The elder church ladies of my childhood used to respond to people who asked them about their well-being in a variety of ways.
“I’m blessed and highly favored of the Lord!”
“Chile, I’m yet holdin’ on…”
But my absolute favorite was usually given when said church lady was feeling extra churchy:
“Baby, I’m just glad to be in the number.”
It’s that last one that resonates as I think about these last 14 days I’ve spent in self-quarantine. First of all, as a person who is ALWAYS on the go, the idea that I would sit in my house for 14 days straight is beyond funny (in that laugh to keep from crying kind of way). Yet, here I am. By day 11, I honestly felt like I’d done all the things. At least I thought I had. I’d taken online yoga classes and even danced with Debbie Allen in one of her Instagram Lives. I’d read all the books and listened to all the podcasts. I’d put together my creative schedule and had begun writing more. I felt like I’d exhausted my “list of things to do in a pandemic” and yet, what I didn’t know was, there was one thing I’d forgotten.
Enter DNice and his “Home School/Club Quarantine Party” on IG.
See, the thing I’d forgotten to do was the thing I needed the most. Forgo structure! Bump a schedule! What would it mean to simply turn on IG, sing my favorite songs as loud as I possibly could, and dance across my floor in my ratty tank top and sweat pants?
It would mean the world.
“Baby I’m just glad to have been in the number.”
On March 21st, I not only created a memory that—Lord willing and the creek don’t rise—I hope to share with my grandchildren 30 years from now about the great Coronavirus pandemic of 2020, I also tapped into memories that I thought were lost to me until they were triggered by D-Nice’s monster of a playlist. I realize now that this was maybe the point. As a budding Black contemplative, I’ve been studying silence quite a bit. One key thing I’ve learned is that silence is not necessarily the absence of sound but the absence of noise—psychological noise, mental noise. This noise is really anything that gets in the way of a person being able to center themselves in peace and with grace. Every song D-Nice played, especially the ones that made me stand up and scream “Yaaaassss HONEY that’s my JAM!” allowed me to remove the noise of fear and anxiety and center myself in joy and jubilation. Each song took me to a place in my mind, in my history, that reminded me of the abundance of life I’ve already lived and my capacity to create more if I just kept living. This is a particularly healing concept in light of my own tendency toward the morbid and the current preoccupation with death tolls in our media. Here are a few specific moments of light and life that moved me to tears last weekend:
11 years old. Body budding in burgeoning adolescence. A return home. Middle school anxiety. Wishing away ponytails for pressed straight, black hair. Dreaming of black jeans and denim jackets tied at the waist to show off thick thighs. My 44 year old self whispers to her that she is enough. That she doesn’t have to perform to be valued. She can’t hear me yet. But she will eventually get there. At the moment, she just dances. Scratches and scars her tween legs trying to kick them over a chair. But despite the pain, she gets back up. She…gets. back. up.
17 years old. First Burger King pay check goes to Uptown and the young woman with the bomb hair and the swag and the voice that spoke of something deeper, things she could only say in a song. Things I could only sing in her songs. I wanted to “have it going on.” I wanted him to like me better than her and her and her. I wanted him to tell his friends how fly I was. Because I was. I just didn’t know it yet. And I wore my desire like I wore my baggy jeans and baseball jersey and braids burned at the ends and Malcolm X hat to the back to maybe make up for what I didn’t know. The information would soon come.
20 years old. College. Blazer Hall. Greg Page apartments. Random road trips from Kentucky to Georgia, Florida, Virginia and wherever else we could go. Singing loud and hoping that THIS man-boy with the low-key texturizer is trying to “holla” from the other car. Naive to a world beyond the next class, the next party. A world that would soon come knocking because ambition burned a hole in my soul. Picking up the pen again and finding relief from long buried and unnamed grief in a poem or fifty. This is how I did it.
22 years old. Chicago. On my own. Country girl in the big city? Big girl in a country city? Maybe both. A mediocre job at a mediocre firm. A small studio apartment on 75th and South Shore. Mine though. That’s what mattered then. All mine. Until the bills came. Then it was theirs. All theirs. Dressed in a skin tight pleather jumpsuit. New Year’s at The Cotton Club. Grinding. He could be the one. Or not. Mostly not. But I still chased him/it. Because I didn’t know yet that I was the one. But I learned. Chicago has a way of teaching you.
37 years old. And she is 1. And she is everything. Fat, juice cheeks. Almond eyes wide with expectation. Let my love adorn you, sweet child. Know that I adore you. She will get the best of me. All the things I learned. Every stop on the journey, every lesson learned, will be worth it because she is everything. Don’t let anybody tell you different.