Effective January 2014, the Blog-Zine is cosed to new posts and is going dark. The blog and its archives will stay "up," though, so please feel free to peruse the archives and discover all of the great books, authors, articles, and other features that have joined me here over the years. Thanks to all who helped make my Blog-Zine adventure a raging success! Read on!

26 October, 2008

What It Really Means To Find Self

Hi All,

I guess if you check the time I posted this piece, you'll see that I'm awake, once again, when normal folks are asleep. But I can't help it. I've always been a night owl, going all the way back to my early teen years, when I would protest having to get up early on Saturday mornings to drag four-folks worth of wet clothes to the laundromat to dry them; and then again on Sunday mornings to go to church, only to hide behind the biggest hat, to keep right on sleeping. Back then, I'd wear the same outfit to church each and every Sunday, without fail. Same black two-piece skirt set, same black flats, same one-ponytail hairstyle, not a lick of make-up on, barely any lotion on my ashy elbows, and a Harlequin Silhouette Desire stuffed in my purse. Drove my mother crazy, which was the whole point. Passive-agressive, I had to be, unless I wanted a beat-down. Good times...LOL

Anyway, I was thinking about a video clip I saw on YouTube (click here to watch it). It's a video of an obviously mentally ill woman on public transportation, verbally abusing a fellow passenger, using a mixture of lyrics from a rap song and explicatives. Whomever recorded the episode undoubtedly thought it was funny, if the sporadic commentary in the background is any indication, but I just thought it was very unfortunate.

Since the video's debut, the woman's mother has come forward to say that the woman suffers from BiPolar Disorder and Depression. And that the scene in the video was the result of a manic episode, brought on by the woman not taking her prescribed medication. In a televised interview, the woman's mother attributes the woman's failure to take the medication that would help her manage her mental health issues to denial. This woman didn't want to believe that she was BiPolar or that she needed medication. She thought she could manage her symptoms on her own.

That struck me - she thought she could manage her symptoms on her own.

That started me to wondering just how many more woman like her are out there - women who have issues, concerns and conditions - not just mental health issues, but life issues, relationship issues, issues with their children and/or families - that they believe they can manage themselves.

Now, don't get me wrong, some issues can be handled by self, and very effectively, at that. But some require intervention and we women need to realize when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em.

Speaking from the perspective of an African-American woman, I believe that AA women are sometimes too damn strong for their own good. But, before you start cussing me out, let me explain myself a little bit more. For one thing, African-Americans have, more or less, been historically conditioned to mistrust the medical field. What with the Tuskegee Experiment, incidents of clandestine sterilization, and the whole Sara Baartman "Venus Hottentot" travesty, who could blame them? It's why you hear so many of the older AA folks resist seeking medical care and why there are now more commercials, billboards and public service announcements urging AA men and women to get mammagrams, treatment for diabetes, and prostate screenings. Tylenol and Pepto Bismol don't cure everything.

African-American woman are no different in this respect. Let's take it on back to slavery, when AA women had to endure, endure, endure... Their babies and men being sold away, long days and nights of hard labor, Massa slipping into their cabins to shake some sheets...Wait, did they even have sheets back then? Somehow I doubt it. You get what I'm saying, though. Suck it up and do what you have to do to survive.

Survival, for some, has come to be what it means to be a woman in today's society, and not just African-American women, but women of all races, creeds and colors. I can only speak on my take on what's what, as an African-American woman. So if you happen not to be African-American, but you can relate to what I'm saying here, please share your take, based on what's what on your end of the rainbow.

Here's what I think...

We call it being strong, and no doubt "strong" is an accurate description. But sometimes we use the word "strong" when we really need to use the word "displaced." Sometimes we need to stop telling ourselves that we're just tired, over-worked and stressed out, when what's really going on is depression. When what's really going on is complete and utter unhappiness. When we can't bring ourselves to admit that we're dissatisfied with where we are in our lives and some changes need to be made. When we don't know who we are and how to find ourselves in the midst of...life.

When we don't acknowledge that we just might be depressed or worse, we're displaced. When we're in unhealthy relationships that we resist getting out of, we're displaced. When we lose sight of our goals and dreams, we're displaced. When we have no idea where we left that illusive, anonymous something that makes us special and unique, and we can't begin to speculate on how to regain it, we're displaced.

Case in point - Me. When I was in grade school I knew I wanted to be a writer. When I was in junior high I was trying my hand at romance novels. My goal, however unrealistic it was, was to have written the great American novel by the time I graduated from high school. I had plans.

