Chrysanthemum Blues

                I bought my Mama chrysanthemums in the fall.  She loved them and would always be so happy when I gave them to her.  That special delivery ended last fall.  My mother died the previous January.  I miss buying them for her.  Maybe that is why since the beginning of September this year I find myself in tears almost every day. 

                I deeply miss my Mama.  She was my listening ear, my sounding board, my confidant.  She was so easy to talk to.  She did not interrupt or constantly try to interject her advice.  She just listened intently and actively.  I could tell her anything.  She was not judgmental, and at the end of our talks I always felt.

                I do not remember my Mama being talkative when I was a little girl.  For a long time, I wondered if she could talk at all.  She was calm and quiet and always hospitable.  Everyone who came into her home was welcomed.  She never lied.  She never gossiped.  She had a way of telling you the truth that even if you did not like it you could not get angry at her for telling it. 

                As my Daddy continued to have major health issues, I observed as my mother grew more outspoken.  She took on the responsibility of running the house.  They still made decisions together like they always did, but she generally carried them out.  She made sure the bills were paid on time.  She went grocery shopping.  She made doctor’s appointments.  She conducted business.  She made things happen.

                After my Daddy died, I visited Mama every week.  I was on my own caregiving journey and she understood the challenges and frustration all too well.  We would laugh and talk and watch television.  There was usually a meal involved.  My husband often went with me.  She spoiled him the same way I accused her of spoiling my brothers, my son, and my grandson.

                We had no idea she would be gone so soon.  She slipped away quietly and peacefully, sitting in her rocking chair in her bedroom.  I do not know when she made the decision to transitions.  I am sure the pain of living without my Daddy was strong.  They had been married fifty-three years and loved each other tremendously. 

                I believe everything happening in the world; COVID-19, the racial and political unrest, my husband’s death, and the stress it all produces, has intensified my longing for my Mama’s presence. She would be the one I would call to talk out my feeling about the changes in the world and in my own life.  She was my listening ear, my sounding board, my confidant.  Is it too late in the season to buy a chrysanthemum?

Voting for Survival

                This morning while listening to my local talk radio station, I heard an interview with a variety of college students about the upcoming election.  The interview centered around each student’s alignment with their chosen political party and views on voting choices.

                The republican students interviewed were primarily voting for the republican candidate based on the belief that he will strengthen the economy.  The concern was that they want to graduate college knowing that they will have a greater opportunity for employment and believed the republican candidate would provide that. 

                The students aligned with the democratic party were voting democrat primarily because they did not believe the country would survive four additional years of the present administration.  However, all of them were not necessarily pleased with the candidate. They inferred that democrats are too often placed in a position where they are expected to vote for a candidate that is weak on so many issues.

One student addressed the idea that some people were choosing not to vote because these were tense times and she understood but for her that was not the option.  She alluded to the fact that so often “our people,” meaning Black people, are placed in a position where we must make decisions for survival. 

So, the question becomes, can Black people survive another term of the present administration?  That young woman’s observation struck me.  Black people in this country, whether consciously or unconsciously, are always operating in survival mode.  “I just need to stay alive.”  Simply staying alive is always at the forefront of our mind.  Economic advancement, social status, political power, summer vacations, college funds, monetary investments and other “American Dream,” thoughts play a far second to the thought of staying alive.

My mind went to a scene of an enslaved Black man who knows that when the plantation master sends for his wife it the middle of the night, it was to rape her.  Yet, he could not stop her from going nor could he fight for her honor.  If he stopped her from going, he would be beaten or killed, and master would still have her.  If he fought for her honor, he would be killed, and their children killed or sold, and master would still have her.  So, he does nothing.  He chooses survival.  His family lives another day.  This decision-making process is still at work in us even today.  That is what “the talk,” is all about, how to stay alive another day.

There is no “exhale” moment for us.  There is never a time when we are totally and completely relaxed without a care in the world.  The average Black person knows this and operates in a constant state of conscious breathing because they know how quickly that breath can be taken away.

