I was born in the 70s. A time of discovery for women. They discovered wearing pants, became more involved in political processes, and taking on positions that were previously held by men. Being African-American or Afro-American women the time included dashikis, wearing our natural hair and speaking up and out…the louder, the prouder. Being a child in that timeline meant I watched my mother and her friends trade in their aprons and go full-time into the workforce. I was surrounded by single moms who were making their own money, taking care of their families and didn’t NEED a man at all. My favorite commercial back then was one were the women were singing “I can bring home the bacon AND fry it up in a pan”. Being a woman was GREAT but being an INDEPENDENT woman was greater!
The one thing wasn’t included for me was much discussion about productive relationships or the role of wife and mother in the home. It also didn’t include celebrating your significant other or how to navigate matters of the heart. You see a self-sufficient woman learns how to do all those things. She stands up and steps up for her family in a time of need without making her partner feel less than because of it. She knows that there is a power in a gentle word, compassion and partnership.
The idea of being an INDEPENDENT woman came to me with all the attitude of “I don’t need nobody”. But from where I was standing it worked. Right? The women around me who had a husband/boyfriend kept him “in line”. They monitored his every move, set up and conducted successful STING operations, knew what his pay check looked like and were quick to the draw when he didn’t comply with the rules. Sounds like some Charlie’s Angels stuff right there!! I watched these women and I admired them and so many of us desired to become just like them. You see the quality of life we were in pursuit of had to have all the drama and delightful defeat in order to claim the title “Baddest B**ch”.
What do I know now? I know that independence is beautiful, when properly executed. Knowing how to wash my own clothes and cook a meal is independence. Being able to balance a check book (still not too good at that one) is independence. Taking my car in to be serviced, attending my son’s track meet even if his dad doesn’t..is indepence. Stepping out into this big world and trying something, learning something, doing something new..THAT is independence. However, the emotional and spiritual beating down of another is not. Moving through life thinking you have all the answers and everyone better listen is NOT. Controlling someone else, at all cost, is not. Belittling someone because they didn’t do it your way is not. Oh and no matter what you are wearing or how fine you may be..that still isn’t attractive.
In many of our lives there has or will come a time when a medical professional will use the phrase “quality of life” when discussing the care of ourselves or a loved one. I have learned that usually has little to nothing to do with the car we drive or the clothes we wear. Nor will it have anything to do with the fear we ignite in others by the meer mention of our name. Quality speaks to peace, emotional and physical comfort. These things cannot exist in a spirit filled with malice and strife.
Being self-sufficient allows us to see value in others. It breeds compassion and appreciation. Great partnerships are born and amazing love stories take shape. A self-sufficient woman chooses quality of life over quantity in life. She invests in herself, she motivates others. She has no problem sharing the spotlight. She isn’t the latest trend..she’s legendary.
Even if you have never bothered to watch an episode of Love and Hip H0p Atlanta, I am sure you have heard about the infamous Joseline. She breezed into Atlanta from Miami, stole Mimi’s man, got pregnant and wrecked havoc on the lives of just about everyone she came in contact with. She is the type of woman us self-proclaimed “good” women despise. The questions I am challenging you to ponder are– How did she get to that point? Are the rest of us really that far from being a Joseline?
I can remember when my 12 year old self sat down and created my very first life plan. Oh boy, I was going to be someone amazing..superwoman of the century. Then life happened and that woman was reinvented at least a dozen times. I can imagine that, at some point, Joseline (and every woman like her..every woman like you and I) imagined a very different existence..maybe a husband, a house and little dog, some children, great vacations and graduations. Instead LIFE happened. She found herself on her own before anyone could teach her what womanhood was truly all about. She was forced to be an adult and given an adult reality at a time when she should have still be allowed to believe in fairy tales. On the surface, I hated her too. Why? Because I have been the good girl who was cheated on, lied to and disrespected. I watched helplessly as some hateful woman celebrated the destruction of my life, as I knew it.
I asked myself, what brought Joseline to the point where she just didn’t care anymore and then it hit me…LIFE HAPPENED. Oh ok I hear you already saying “oh please, life happens to us all” but just think about it. There is someone, somewhere who was once a very big and important part of your life. Then one day he or she became “just my baby mama/daddy” or cause you to get that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach when you hear their name. Now imagine that disappointment and hurt happening over and over again. Admit it, you understand why some women say they would rather be alone and also why some women date men solely because of their status/money. Maybe you never acted on it…but you get it. I remember being pregnant and finding myself alone. When I stopped crying, I built a wall so high and so wide that man could never get back in…almost 20 years later and I still can’t remember really ever loving him.
I don’t defend disrespect..especially among women. I do understand how easy it is to go from believing in “happily ever after” to “get them before they get you”. Seems to me that, what I now call the Joseline Effect, has infected many of us…male and female. We loved and lost, we tried and were defeated and then we decided that we simply just didn’t care anymore. It truly takes more strength to be happy for others when you don’t have anything in your world to celebrate. It takes a special person to love again after being hurt so badly. Some of us break free…sadly some don’t. Either way we have all been there…
To My Friend,
I will never know what happened. How did you slip away from us and I not notice? We were once like sisters, stuck to each other like glue. When I got the news of your death, I said what many people say “What do you mean dead?” We think we have forever to say the things we need to say, to correct our wrongs, to mend our wounds. Truth is forever is whatever God says it is and tomorrow is not mine or yours. Dawn, your forever came so soon it seems and as I write this confused tears blur the page. How could this have happened to you? MY FRIEND! Better question, where was I when you needed me? Man, life drags us from one “important” project to the next. We lose focus, we lose control. I passed your house so many times and said “I’ll stop by tomorrow.” I want to talk to you. I want to hug you and say that we are going to fight this together. I’m angry that drugs came into your life…into all our lives because once it touches someone we love it touches us all. Do you remember junior high when you, Tanray, Rodricka and I were the “Hollywood Squares”? When we skipped school to go to the youth fair? When we learned that I was not joining you all at Northwestern? Dawn, we had so many plans to be old ladies together, still talking trash, singing our own songs, writing our own stories. I apologize for not keeping my end of the bargain, for letting life take me away from our friendship…our sisterhood. Know that I never will forget your smile, your laugh or the fact that your hands were unnaturally soft. 😉 But most of all I am reminded now that we must never forget to remember the promises we make. Never get so busy that we can’t return a call or stop by and sit on the steps and chat with an old friend. I pray that no one else has to ever feel what I am feeling right now and no one else has to hurt the way you were hurting and not have a friend standing by your side. I love you Dawn. Rest in Peace…..