Sometime between 2005 and 2008, I started to feel The Discomfort, and it changed me. It’s changed my trajectory in life. It’s changed my values. It’s changed my friendships, sometimes abruptly. It’s deepened other friendships, almost as abruptly. It’s changed my (stronger and deeper) sense of self and purpose. It’s changed how I work. It’s changed how I interact with my spirituality. It’s changed how I relate to my family. (Said like Clay from The Wire) Shiiiiiiiiiiit, it’s changed who I even call family. It’s changed my understanding of my inherent value, self-worth, and purpose, so much so that it feels outlandish to think that they are doing anything, but harmoniously working together.
What is The Discomfort? I’m willing to bet 40 acres and a mule that you know what it is because you’re reading this. The specifics are manifested differently in each woman, but here are some aspects of The Discomfort I’ve noticed, in some variation, with consistency, as Black women:
· Irritability. People and situations that had not previously irritated you will get on your last nerve. The very.last.one.
· Friendships. They’ll change. Hopefully, they’ll change with some grace, but oftentimes they don’t. For some context, just watch Insecure, episodes #theveryfirstone to #now. It’s very painful and confusing, but ultimately the process to find your tribe is worth the journey.
· Jobs, Gigs, and Careers. The value you place on them and the way you want to engage in them will change. And, your bosses and colleagues will notice. And, it will cause tension. This and irritability mix like ammonia and bleach, or like tone deaf men and cliché jokes about how emotionally volatile women are around periods (really, though, that shit is hard for many of us. It’s not funny or fun, at all).
· Intimate Relationships. You’ll want something different than you’ve wanted before. That difference could be a divorce, a baby, freedom from abuse, a life partner, multiple partners, lots of sex, no sex, different sex, more depth from your partner, more dedication to your partner. And, most importantly, you’ll want that ultimate relationship- that ride or die, that one who is equally yoked. That one who provides you balance and who knows you so deeply that you don’t even have to exchange words to get each other. The paradox is that that ultimate relationship is the one you’ll need to develop with yourself.
· Boundaries. These are my true BFF. You’ll realize that whatever boundaries exist in your life are insufficient. Creating different boundaries looks like telling people what you will and will not accept for yourself, and that requires you to truly and deeply believe that you deserve something different.
· Families. I’m still trying to figure this out and define what it means to me. My good friend said at her father’s funeral that she and her father had said everything they’d needed to say to each other. She joked that they hadn’t agreed on everything, and they hadn’t. Very deeply, they hadn’t agreed on some things, and yet they loved each other unconditionally. Without condition. That’s the vision I have for those I call family, albeit with healthy doses of accountability, compassion, empathy, grace, and responsibility.
· Spirituality. I suppose this should have been the first one mentioned. Spirituality has a breadth of meanings and uses. For me, it means a deep desire to do better, be better. And, I’m not talking about achieving a status mark, like having a baby or buying a house—which are significant achievements. I mean doing better in being “my best self.” It means being proactive towards that. It is the gentle breeze or the viento fuerte that checks my insecurities and reminds me that I’m not lazy and when I’m tired, I deserve rest. It’s knowing that my ancestors’ clearest messages come to me through music, so when “Don’t Speak” comes on my Spotify, I trust that the message was for me and that I should NOT share some theoretical observation I have that doesn’t add to a conversation. It’s working towards aligning my desires, intentions, and behaviors and forgiving myself when I don’t do it perfectly. It’s moving through fear, knowing that I have everything I need to successfully get to the other side. It means learning who I am and what my purpose is, accepting that, and being grounded in the comfort of knowing that I’m perfectly, uniquely me. It’s Sankofa- knowing where I came from to go forward. Each person experiences their spirituality in unique ways, but it always pushes us towards a higher personal standard. It is the nexus of The Discomfort.
So, why bother with healing? Because it helps us expand. It helps us understand our true potential and imagine and innovate ways to reach it, without over-exhausting ourselves. Healing grounds us in that potential. It frees us up to use less time and energy on any person, place, thing, or idea that doesn’t serve our higher selves. It allows us to rest, and as The Nap Ministry says, if we don’t rest, we won’t have the energy to even imagine something better for ourselves. During this chaotic and disruptive moment in history, we will need our energy in ways we could have never imagined to create what comes next for us individually and collectively, and we will need to be surefooted in it.
For some practical ways to start your healing journey, read Itzbeth’s blog, Why Bother with Healing and Where to Start? My recommendation is to be kind to yourself during it, especially when you first begin. Healing is not linear; feelings and triggers and memories will direct what your experience is. Explore concepts around forgiveness, grace, empathy, self-worth, and imagination/ creativity. Keep a journal or several journals on hand and jot down revelations as they come to you. They will come often if you keep your ears, eyes, and heart open. Get outside and put your feet on the ground. Our reciprocal relationship to nature is our birthright. It is precisely why those of us with ancestors who were enslaved were kidnapped and brought to the Americas. Notice your triggers and ask yourself why they bother you. Inevitably, they will provide insight about where healing needs to happen in your life. When you feel overly emotional, move your body and be intentional about your breath to shake up the feeling of being stuck. Notice how you feel afterward. Be forgiving and graceful with yourself and learn from your missteps.
Healing/growth is very hard and very ugly, but the fruits of your labor will be abundant. Most importantly, try not to resist it. It will make your journey more arduous and draining. So, put down your phones, get out your journals, start moving your body, download a meditation app and get to healing!
Musical inspirations while writing:
· Hoochie Coochie Man by Chuck Brown
· Smile by Scarface, 2Pac, and Johnny P
· Nwa Baby by DaVido
· Ballin’ by Mustard and Roddy Ricch
· The Recipe by Kendrick Lamar and Dr. Dre
· Sound of Rain by Solange
· Bitty Dub by Bitty McLean
· Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe by Kendrick Lamar
· This Side by Earthseed
· Money by Leikeli47