 Some Black people, those who have amassed money and small amounts of power among our people, seemingly do not realize that status and money do not relieve you of your melanin state of being.  They encourage our people not to vote.

Thinking that they have “arrived” at their destination of capitalistic equality, they protect their own interest. Yet, they are Pinocchio on a marionets string, performing at the puppeteer’s commands while thinking they are free.  This is their survival tactic, yet it does nothing to advance the community to which they must return when the strings are cut, and they are left sprawled on the stage in an abandoned theater.

COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting the lives of Black people.  The threat of eliminating health insurance for the poor will leave large numbers of Black people without adequate health care.  States, such as the one I live in are building mega prisons and providing substandard education to ensure that they are filled.  Police officers who took an oath to serve and protect all citizens are gunning down Black people for sport.  Once again, we are finding Black bodies hanging from trees in public spaces.  Food desserts make it impossible for Black people to locate and purchase healthy food and cities populated by Black people still have contaminated water.  These examples represent only a sample of the systems in operation to ensure that Black people either exist in a state of docility or die. 

Can the Black population in America survive four additional years of the present administration?  Answer that question.  Then vote.

A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

BEGINNING COUNSELING THERAPY

                Almost thirty years ago, my mother casually suggested that my children and I engage in family counseling.  I was recently divorced and had two small sons.  I responded as I often did back then when she made suggestions.  I brushed it off. As a young woman, I did not value my mother’s observation about many things.  I might even be rich now had I heeded her advice on saving.  I thought I had it all together and knew what was best for me and my family.  Well, I did not have it all together and on many levels my family suffered. 

                Since then, my children and I have had many opportunities to engage in therapy, yet for one reason or another, it did not last.  The truth is, I did not want someone else “in my business.”  I did not want anyone else to witness our family dysfunction.  I had created an image that I did not want anyone to toy with. So, I simply adjusted the weight and carried on.  Women, especially Black women, are masters at this. 

                When I decided to remarry, we went from being a single parent household to a blended family.  Blending a family can be an extremely difficult endeavor. My husband and I ignored our inability to deal with the various aspects of our new family.  We had college degrees but lack the information and skills for successfully blending our families. Like so many other couples of our generation, we assumed things would simply fall in place. The result was a family blended in a rock tumbler. The experience was tumultuous, to say the least. We survived, but not without scares.

                In January 2019, my mother died.  She quietly transitioned while sitting in her rocking chair in her bedroom.  On December 26, 2019, my beloved husband died in the hospital.  These events compiled with the challenges and changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and continued images of racism caused me to experience anxiety and feelings of depressions.  I contemplated going to therapy but could not decide who to trust with my innermost thoughts and feelings.  I found someone in July and made an appointment.  Due to some unforeseen issues, I canceled.  This happened more than once.  Finally, on October 16, 2020, I completed my first session.

                The session was conducted via Telehealth.  I was a little nervous just before logging on and even cried a few tears thinking about what I might be discussing.  My therapist made it so easy though.  The setting was warm and personable. She graciously eased me through the session. Listening intently and questioning effectively, she helped me discover things within myself of which I was unaware.  Then she encouraged me to engage in some activities that would make life less anxious and more enjoyable. When it was over, I felt light and happy and pleased with myself for taking this important first step. 

                After the session, I left home to meet my son for lunch.  As I was driving, I began to cry because I could feel joy bubbling up from my soul.  I could not really explain it except to say that something was being lifted from me. I thought to myself, “If I had known therapy tasted this good, I would have done it long ago.” I was grateful and made a new determination to live authentic and true to myself.

                I realize that there is much work ahead.  However, I am determined to engage life intentionally and with purpose.  I also realize that to do that I need help to identify the many things that are happening within me that may hamper my progress.  In addition, I need assistance in developing strategies for success.  My goal is to live in what Gay Hendricks, author of The Big Leap, calls my GENIOUS ZONE with no upper limits.  Good change is on the horizon of my life and I am here for it.