I wasn’t sure at first about being so open with my life on a blog. I followed my instincts and they have led me here. I am very sure now, more sure about the blogging content here than anything I’ve ever publicly written.
Our societal framework has some major cracks in it, our connections as human beings to one another are severely broken. We’ve all known this for decades, but few of us seem to know what, if anything, we can do to begin fixing this collective brokenness. So we all just keep plugging along, doing our respective best to maintain life, taking care of ourselves, our families, our loved ones and our homes.
For the most part, I too followed along with the social mores and dictates of American life. In so doing, I kept secrets, told lies to myself and consequently lied to the people around me, loved ones, friends, neighbors— even business associates, bill collectors and the like. Nothing major at first, little lies, like saying I’m doing okay even when I was sad and miserable or smiling in agreement to do things which were socially expected of me as a mother, employee, friend, or Christian, while in my heart I was raging against feelings of coercion and obligation.
When I entered the world as a young adult, I didn’t realize I would be expected to tell so many lies, and I floundered under the weight of so many pretentious traditions in our American culture. Sure you can hate your boss privately and your boss can hate you, but it is frowned on to ignore invitations to office picnics and if there’s a game of any kind, you really ought to let the boss win. True story— years ago, in my early thirties, I was kicking the big boss’s ass at a game of pool and my supervisor at the time, pulled me aside and kindly but severely warned me to stop winning. I had no idea this was a thing! Conceding games to bosses lest you lose your job or get demoted. Who knew?
Lies and pretense are everywhere in our culture. It’s no wonder I kept my abusive parents’ secrets for so long— I didn’t want to be ostracized, didn’t want to be vilified as the terrible daughter who couldn’t suck it up and live with her family’s secrets.
Like most of society’s members I was deeply plugged in to the world, taking my cues from the broadcasters and their performers. After decades I saw that I was on auto-pilot, moving through life like a robot, engaging in activities not always of my choosing, making resolutions in January, buying heart-cards in February, wearing green and drinking heavily in March, following all the calendared events. And just in case I forgot, all the television shows provided seasonally themed brow-beats to make sure I stayed on track. And if that didn’t work, there was also Facebook and Instagram where my hundred plus “friends” announced themes repeatedly. And if I missed those reminders I had people in real life asking if I started my Christmas shopping or bought a turkey yet.
I tried to keep up, I really did. I was a mother, I had an example to set for our kids, we all needed to fit in, especially during their teenage years. No way could we skip any calendared events. So we didn’t. But, fuck me, I was getting so tired. And I was becoming overwhelmed. My people were suffering, but I needed to pretend that this was just life, bad things happen, especially in the poorer communities among us. Accidental police shootings of young black men were frequent across the country (and still is). Racial prejudice wasn’t a part of my daily life, but every now and again, say two or three times a year, I had to swallow the insult of a verbal racial assault by a white person because, why rock the boat and make everyone uncomfortable, right? Some people are just ignorant, so even if they insult me, or ostracize my kids in some way, unless I have some tangible evidence, unless I want to upturn my life by making a stink over something minor like bigotry, it’s best to let sleeping dogs lie. Turn the other cheek, pull up my big girl panties (I’d love to neck punch whoever came up with that line), hike myself up by the bootstraps, everyone has problems, not just you blacks, deal with it, get over myself and move on.
So that’s what most of us do, we move on. Meanwhile, we are swallowing and choking on all the offenses and all the pain. But if we try really hard, we can shove it down and keep it down. If we try.
So I lied about my life, pretended for forty-nine years that everything was fine, no, nothing’s the matter, why do you ask, oh me? I’m just fine. Drove my two beautiful daughters so crazy with all my lying that I nearly destroyed the bond I had with each of them. In their eyes, typical of teenagers and their parents, adults like me were hypocrites. True, but I couldn’t admit it to them back then.
Teenagers, right? Before I knew anything about raising them, all I knew about teenagers came from negative media messages and warnings from friends. And I would eventually join the bandwagon with my own anti-teen propaganda after I experienced them as a mother. But now that we’re through that season, now that the kids are independent adults and our nest is empty, now I understand what the problem is with all the teenagers across the globe. Most of them REFUSE TO BUY INTO OUR ADULT BULLSHIT. Teenagers see the truth and they speak it. Of course many of them change their tune when they realize how outnumbered they are by all the liars of the world, but before that happens, those brave souls rear back and they charge at us adults with their truth. As they should.
Why do I blog so openly about my life?
Because I already tried the alternative. I already lived a life of pretense and lies, wasted more than half of it as a result. And all it got me was more than 25 years as an alcoholic, repeated walks along halls of shame, a whole lot of pent-up rage and broken relations with the people I love the most. Secrets and lies nearly killed me. When I got sober and eventually recovered my health, still convinced that secrets and lies were necessary, I nearly let it ruin me personally and professionally.
Today I don’t mind telling everything about myself because I’m not ashamed anymore. I survived rape, incest, self-loathing and alcoholism. I’m proud of it and happy to share my stories with everyone, especially other beautiful, black women (I adore you!). I’m trying to be an effective cog in our societal wheel. I’m a writer. And my hope is, as I go through this world, inviting others to share their stories and/or tell their truths, they will be more inclined because I told mine first.
Pictured: Collecting research in New York City two days ago