with me that every day
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.”
– Lucille Clifton
Last week, Saturday, October 3, 2020, I buried my mother.
On Tuesday, September 22nd, we learned she might night make it. That night I spent the night in the basement on the couch watching Grey’s Anatomy episodes with a glass of wine. I couldn’t sleep, but you will inevitably fall asleep on the sofa when you are downstairs in my house. We’ve had the couch for a while, and it has claimed many victims who promised themselves it was not comfortable enough to tame them. What also happens is I lose service down there, and while I drifted, my phone rang and rang, but I couldn’t hear it.
Finally, I went upstairs, and my phone rang again. My heart dropped. There is only one reason people call that early. I accepted my sister’s call and asked, “why are you calling me so early?,” although I already knew the answer.
“It was the twenty-third of September. That day I’ll always remember, yes I will ‘Cause that was the day that my mama died”
The next day, September 24th my aunt, my late dad’s sister, also passed.
I didn’t talk about it, but my Uncle John passed earlier this year on May 28th, two days after my birthday, and on June 2nd, a dear friend and brother passed.
The world also lost Kobe Bryant, Chadwick Boseman, and Thomas Jefferson Byrd, known best for his role as Luther from Set It Off. He passed the day we buried my mother.
I need no more reminders of how fragile life is, and that’s what sticks out to me the most in my time of silence as I seek to process all this death.
I think we are all aware of this delicacy that is life, but it becomes much more real when a loved one passes. It is then that we realize how insignificant we are and precious too. The insignificance is the weakness of our flesh; how it so easily topples and breaks down. The preciousness is the breath of life, without which we are lumps of clay.
It made me think about how we treat each other. It wasn’t until Yah breathed into Adam the breath of life that he became a living being. We are nothing without this power, and yet, we treat each other as if the breath pulsing through our veins differs from someone else’s. We treat each other as if the Almighty can’t call our spirit back at any moment.
What right do I have to mistreat someone when I return to the Earth just as they will? What right do I have to judge someone’s life or mock their pain when I know that I bleed just as they do?
What right does any of us have to think we are better than anyone else when the sun rises and falls on all of us, righteous and wicked, alike?
There are so many promises we make to one another at times, such as this. We promise to be there for one another, we promise to keep in touch, and we promise to appreciate the time we have.
But these promises do not last and are only remembered at the next funeral.
Our life is like the wind, a breeze that comes and goes. How I wish we could be consciously aware of our own lives’ fragility as we live and not only in death.
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This post is longer than I would like, but I think the message is necessary.
If you’ve been following me online for any significant amount of time, you know I am always saying thank you or reintroducing myself to new readers. I do this because of my firm belief in the phrase, “people don’t have to support you.”
Let me tell you a story.
My husband was driving, and I was looking out the window of the passenger’s seat as we passed by the brick houses, mansions, and condos of downtown Atlanta. “This probably where most of the celebrities live,” I joked. We talked about how movies never show the city’s complete image by filming movies in less wealthy areas. Since we are both from Chicago, we talked about Chicago films where we didn’t recognize the city because it was on the side of town we have never lived.
As we drove, we passed by a fancy-looking hotel where a man stood. He leaned against his suitcase, a white sign on its top with black ink that read: “I lost everything.”
My smile faded, and my heart felt heavy as I realized he was homeless. He didn’t look like those fakes that try to scam people out of their money, either. Something about his vibe told me he was not joking. He had really lost everything.
The US economy was already bad, but since the COVID-19 Pandemic, things have gotten worse. People are out of jobs, out of money, out of homes, and out of hope. Any little they scrape together is reserved for only the most essential items. If someone spends money buying books or t-shirts, or anything that is not greatly essential (okay well, books are essential to me but I mean, like food), it means so much more to them, and they deserve a thank you.
Because they didn’t have to do it and sometimes, they couldn’t do it, but they invested in you.
Entrepreneurship has been on the rise a lot lately, and as an entrepreneur, I think that’s a good thing. I have always stood for the underdog and will still rally around the concept of Independence. There is a humility about small, independent businesses that I love. Plus, every large company started as a small business. And since the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and the countless black deaths, it has encouraged more people to support black-owned businesses and independent businesses.
This awakening means that while many people are struggling, many people are also thriving even amid this Pandemic. However, I am disappointed to see a lot of bullying among entrepreneurs, both large and small. Some people are shaming people with 9-5s when truth be told, most entrepreneurs in this economy have 9-5s, and their business is the real side hustle. That or their spouses have 9-5s. There’s nothing wrong with this, but some people think there is. People also throw shame when they try to bully people into supporting them.
Bully others into supporting them?
It means making people feel small and insignificant for not buying your services or product. It means threatening to cut people off because they didn’t support your business. It means neglecting to consider all the other things people have going on in their lives right now and that maybe they don’t have the extra money to spend or perhaps don’t have the time.
Ignore social media posts for a second and think about what someone may go through behind the scenes.
