P / P Essay: Another Look at Grief pt. 1 (For Brittany)

Image from Harvard Business Review, “Making Your Workplace Safe for Grief

Editor’s Note: I found out I lost a close friend of mine yesterday. Her name was Brittany. She was gregarious homeless floater, an African American trans woman who, over the years I’ve seen smile, hug, love and survive through horrible experiences. There was a time some men broke her leg because she was a “faggot.” I would give her money when I could, I always told her she was beautiful and she me. She was beautiful. Not just on the outside, but what really drew us all to her was her heart.

I could not attend her vigil for my own personal reasons, but I am grieving her. And because I couldn’t be there, the least I can do is dedicate this essay to her.

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A few months ago, we released a reading list entitled, P / P Reading List: 10 Books To Help Those Who Are Healing Through Grief, but yesterday, I was faced with another more intimate look at death and loss. I honestly, don’t remember what made me put together the reading list. I believe I have the ability to feel what others feel, grieve when others grieve, become affected when people are close…or even far away. If I can be deeply honest – I’ve never written this publicly, but there are times when I feel so much empathy and love in my heart, I am overwhelmed.

Through study and writing I’ve learned about experiences of people all over the world: people who don’t have clean water, experience FGM, girls who are married off at 11 years old and people who have lost a parent or close friend.

I had to learn to be cautious about complaining about the plights of being an African American woman. It is not that I don’t experience systemic problems that derive from the roots of slavery and racism in this country – by the way, Paula Giddings’ When and Where I Enter is a book that opens one’s eyes to Black women’s history from the moment African women stepped onto American soil to the 1980s. It teaches about the prolific Black women who helped make our culture what it is today:

It wasn’t only after reading that book and writing for Ms. Magazine that taught me about the different ways women navigate life around the world, but it simply helped me learn how blessed all of us are in America. Black women can get an education, we can speak what’s on our minds, we can share our stories, we can get published, drive cars and have access to massive amenities that most the people around the world could not fathom receiving. So, there is a blessing in grief when it comes to where I stand in life – but none of us, not one human being is able to escape death and loss. Continue reading

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P / P Essay: The Blessing of a Sense of Humor

Coates with his son, Samori, in the summer of 2001. Photograph: Ta-Nehisi Coates via The Guardian

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It’s been a tough few months and there’s nothing funny about being a woman of color who struggles with the external pressures and intimidation of life.

Nonetheless, I had my first funny dream in a long time this morning.

The last time I saw my best friend, she told me, “You used to be so funny, light-hearted and goofy,” (I don’t take being called “goofy” as an insult. I like to make my friends laugh.) She continued, “you used to have a light in your eyes and it’s not there anymore.”  At that moment, I heard her and I knew what she meant, but I figured back then, life has good days and bad ones – not to belittle anyone who has experienced any sort of loss or tragedy.

Trauma will do that but this morning, I had a sweet, funny dream. I don’t remember what the dream was about but I woke up remembering who I was, who I am, and the pain others have caused me, the intrusion, the insults seemed to roll off my back at 5 in the morning while I had to deal with people outside my window, taunting and enjoying the peril of my discomfort…before my first cup of coffee. Because of that dream, my heart was light as I changed out my filter, filled my coffee maker with espresso, and then fixed the curtain that keeps falling down in my office. My day to day felt a little nicer, and it came from me – not a compliment, not a phone call or a cool opportunity.

Get over yourself, Jordannah.

All I have is myself. If I get over that, me, what is the point of life? What would I do? The outside world, the world around me, Between the World and Me (shout out to Mr. Ta-Nehisi, another Baltimore born author who grew up understanding what I understand, and probably lives as an adult author knowing much more).

My very simple point is that my subconscious, without being direct, without giving me some deep message and booming male voice relaying some heavy prophesy or decree telling me about my future, simply made me laugh.

And I needed that. Continue reading