The person that you see in M.E. is not the same person that I see.
When I look in the mirror, I see a woman with a past. A woman who is dying to break free from the chains that held her in bondage for far too long. The chains- heavy and grungy, covered in the shame of generations before me- weigh on me and often cause me to think that freedom is not possible. I see this woman in the mirror and I am frightened by the reflection.
Is this really who I am?
Will the past- my past, my family’s past- ever release its hold on me?
Can others see the pain that I carry?
Yet no matter the thoughts that run through my head as I look at the chocolatey image in front of me, I plaster on the mask of the day and proceed about my business.
Which mask will you see today?…
My father’s family is American born, with Blackfoot ancestry. My mother’s family is Jamaican, with British ancestry. Together that means that I am a Black Jamaican American woman… and we don’t talk about our problems. For whatever reason Black people have a tendency to sweep emotions and family truths under every nearby rug. We don’t address the issues that scream out before us and darn sure don’t rush to a therapist to get help with our emotional dilemmas. No, we bottle everything up, dismiss therapy as “White people ish”, and mask our true selves.
Maybe this dates back to the continent of Africa when our ancestors were ripped from their homes and families to travel to faraway lands to build the dreams of others while watching their own die in the Atlantic ocean.
Maybe this dates back to the enslavement period when our ancestors weren’t even considered people and were forced to work despite life and enslavement happening around them.
Maybe this dates back to the decades between 1865 and 1968 when our ancestors were free-ish but still never considered humans, being treated worse than disregarded trash on the street by White people who deemed themselves superior.
Maybe this dates back to the decades that followed when we rose daily to head off to jobs where we were paid less than and treated worse than our fairer skinned colleagues, ignored and overlooked most times or deemed aggressive and a threat at other times.
IDK when it began, but we have surely mastered the art of hiding from our true and real emotions. And I am no different from my fellow Black sisters and brothers. You see, I wear the mask of a leader in my community, the mask of a leader in the church that I attend, the mask of a banking professional, the mask of a loved one (daughter, sister, auntie, bestie, and girlfriend), and so many other masks that I just can’t count. I have to represent all these different facets of M.E. and never really show who I am and how I feel on the inside.
Beloved, this is exhausting!
As I sit at my computer, processing the events of the year that has been 2020, I massage my temples as I have finally removed the mask of the day. Alone at my desk, I don’t have to be a minister, banker, author, sister, cousin, friend, daughter, etc. right now- I am free to just be M.E. My locs are pulled up into a messy ponytail, I am wearing my bathrobe and donning my always-worn houseshoes, my phone is on silent and my Fitbit is nowhere to be found. I am as free as I can get. And there’s not a mask in sight. I need this time. This is when the true Introvert in me comes out and I hunker down with a cup of tea and my computer to just be natural. Manners and pleasantries are not needed; I am at peace in this moment.
The mask that I wear daily used to scare me; it is unsettling to think that I do not show my true self to anyone, including the people that I love. However, now I view these masks as walls guarding the most precious part of me- my heart. The woman that I see in the mirror still catches me off guard at times, as she is still learning who she is. Yet at other times I see her and I smile, knowing that she has travelled a life’s journey and she is finally ready to just breathe.
It’s time to remove the mask that I wear…