woman Syndrome. The only time I stopped running was in Africa of all places. Don’t believe that lie that it’s so bad there because it’s not. There was plenty of help. Help for your kids, help to cook and clean, help for your help. It’s in America that a Black woman has to work til her back and spirit is broken. And for what? To be told that she’s a b-tch and she wants to be alone. Listen Sherlock, work is all a Black woman knows, and if she let it all go, if she truly depended on someone else and it didn’t work out the joke might be on her and then she might die. Think I like being this way? I don’t. I wish I could change, just trick my DNA into thinking I’m a white woman because they don’t have to do sh-t. They get to whine and be soft and vulnerable because the world doesn’t depend on them like they do us.
So I run. And I don’t know what will make me stop.
This evening my daughter was looking at me with this weird look while I was plowing through the dishes.
“Why are you looking at me like that?” I asked her.
“I’m just watching you, seeing what you’re doing,” she said.
And I thought about it for a second. I’m doing the same thing I do every day, and I get faster and faster, I swear I can wash a whole sink full of dishes in two seconds. I saw her life flash in front of me, but the difference was she had a maid. In that moment I realized this is some bullsh-t and I sat my ass down.
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