Showing Up For Yourself
by Mahogany L. Browne
I am an avid do-for-others kind of Black woman.
I was raised with the guidance of two amazing Black grandmothers, who both gave their very life to the existence of their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Both of these women found it hard to feel appreciated for their sacrifices. I know, because I too was a repeat offender in taking them for granted. I know, because hindsight is an evil reflection of “do better.”
In my adult life, I realize I have made it my place to care for others. I have lost sleep. I have lost hair. I have lost friends and business opportunities. Cue the anxiety. And still, I have washed clothes and bed linens as resources for hard times. I have loaned money and given money. I have put myself and my loved one’s in physical danger for the ability to say, “I showed up,” and even then, I have sent gifts in my absence. I have dropped everything I was doing to support other people’s achievements.
To understand my desire to give, to be considered a “ride or die” friend, you must understand the parents that made me. I lost my father very early in life to the mass incarceration system; and by time I was 16, I lost my relationship with my mother, who fell addicted to drugs. This is where I returned to my Grandmothers love. Their ability to give and give, to bend and bend for others’ ease. Their insistence on “here, eat this,” and “here, take this,” - to give and give until depleted, became my mantra. I never once thought how they replenished the well - I never thought about who showed up for them with such fervor.
My desire to give is a gift and a curse. In the past twenty years, I’ve worked hard to surround myself with like-minded women. Women who fight for the right to talk slick, sex plenty, raise children, love whoever and whenever, because we feel like it. These women are devout in their Black Girl Magic. When we walk in a room, we cause people to stare - they want to understand the energy, they want to feel the sun. It’s easy, we are survivors. The women I love are a force. Our traumas and hiccups in life allowed us to birth art. Our art has brought us together.
Because of these friendships, I am reminded to do for myself. To sleep in, to drink plenty of liquids. To tap out if I need. And I do. My tap out looks like yoga stretches, coffee, and positive notes. My tap out looks like signing off of social media. My tap out looks like giving to those that appreciate my effort, and not just giving because someone asks.
I wonder if my Grandma Coco and Grandma Elsie knew they had a choice? And that’s the thing, right? Choice. I reckon, I’m this kind of woman because of my capability to give. I have taught my daughter compassion and empathy; however, I’ve given her permission to love up on herself too, something I thought was a selfish act. Something I steered away from for the majority of my life.
I taught my daughter to look a fool in the eye and take back the bag if she didn’t trust them with her things. I was never taught that! I didn’t know I had a right to retrieve what was mine if it was being mishandled.
Years later, after I have lost all the things that begin to make me whole, I’ve found the strength in protecting myself. I’ve found the power in saying “no”. Now, my time feels like a gift. Not just to me, but to those I choose to share space and energy. Now, my time feels like it is my own. Today I eat healthy, I turn off the negative transmitters (this includes people), and I feel a fulfillment usually reserved for the perfect pair of jeans. I believe in this act of grace. I wonder what might happen if Black women gave to themselves the same grace we shower onto others?
TIPS TO TRY
Eliminate social media time
Cut in half
Double up on water
Add lemon or lime
Practice morning & midday stretches
This feels amazing & you don’t realize how much tension you hold in your body
Check in on friends w/positive vibes only
If you find yourself going negative, back away from the discussion