Maybe they cried their eyes out this morning.
Maybe they prayed on their knees, drowned in tears.
Maybe they were going to lose their home or apartment or children.
Maybe they lost their job, career.
Maybe a family member died.
Maybe people have other things on their mind that take precedence over buying your bar of soap.
And if you think someone’s being fake for wearing a smile through their storm, then you need not look passed the smile of Chadwick Boseman, who battled cancer while filming movies and never complained.
I watched my sister-in-law battle and eventually perished from cancer. My dad, too, so I know what Chadwick did was not easy from personal experience. And while everyone is praising his silence now, that is not how we treat the “regular everyday people,” we know in actual life who battle in private. We call them phony for not opening up as we think they should. Sometimes people don’t talk, not because they are being fake or secretive, but because it’s just none of your business. Let’s allow people to give their testimony in their own time.
My point in all of this is that no one is obligated to spend money with a business only because it exists. Anything that anyone chooses to give, including time and information, is a gift. I always say “thank you” because people don’t have to support me.
People support businesses that offer something they need, whose message or value system aligns with their own, helps them solve a problem and companies they trust. Someone might enjoy eating bread, and you may launch a bread business, but that bread lover is still not obligated to support you. Maybe over time, once you’ve gained their trust and they’ve sampled your product, they may try it and when they do, say thank you.
Because they didn’t have to do it, so show some gratitude.
To better conclude this point, I will again turn to Tyler Perry as an example.
For the record, this isn’t about Perry’s personal life. I will not comment on him dressing up as a woman, Madea, or his elite status because its none of my business. I am commenting on some basic business practices I see from him as an outsider looking in that many newer entrepreneurs can learn from. Everything else is for an entirely different conversation.
From a business perspective, you see the same stories and the same actors in Tyler Perry’s films because Perry has a good understanding of his targeted audience. He knows the persona of the people who like his stuff, and he focuses on giving them what they want. Many beginner entrepreneurs can learn from this. Instead of guilt-tripping people into supporting your business and trying to sell to everyone, find your targeted audience or that specific group of people you want to reach based on shared interests and market and direct your attention to those groups.
This means that if only five people like your post, that’s a good thing because chances are those five people are genuinely interested in what you offer. Listen, I’m a damn good writer. I know this to be true. But I also know it to be true that everyone doesn’t want to read what I write, and that’s cool because I am not for everyone and everyone is not for me. I work to serve my audience no matter how small, and I appreciate all the support and time my people invest in my writing.
We wake up just enough to stay woke but not enough to live. We live on hours and minutes and second hands, gas, and expressways. Espressos and Starbucks. From the bed to the car to the job, back to the car to the house and to the bed where we will lie down again so that we can wake up and exist again. Begin again. Breathe again. Boldly expecting these bodies to be there to back us up again. Do we ever back up? Can we stop? When was the last time you experienced something beautiful and told no one? Can we be beautiful without filter? Can we examine this breath? This gorgeous breath. This inhale and exhale. This miracle that is in us. Can we examine these lungs? Let the seconds and minutes and hours add up, can we forget about time? Let it pass. Watch the orange and yellow rays of the sun bleeding into the sky. Can we experience the day passing onto the next? Can we catch it moving? Can we listen to the sound of quiet? Do we even know if silence has a sound? Can we listen to the birds sing for hours at a time and let the leaves change and crumble into colors? Can we let the wind blow dust onto the windowsill, can peace be still? You have to wake up before you can stay woke. Can we live?
We always ask what the world can give us or rather what we can get out of the world, but what have we given the world? What are you doing with your time? Not in aspect of a career, or of education, or goals or livelihood but of life? What else have you given back to the world? Have you loved someone today? Have you loved yourself? Have you said anything nice today? Did someone need you today, can they count on you? What have you given back? Or what have you given in exchange for the breath that you breathe?
We bask in decisions we have already made and dance in the reward of work we have already put in. My unborn children are dancing circles around my womb. I am pregnant with goals that will give birth to the life they will one day live. Does the life you live today prepare you for the future? Have you ever wondered what makes up your final destination? Considered that the decisions you make today will determine the outcome of your life tomorrow. Or, to go deeper, that the decisions you make today will determine the outcome of my tomorrow? I am someone you do not know and you are someone I have never met, and yet the result of our decisions may very well cling onto one another as if torn from one flesh. What is my reward for being respectful today? For being considerate, for being mindful, or for being innovative. Will this be credited back to me? Can I depend on someone to love me when I am old and incapable and if so, how did I solidify that future today? Will my offspring reap the benefits of my labor? What eternal existence have we created out of the dust life birthed us with from the foundation of the world? Will we gather the elements of success into our hands so that we may mold the outcome of someone else’s future? Or will we allow the rains to devour that final taste of hope as if relinquishing our breaths to the sky in place of Noah’s ark.
“To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty…. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget.” ― Arundhati Roy