what if everything you’ve ever been taught about yourself were true? what if you really aren’t good enough? what if you really are too short? or too tall? or too skinny? or too loud? what if everything that has been told to you were the absolute undeniable irrefutable truth of who you are? who would you be then?
see what i think is that you knew from the very beginning that each nomenclature ascribed to you was a lie. why else did you try anyway? why did you attempt to love anyway? why did you push harder anyway? why did you talk loud? why did you stand tall? why did you eat that cake? why did you go for a run? why did you take that drive? why did you plan that particular trip?
because you knew in the you of who you are that it was all a lie.
you’re not too tall.
you’re not too short.
you’re not too loud.
you’re not too fat.
you are exactly who are supposed to be at any given moment in any given time. and there have been moments when you were truly present and everything was a complete mess. i mean it was like armageddon had gone off in your living room with the ceiling falling in and love walking out the door and kids screaming and no call back from the one job you needed. even in the middle of your own personal armageddon with your entire world crashing down on you because of your own missteps…you were being exactly who you were suppose to be at that given moment.
so in the next moment you could be someone else. you could try on something new.
the other day i was driving home from the grocery store. there was this song playing that didn’t make any sense to me. my kid was in the back seat trying to convince me it was the next best thing. like he actually used the words, ‘just cause it’s not oldy music doesn’t mean it can’t be good.’ and i wanted to like the song mostly because i think i’ve reached the age where new music just isn’t music to me. that’s when i said to him, ‘you can’t make a box to put me in that i can’t break.’
he’s 9. so he thinks in literal terms. and his response was, ‘why would i put you in a box?’
but do you see what happened there…
right there in the car on the drive home i was just doing what i do as a mom as an adult. handling business. making sure we had groceries and medicine and a car that goes. right in the middle of running errands and absent-mindedly skirting through rush hour traffic, bam!
you can’t make a box to put me in that i can’t break.
my mother loves me. i mean my mother loves me. like she would fight a mountain lion with her bare hands if she thought that it thought it wanted to attack me. my mother loves me with a love that plants gardens because i kinda like okra. love is her superpower. she’s good at it. seriously good at it. so why is it that when she says stuff like, ‘you know how you are’ i get itchy skin and wanna go walk to timbuktu and crawl under a pyramid?
why do i get so defensive about the flippant? after all there’s no box any man can build to put me in that i can’t break. i believe this so deeply in the core of who i am that i can toss it over my shoulder to my 9-year-old as casually as i would say don’t forget your seatbelt. and i believe that i believe that. otherwise where would it come from. what the hell did box breaking have to do with me just not liking that song!?
not liking a song, my mother pushing me to move beyond my patterns these are box breaking moments. we westerners, each of us, have this idea that ‘the world is against us.’ you have to fight to win. haters gon hate. right?
the truth is we believe the lies. but beneath that belief…below our box that’s labeled too short, or too much, or not enough…there’s something else. and that something else comes out in mundane moments. it comes out when you’re just loading the washer or wiping up stains on the counter. it’s the truth. the truth of who you are. the truth of who you need to be. the truth of who you’ve been.
we’d like the truth to be more easily accessible. to stand at the ready when we’re in the middle of our personal armageddons. but it’s not. in the middle of armageddon you’re so deep in the lie you wouldn’t see the truth if it walked in and slapped you in the face.
we want to be box breakers. every one of us. we want to stand out. to be more than the labels. to turn from the narratives that define us and just be…
my knee jerk reaction to my son gave me a moment’s glimpse into a battle i’ve been fighting all my life. to be something other than what was expected. i mean how boring to just be another black woman raising a son without a partner. how dull to lean into a statistic and claim it for my own?
but then my very literal 9-year-old blew the cover off the whole damn thing with his equally as flippantly casual come back:
why would i put you in a box?
what if there is no box? what if all the angst we’ve built up in order to battle the haters is just wasted energy? what if there is no one out there who wants to do you in? what if the whispers and calls to battle are just in your head? and…
what if that was just another car ride home? and i’m just a mom who just doesn’t like her son’s taste in music?