Then I got pregnant and found myself receiving my high school diploma when I was five months pregnant. So then it was off to work. I was a hospital clerk; a nurse's aide; a receptionist; a cashier at Wal-Mart; a nurse's aide again; a receptionist again; and then I was...hell, I don't who I was. I just knew I had to keep a roof over my daughter's head, food on the table (what little I could afford), and a paycheck coming in to do it with. Quite frankly, I was miserable. But we do what we have to do to survive, right? I mean, getting my annual well-woman exams at the free clinic, forgetting to take in proof of income and mailing it later, and having someone from the billing department call me, not to thank me for sending the crap in, but just to ask me: "Miss Little, how are you surviving?" was my life back then. My response: "One day at a time."

My daughter was six or seven when I remembered that I used to dream of being a writer and that I loved to read, but hadn't read a good book in too long to remember. I began haunting the library and used bookstores; eating books for breakfast, lunch and dinner. One year I got my income tax refund and bought myself a Brother word processor (computers were still for the middle class back then). I started writing again and took my ass back to school. I worked 32 hours between Saturday and Sunday, every weekend, and attended classes through the week. Made the Dean's list, I did.

Started finding myself...

By the time my thirtieth birthday rolled around, I had grown comfortable saying, "No, I don't like that. No, I don't want that. No, I'm not having seconds, but thirds, thank you very much. And, no, I'm not answering the phone, because I'm hanging out with myself today." Some call it selfishness, but I call it self-preservation. I'm still finding little pieces of myself here and there, and I'll probably be old and gray and still discovering stuff.But the search is so much fun.

Even better is that, when I find that I can't do something by myself or that I can't handle something on my own, I seek help. It doesn't diminish my strength, but, rather, it empowers me. Strong women know how to delegate, communicate, and hop in the passenger seat once in a while. You'll have to figure out who's driving the car for yourself, though. I know my seventeen-year-old is now driving mine.

Seeing that video - the one I started off talking about before I got sidetracked with ramblings - sort of put my day in perspective. There I was, sitting around on my butt, watching old movies on television, doing laundry and painting my toenails, and thinking, "I know there's something important that I need to be doing." And then I saw the video and thought, "Yeah, there is something important that I need to do...take care of myself." And I kept right on polishing my toenails.

So now, after all this hemming and hawing, I have a question for you: Where have you been? Where are you going? And what are you doing to help yourself find yourself? Are you taking care of you? And what does finding yourself mean to you?

Well, that's actually five questions, but they're good ones, don'tcha think?

Seriously, woman to woman, let me hear from you. You know this ain't over...

Oh, and I have an autographed copy of both Running from Mercy and Where There's Smoke for the first person who guesses why I'm always up until the wee hours, when normal folks are asleep.


Genesis said...

For starters, you're up when normal folks are sleep because the voices keep begging you to write about them. Their self and have made it their mission to cause you endless nights of lost slumber...am I right? Oh, my bad...that's why I stay up...lol

Great blog Terra!

Where have you been? Where are you going? And what are you doing to help yourself find yourself? Are you taking care of you? And what does finding yourself mean to you?

I've been a little of every where....teenage mom-dom, rebellious tween-dom, rubbing nickles together, etc, etc. But where I'm going is as far as my imagination can take me. I learned long ago that it isn't where you end up as much as it is how you got there. I'm enjoying this journey each step of the way.

I'm learning to take care of me. The funny thing about that is how others interpret what I'm doing. Yes, some call it selfishness, but I know it's not and leave them to their notions. Cause I know, they'll be here one day...hopefully.

Finding yourself, imo, means looking for what makes you unique beyond your roles. What are you beyond mother, daughter, sister, friend, wife, cousin, aunt, niece, child of God... What makes you, you.

Terra Little said...

Genesis said: "Finding yourself, imo, means looking for what makes you unique beyond your roles. What are you beyond mother, daughter, sister, friend, wife, cousin, aunt, niece, child of God... What makes you, you."
You are so right, Genesis!

As women, we have to take time to do this...find self. When your kids are grown, friends desert you, and family is on the other side of the continent, where will you be?

Me? One day, trooping around the Motherland, listening for reflections of myself deep in the bush. Someday, driving across country, jamming the radio as loud as it will go and stopping wherever the hell I please. Today, escaping into a good book and not feeling guilty because, despite popular belief (my mother), the laundry will not get up and walk off all by itself. It'll be there tomorrow.

Just Tera said...

Wow those are great questions. The questions of a lifetime. I'll have to give them some serious thought.
And I'm guessing you're up so late because you're reading. :)

Terra Little said...

Please do, and please share your answers with us!

Nah...not reading...(sorry). LOL. Thanks for visiting. Come again and again and again and again...