For a long time, without my knowing I was “acting strong”. Strong because I was raised to be independent in a world where abundance lives in knowing how to connect and be interdependent. I now, own…my soft.
I’ve come to realize, I’m not that kind of “strong”. That all knowing, relentless, sassy ass strong. I’m not the kind of strong black woman who doesn’t need anybody….or want.
When I look at the people around me who have wealth, abundance, community, I notice, no one is telling them to be strong on their own. No. I see these people… many who happen to be white… connecting, sharing, networking, collaborating, supporting… appropriating. No white women are going around saying…”I’m a strong White woman”, (they’re too busy knitting pink hats while planning their weddings or baby showers) I do not see any of them encouraging one another to be strong white men or women and make it on their own. People with abundance of community have support and resources to create legacies and pass whatever they have acquired or learned, on to loved ones. Connections for pre schools, primary schools, high schools, colleges, jobs, relationships…all networks to grow a life. Many of them enjoy the soft strength of connected being.
I wonder why we encourage African American Women and Girls to be so…strong. Are we growing us to be alone in a world that thrives on interconnection?
Is it an imprint from slavery where a strong field hand could work the fields like a man, cook for the master, and bear 20 strong black babies to be sold for a profit? Worked until her body broke from all of that strength?
Is it an imprint form the first Civil Rights era where strong black women organized the marches, cooked the food, made the flyers and signs, motivated everyone to show up, crafted the trainings, edited the speeches (for no credit), cared for those who were struck down by bullets and batons and buried their husbands, sons, fathers, uncles and grandsons over and over and over again until her body broke from that strength?
Is it because in this 21st century America, educated, black women with free minds we are considered to be so strong that we support everyone at home and at work until our bodies break from that strength?
Last Monday, was rainy. A super shitty day. I got up early and was out the door at 5:00am to get to a 6:00 am class at my gym. Along the way, no less than 3 men asked me for money. On my way home from the gym along the way about 2 men asked me to buy something from them. The majority of men who spoke to me that day…asked me to give, buy or take care of them. I am not that kind of strong.
Did my fore-sisters encourage me to be strong because they knew the nature of many men is to look for the weakness of women to exploit for their own wealth?
I look back at my recent past experiences with relationships and I see how weak I was with the facade of “strong black woman”. I was too weak to be the one to say tell him it was over when I could feel I was not being loved the way I deserved to be loved. Because of my weakness within that perceived strength I held on.
I was too weak to say no when my first true love, the love I remember to this day, called me last year to “reconnect” because he was going through a trauma. I was weak when I drove alone twice to Florida spending months to resurrect a love that died long ago because deep inside of me…I believed and have believed all these years that I was strong enough…to save him. I wasn’t. I thought that was what strong black women do. We are loyal, we are true. We drive 20 hours to be with the men we are supposed to be with. We cook, we care, we love, we sex, we share, we give, we give, we give, we give, I gave and gave and gave….and stand here now older with nothing. We never are…strong enough to save men.
With all that said, I am soft.
I stand here… no I recline here, older…with …wisdom, and compassion. I reside inside my own mind knowing that I do need. I need companionship. I need love. I need touch. I am soft. I am soft enough to bend and grow with challenges. I am soft enough to receive. I am soft enough to let go. I am soft enough to move on.
It’s spring here in Brooklyn. I’m noticing vines coming alive. These vines seem so delicate. In winter they can barely be seen thin lines drawn on brick and stone. But now, the vines awaken and bloom.
My favorites are the Ivy and Wisteria. Vibrant green leaves and delicate lavender blooms cascade down vines. Just stunning. I marvel at their strength. These vines bend and grow around whatever obstacles appear before them. The vines are one living organism with many limbs, and when diverse plants converge they create a network that forms levels strong enough for a body to climb and at the same time shade a body from sunshine and protect from the rain.
This world is relentless. It seems, being one, standing strong against the wind…well one strong Black woman standing strong against the wind, can be broken in two after so many relentless storms come her way. But…one soft woman …one soft Black woman… a Black woman who can, be flexible, who can surrender, bend and grow with, around, and through the challenges, while expanding her network with other soft complex beings, who will support her and allow her can thrive in abundance.
I confess..I’ve discovered I’m soft. I remember the lessons from past relationships. I forgive those men for what they took from me and yes what I gave was taken believe that…but I…do..not…forget. I NEVER forget.
And when those men appear in my life again, wearing different skin, and they always do appear,…I’m soft enough to see their authentic truth and move around them, those beautiful obstacles, and wind myself around the network of vines who live in mutual respect and support as we grow together. I am a soft Black woman. I am soft enough to bend and grow….strong.