I woke up in a really bad mood today.
I’m trying to become a morning person, so I’ve been setting my alarm clock to 6:00am. I think I finally gave the snooze button a break around 6:50. I really just wanted to stay in bed and listen to the rain. When I went to my closet and reached for my jeans, I knew the struggle was real. Even in the winter, I’ll put on a sweater dress and some boots. But today it was my solitary pair of jeans, a T-shirt and some black combat boots, the look says, “I give absolutely no fucks. About anything today. And probably not tomorrow either.”
Surprisingly enough, my bad mood didn’t extend to the kid. I was more patient than usual as she agonized for 10 minutes over what to wear and what shoes would look best. I picked out her clothes yesterday and she still hadn’t forgiven me for making her look like an Eliot boy, whatever that means.
When we stepped outside, the ground was wet. This was a problem, of course, because when I woke her up for school, I told her it was raining. “And it’s not raining so you lied to me mommy,” thus sabotaging her outfit choice and crushing her creativity. “Lying” and its various conjugations are her new words for the week, and I don’t know what it is about that word that gets people so riled up (we teach our kids to say “fib” or “telling a story”), but hearing her accuse me of being a liar raised the hairs on the back of my neck. But I ignored it, took a deep breath and ushered her down the broken cemented path to the garage. . .
On my way out of her preschool, I nearly walked face first into the wall. I wasn’t on my phone or anything; I was looking straight ahead, walking a path I’ve walked almost every day for the past 18 months. But my depth perception was off and right as I turned the corner, the wall decided to move and jump out at me. I stopped in time, saving myself from embarrassment in front of the other parents and teachers. And of course the children who would take great pleasure in the slapstick comedy that is my life.
It was obvious by now that I was in serious need of an espresso and a syringe. I made a beeline for Starbucks for my dirty chai (soy hazelnut with a shot of espresso) and perfect oatmeal. There was a new guy. And something told me to repeat my order to him and have him repeat it back to me, but I didn’t listen to myself. I was too tired to listen. When I got to the office, I realized that my chai wasn’t dirty, and my perfect oatmeal tasted perfectly like crap. The saving grace was that the office was quiet and my coworkers know not to speak until I give them the sign. I wasn’t sure if they’d get it at all today.
So let’s back up a bit. Yesterday, a woman came into my office, to set up an appointment to speak with me about a project I’ll be handing over to her. I wasn’t aware that I was handing the project over to her, but I wasn’t trippin, because I didn’t really want to deal with it anyway. So I told her to come by anytime the next day (today). She said she’d come by in the morning. In my world, “morning” means between 9am and 11:59am.
At 8:27am, I looked up from my disappointing breakfast and saw the short, coffee brown woman who wore her cinnamon sisterlocks twisted into a crown. Her eyebrows were snatched for the gawds, and she had a warm, patient smile. She looked like she was about 55, so she was probably 75. You know how we do. I have a natural reverence for elder Black women. Knowing what they’ve seen and been through, I can’t help but give them the respect they deserve. So even though I was still in my morning funk, I tried to smile through it. But I knew she could see it on my face. “I’ll let you finish your breakfast and I’ll come back a bit later.”
About 45 minutes later, my mood was pretty much the same. I had given up on my breakfast and I drank my chai out of obligation. She walked back into my office with that same smile, and when she came around to sit next to me, a soft exhale escaped from my lips. There was something about her . . . She was calm and soft-spoken, and she wasn’t internalizing any of my bad mood; she was countering it with her positivity, without shoving it down my throat. I also noticed that the more I looked at her, the more I realized she resembled what I imagine my mother would look like at her age, without the effect of the years of drugs and abuse to her body.
After we finished discussing the specifics of the project she was to take over, she asked me about the pictures of my daughters pinned to my cubicle wall. We started to talk about my life: what my kids were like, where I grew up, how I liked Atlanta. From there we began to establish the connection I needed to get me through the day.
I mentioned my desire to leave the U.S., and she encouraged me to do so. Traveling the world is one of the best educations you can receive, and the feeling of finally finding a place to call home is like none other. She told me she was born and raised on the West Coast (the Best Coast!), but she never felt at home in the U.S. After graduating, she traveled around the world, finally marrying and spending time in Sweden and then moving to Liberia, West Africa. When the Liberian Civil War broke out, she evacuated back to the States via Bermuda. She talked of the West’s involvement in the war, survivors’ guilt, and the pain of privilege: being American-born allowed her to leave her war-stricken home with ease, yet she was leaving behind people she had come to love and consider family. She has considered going back, but she knows it will not be the same as it was before she left.
We chatted about the state of the world today, how crazy people have gotten and how our education system is failing us. She believed integration to be one of the worst things to happen to the Black community, because we’ve lost our sense of connection and belonging to one another. She told me that one of the biggest lies we tell our children is that we’re all equal, and all you have to do is work hard and you can do and be anything that you want. She told me to be careful, because living in America as a Black woman makes me a prime target; my life can change in any second, due to no other reason than my existence. The prison industrial system has changed and there has been an explosion of Black women prisoners over the last decade and a half, so I have to know my rights, and stay aware.
We talked about my children, and she reminded me that I cannot mold and shape them into who I want them to be. They are their own forces of nature, and it is simply my job to guide them. They were sent to me because I have something specific that they need from me, but it is not me who makes them who they are.
We talked more about moving, living abroad and exploring the world with my girls. I wanted her to stay and talk to me forever, but she promised to keep in touch. Before she left, she looked at me and said, “Your babies deserve a mother who is completely at peace and full of happiness, so whatever you need to do to get to that point, do it.”
When she rose out of her chair to leave, she reached to shake my hand. I stretched out my arms and gave her a hug. I wanted to cry, and maybe if I was stronger, I would have. Her presence touched me. It was everything I needed today, and she came at exactly the right time. I’m still sleepy, I’m still feeling oppressed and constricted by these tight ass jeans, but there is some sunshine and a little bit more peace in my heart and spirit today. I’m re-energized to keep pressing toward my goals, as simple and few as they may be.
It’s funny how the ancestors work. It’s like they said, “Here. You need this today to get your mind right.” As I was walking into work, a mourning dove flew right over my head and landed next to me. I watched it as it jerked its head toward me and walk in the opposite direction. Taking another moment to breathe before I walked into the building, I made a silent note to pay more attention to my natural surroundings and receive the messages that the Universe is sending me. Because I knew that would help me get out of my funk. It is said that mourning doves are a symbol of renewal and peace that come into your life to remind you to stop and breathe. Find stillness within the chaos, find peace by appreciating the simple things in life. Simple things like an unexpected morning conversation with an elder who looks like your mother.