“You don’t have to be strong all the time, you know that, right?”
The words pierced through every bit of my stoicism like some savage battle in the movie, 300. Instantly, the tears began to fall. My friend was right. Over the course of several months, life had taken a major turn in almost every way imaginable. Aside from my notebook, no one really knew the details of how emotionally exhausted I was after another failed relationship, a sudden move to new state, quitting 2 jobs, a repossessed car, and trying to find out if I’d ever get back to my passion of working in social justice. To add to all of this, I had moved in with my friends in a small apartment and said goodbye to the comfortable, predictable lifestyle I once had.
Through it all, I tried to make it look as though I still had everything together. I plastered a smile on my face, attempting to pacify my own fears with phrases like, “Everything happens for a reason”, “This is only going to make me stronger”, or “Life is only a vapor”. All true, but each cliché only enabled me to disguise my fears, put on a torn cape, and attempt to face my failures alone.
It’s as though we’ve been conditioned this way. I say “we”, because I know I’m not the only one. There are songs from almost every generation about overcoming your failures. They say “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, and that “you’re an overcomer”. We internalize these messages and begin to tell ourselves every day, “I’m a survivor, I’m not gon’ give up”, “I am titanium”, and I’m “stronger than yesterday”, because as humans we’re told that all we “do is win, win, win”…no matter what. Even when we fail, we win, because “the show must go on”.
I hope I’ve successfully infiltrated your mind with a random collection of many power tunes, and now I have to ask: why are we so quick to look past the trials? We aren’t immortal, even if our favorite songs make us believe we are in 4-minute increments. But you’re not, and neither am I. We are human. Fallible. And flawed in more ways than we’d like to believe. Yes, flawed, not flawless. And Queen Bey can vouch for that.
When will we learn to turn in our capes, rip them to shreds, and set them ablaze? Will we be satisfied even if we do not “slay” at everything?
In light of the past year, with its countless depictions of #BlackGirlMagic, one of the most powerful images I saw came from the season finale of the new HBO series, Insecure. The final scene, and much of the series, highlights two Black women being everything but magical. Friends, Molly and Issa, have reached rock bottom in many areas. They sit on the infamous bouch in what seems like defeat. And I cried. Not because I’ve been particularly interested in, and faithfully following this series, and feel attached to characters and their stories. I cried, because I can relate. Throughout the season Issa and Molly try hard to live up to the hype that is #BlackGirlMagic – in their careers, relationships, dating, and even the friendship they have with each other. We watch them navigate through trials, infidelity, desperation, and pride only to realize what we all know to be true – slaying all day is a myth.
And that’s okay, because maybe that is where our true magic lies – in our weaknesses.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (1 Corinthians 12:9, ESV)
This verse is still a mystery to me. Or maybe baffling. I don’t serve a god who tells me to bring my best, strongest, or perfect self to the table. I don’t serve a god who is impressed with my performance. And yet, as much as I want to put on a front for friends and loved ones when I fail, I do the same to a God who beckons me to come into His presence in my weakest, most vulnerable, most insecure state.
“Vulnerability is the cure to shame” (Unknown)
Taking off our capes – spandex, laser vision, putting down light sabers, and parking the Batmobile – means getting honest with ourselves and those who love us. It also means recognizing where our real strength lies. That type of strength is not gained in a 4-minute power anthem. It’s okay to not be okay. And while it’s not okay to stay there and pity yourself, taking time to reflect, pray, or cry on a bouch with your bestie, can be the humbling, pride-smashing experience you need to continue pushing forward.
❤ LySaundra Janee
*If you don’t understand the “bouch” I urge you to sign up for a free trial of HBO Now, and binge watch Insecure, the series that even President Obama loves. Get up on your “ABBs” and the “Bear Bears”. #StayWoke