Losing It for Lent

I grew up Catholic. Decades later, I would find a new home in a Baptist church: being among more people of color, particularly younger ones, moved me in a different way. I had the bells, the sermons, the dance ministry, Communion…and Lent.

I have been trying to stick the landing for Lent since grade school. Give up something. Make a sacrifice that could never begin to match that of Jesus’s. Make it big, or make it small, but make it. I know two friends offhand who are scary good at making these commitments. They think on it, find something they freakin’ love—chocolate, liquor, sex, the Internet—and boom, it’s done. Gone till that fateful Sunday. They struggle, it’s not easy—it shouldn’t be—but every year they name something they’re celebrating with post-Lent.

pizzaThey’ve learned not to ask me about my sacrifice, even if I’ve loudly proclaimed it to keep myself honest. This is so, so kind of them, because as with New Year’s resolutions, I usually clock in about 72 hours before I bail out HARD, feasting on whatever will get me through. One year I “gave up” ice cream… I could hear Häagen-Dazs laughing at me within two days. Another year I gave up chocolate… because I don’t like chocolate. I’m pretty ridiculous.

With this in mind, I decided to try a different approach this year. Although not a sacrifice per se, believe me when I say I’m depriving myself of something that I’m used to getting daily, possibly hourly. Something that deeply feeds me. How I wish it were chocolate… Alas…

For Lent, I’ll be silencing my inner critic. All the way—help me, Lord—through Easter. It’s just the Friday after Ash Wednesday but so far, so good. Good, but hard. Harder than ice cream. Harder than Facebook (no really), harder than DVR. Harder than sex by a mile (shut up!).

Now, I know we all have moments of doubt, or have sh*tty days, are maybe having a quarter-life crisis where we’re contemplating saying eff it & joining the Peace Corps. My critic? Is a BEAST. A monster, in the most unchill sense of the word. Like last week: spur of the moment, I experimented and decided for one full day I would “think positively” (which my inner critic noted with supreme sarcasm; what kinda hippie was I trying to be?).

The result was pretty gruesome. I woke up and thought it was too early to be up & I needed a few more hours. Not a snooze button: I needed hours. Damn, did I have to go out? The weather was a mess (if I’m honest, I can find cracks in the weather index at the height of spring). My shower takes too long to heat up. I hate the painting on my wall; it’s cheap and looks cheaper. Was I hungry? Why wasn’t I hungry? I can never find my shoes and this is somehow symptomatic of my life to date. And on. I better not slip on these stairs; everyone knows how klutzy I am. Ugh, this dude on the corner is a disaster. Is his life as awful as mine? Let me do a visual inventory to compare. Nope, he’s talking to a girlfriend; points off for me, single on Valentine’s.

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Filed under A Bit of Real Life, New York, quickie

Feeling Pushed

Saddened by news of another suicide, this time of Titi Branch. I remember venturing to Miss Jessie’s when it was Curve, taking a cab into Bed-Stuy to their brownstone salon back when Do or Die was still a foreign & slightly intimidating place to enter. It wasn’t a cheap visit, but it was a unique one; so unlike the many wash & sets in the hood, the vibe was chill. They asked if I wanted tea. Nothing was rushed. I was treasured as a client. I watched the sisters’ empire grow with respect, awe and enthusiasm, even while whispers of oversaturation and negative curly talk swirled in the air. I couldn’t afford their services often; I last visited their SoHo location years ago for a twist-out (that lasted three weeks!) and although the digs were jazzier and shinier, the service was the same. Did I want some fresh fruit? Was it OK if I took a minute to stretch the tight muscles in my lower back? I was given those beloved samples on my way out, and made a promise to try to return when the sisters were there, to remind them of my first try at Curly Pudding, to let them know how many folks waited for their annual BOGO to stock up on those yummy, creamy products. My soul is heavy today, for the family, for their customers, for myself. Why are we losing ourselves? The struggle is so real. I wish I had answers. For now, only prayers for some mild balm for a tragic loss.

If you are at risk to hurt yourself or anyone else, I implore you to seek out help. Anyone supportive will work. Don’t overthink it, just make the call, or write the email, or send the text. Be specific. “I don’t feel safe” is a good phrase, if you don’t want to blurt out what you’re really thinking: “I want to end it,” “I’m done and I have a plan,” “I’m calling to say goodbye.” Let someone know you need help. Hospitals are bound to assist you if you present yourself and say you feel you’re a danger to yourself. There’s also lifenet and lots of places to call, where empathetic strangers will talk you through what may just be a rough moment you don’t want a disapproving or non-understanding spouse or friend to know about. What’s key is that you don’t keep this to yourself. The mask is easy to wear, and can fool many: Your face may be on billboards, you may bring thousands to see you in concert, or you may just have a 9 to 5 that you never call out sick on. Please educate yourselves, know the signs of sadness crossing over into something darker, know that there IS another option.

I’m posting this on the fly; forgive me for typos. I’m sad for Ms. Branch’s family, for Karyn Washington’s family, for all the families and friends, those left behind with their questions, their love and their grief. Times are turbulent, and I simply wish us all peace.


Filed under A Bit of Real Life, A Little Sad, Bed-Stuy, General Writing