A colleague of mine posted a meme the other day on social media, which resonated with the depths of my soul. It was the image of a black woman drowning with an outstretched hand while another hand (representing American society), gave her a high five, commending her strength, without offering as much as a lifesaver to get her out of deep waters.
The woman ended up drowning.
I saw myself in that photo and thought of all the times I struggled my way through trauma and transitions only to have people in my local community, church, and workplace commend my strength rather than asking, “How can I help?” "Girl, you are so strong!!" ...I have so many choice words to describe these individuals, but none of them glorify Jesus so I won't mention them.
Last year, as we celebrated Chadwick Boseman's life, I saw many posts on Instagram celebrating his strength for filming movies while battling cancer. I began to wonder why certain communities seemed to glorify struggle. For me, Chadwick Boseman dying young and working while he was ill was not a win. Do black people not deserve an opportunity to truly heal without playing the "I'm black and strong" card?
I recall getting similar praise when I worked non stop as a traumatized mother going back and forth from the NICU daily (a three-hour round trip commute). In fact, during that period, I experienced the luxury of having colleagues, family members, and friends gossip about my predicament and compare their trauma to mine as if the loss of one child and the other spending 11 months in the hospital was something anyone should be discussing as banter. My experience with "high fives" and no support left me less than willing to engage anyone at any level during that period.
The lesson I learned from that season?
Everyone & everything will be just fine without me.
As I step into 2021, my NO game is pretty solid. No, I will not be the face of the movement. No, I will not spend another sleepless night figuring out how to make it all work. No, I will no longer engage in the emotional and mental labor of diagnosing the problem, coming up with the solution, and then having to execute the solution. NO, I will no longer do additional work for free with little to no support.
A colleague of mine said it best when she used the term “black tired.” I never heard the expression before that day, yet it rang true to my core. I was and still am, black tired. I refuse to lay my life on the line yet another time (like our generous sister Tabitha in the Bible, she was probably black, too).
God has resurrected me from one too many pits, and at this point, I have decided to practice the self-care I regularly tell my students, colleagues, and friends to engage in for themselves. Self-care in 2021 looks like reading (not watching) the news and occasionally disappearing from social media so I can remember who I am before Christ, not who mass media tells me I am.
Free to live, free to thrive; no matter
who thinks my life matters or not.
Self-care looks like taking a step back and allowing others to advocate and speak up. It looks like allowing those around me to take the lead sometimes and taking the support where I can get it. It looks like getting an extension. It looks like saying "I don't have the bandwidth for that at the moment." It looks like letting ish fail. It looks like a doctor's note. It looks like kindly removing myself from situations, spaces, friendships, and relationships that add to my weariness.
I will not die for you. Jesus already did that.
I am no longer allowing anyone to siphon my time, wealth, peace, gifts, resources, and talents. Whoever takes issue with that can take it to the king (truth is I'm tiiieeed). The Tamela Mann version, to be specific.
Satta Star is just a woman, in love with helping women. Visit www.issatao.com to learn more.