Part 6 of a 6-part series. Radical, Militant, Uncompromising Self-Care: A Black Woman’s Manifesto.
Thus let me live, unseen, unknown;Thus unlamented let me die;Steal from the world, and not a stoneTell where I lie.Alexander PopeOde on Solitude
I want to run away. I’ve wanted to run away all my life.
I used to sit on a sofa in front of our patio doors and stare out past the back fence, past 3rd Street, past Graves Manor, and imagine a place where I could be alone. I used to grab a book and find the farthest corner of my bedroom and read it until my mom forced me to come out and be around other people.
Over the years, I have learned to perform extroversion. I have a loud laugh. I have a bright smile. I give great hugs. I know how to be with other people.
I would prefer not to.
But there was once something dangerous about my kind of introversion. My ability to disappear entirely into isolation without the remotest care for another human being left me alone with my all-consuming anger.
I don’t remember when I felt anger the first time or when it became a constant companion. I know it surges in the presence of abuse of power. And because there is no outlet for the anger, it just builds.
I have read and been told that anger become bitterness. Bitterness can ruin your relationships, make you sick, even kill you. But most of what I’ve read and been told is about being personally wronged. The remedy is forgiveness. So they say. I completely reject that. It could be because the concept of forgiveness being liberating in some way is steeped in religion, and well, I need something a little more concrete. I also need for the wrongdoers to ask for forgiveness in such a way that indicates genuine remorse. Then maybe I’ll forgive them.
But what if wrongs aren’t individual but collective? What about large scale systemic injuries that persist? There is no time to become bitter because there is always something new to be angry about. It just builds.
Spending hours and hours alone in smoldering solitude fantasizing about vengeance and wishing for justice, created a tear in my spirit. I couldn’t ever show anyone that part of me because it was frightening.
At the foundation, there was personal injury. First my father. Then my partner. After those every other wrong I felt I had suffered, every wrong I felt we suffered as black people, as LGBT people, as people in poverty, as everything that makes up who I have been and who I am piled itself on top.
I, who have always wanted to run away, could not stand being in the company of others because at some point, someone was always going to do something unjust to someone else if not in deed then in word.
When I was moving back to Memphis, my sister said I had to meet Dorian. Dorian knows everyone. Dorian is the perfect person to help you get settled. So, I called Dorian. What my sister didn’t know is that Dorian would also be the person who would help ground me in a different way of engaging with people. Our first call was great, and over time she helped me to think of interactions with people as energy exchanges. I had considered that before, and I had heard introversion and extroversion defined in those terms, but no one had talked with me so directly about it before Dorian.
I began to reflect on my relationships throughout my life. Where had I received energy? Where had I been sucked dry? Where was there neutrality? As I reflected I noticed I had a gut feeling for others’ energy? I noticed how it was tied to my anger and frustration. The more energy someone require of me, the more resentful I would be of that person. The more I would pile that resentment onto all the other injustices.
My introversion is real, but it is also a convenient excuse to separate myself and avoid the energy drain.
I began to curate my relationships more carefully. There are people from my past with whom I’ve managed to maintain or rekindle relationships. There are people who can always get access to me and people who may never get access again.
And then there was Jeff. We were drawn to each other like magnets. It was utterly bizarre to me. This big beautiful blond boy became my real life constant companion. We could spend entire days together doing nothing, barely talking. We could sit together and read for hours—together but alone. It was a perfectly neutral energy exchange. We had an unnerving number of things in common, including the way we relished our solitude. We both maintained our own separate social worlds and still made the time for each other.
As much as I seek to understand, I have given up on understanding Adriane and Jeff. What is clear though is that he takes nothing he doesn’t give, and it feels like I do the same for him.
When I met Trinette, I experienced something altogether different. Not totally new, but somehow still unique. Whenever we spent time together, I left with more energy than when I arrived. It made me nervous because I thought I might have become one of those energy-sucking people I tried to avoid. She has since told me she felt the same way.
Being married puts solitude just out of reach. Being married to my wife makes it almost unnecessary. Almost. In my wedding vows, the wedding that Jeff officiated, I said, “We are opposite in all the right ways and the same in all the right ways.” We fit. My house and my marriage are sanctuary.
There is no room for anger to fester. My solitude, when I do have it, is now blissful.
Dorian was my guide. Trinette and Jeff are my primary supports. They are like gauges. Everyone else is judged by where they fall in terms of energy. Everyone from a Trinette to a Jeff is safe. Anyone on the other side of Jeff is a no go.
In my 2018 self-care plan, I’ve committed to finding regular time with friends and having fun with the people who exist on the T-J continuum. I have found a social balance to all the anger that I carry. I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to respond to the injustices around me with anything other than anger, but I am now fully conscious of the role that friendship plays in being well.