The day the music died

On Sunday Feb 21st, 2021, I woke up complaining to my husband of a mild headache. As someone who has had migraines for close to a quarter of a century now, it was not nearly worth mentioning but as someone who has had some neurological issues since May 2020, my husband took it seriously enough to bring me two pain med tablets. That was around 10am and the next thing I remember was lying in the hospital bed on the afternoon of Feb 23rd, waiting to be wheeled for an EEG test.

Between my husband and two daughters, there are various versions of what happened after I went into a full-blown seizure shortly after ingesting the pain killers. There was a 911 call, paramedics having to use a defibrillator to revive me and fire fighters wheeling me down three flights of stairs to the ambulance. Given then my weight loss plans have been feeling miserably, I am guessing I must have given the poor fire fighters quite the workout ☹.

I have no memory of any of it, or of being hospitalized on Sunday, Monday, or most of Tuesday morning. As with the prior minor events that I had experienced, I have had memory snags since then of both current and past events. It literally feels like a big chunk of my RAM storage was deleted or altered; only this time is much worse than before, and the medics still have no idea what is causing it.

I was released home on Tuesday evening, to follow up with several specialists and continue with tests from home. As I have been working from home during the better part of the last year, I logged into work on Wednesday morning which in hindsight was total foolishness.

Or was it? I have lived in North America for close to 20 years now, every day looking over my shoulder. I was top of my class in Primary school, middle to top of my high school class and eventually squeaked a spot in the highly coveted public University admissions back home. For all intents and purposes, I was smart enough to get through life on that. Moving to US, then Canada however destroyed any feelings of intellectual superiority or I daresay adequacy that I had previously held. I quickly learned that I was first and foremost a black woman and as such, there were certain often unspoken expectations of inferiority of people like myself and I needed to quickly learn to stay in that lane. I could have fought these stereotypes but with three children under 10 by my 32nd birthday, I deliberately chose not to. I learned to dumb myself down, to not question whatever was said or not said about me because well, I had bills to pay. I took job positions that did not require a BA degree, let alone the MBA Honours degree that I had attained while baby number 1 and 2 were 5 and 3 years, respectively. I was ok to play dumb because well, I knew I was not really, but it paid the bills to do so.

So, February 21st, which is a culmination of some unknown illness that I have been suffering since May of 2021 was troubling for several reasons: I am finally dumb. I have found myself unable to recall names of people that I interact with all the time. I am struggling at work to recall mundane tasks or worse still analyze out of ordinary tasks. I logged into work on the Wednesday to cover up my ‘failures” in not having been able to work on Monday and Tuesday for the puny reason that I was hospitalized in a semi-coma. I have learnt in 20 years to be seen and not heard, to perform at a higher level than most so as not to draw undue attention to myself. The image I have worked so hard to cultivate was destroyed by the wiring in my brain deciding to dance to its own tune.

So, did the music really die or did I finally start listening to the right chords?

20 years down the road, I know that whenever I walk into any public spaces, the immediate assumption is that I don’t belong: be it the store clerk who follows me on the store CCTV camera, or the security guards at my (recently) numerous hospital visits who goes out of their way to loudly relay to me the instructions that are written on the entry for all to read and follow, but somehow something about my face requires further elaboration. To the department manager at one of my jobs in Canada to whom I made an application for a lateral move, and after speaking to my direct manager somehow decided I was no longer as qualified for a lateral move, but they would keep me in mind for clerical openings in the future- I am sorry what? It was a lateral move in a position that was already a hair above entry level but somehow, I was only qualified for a lower position?? To the HR manager who somehow never responds to any question that I ask her unless I CC my manager or basically anyone else in our company: I am just not worth her time solo. There are too many instances to recount them all here, but they all point to the fact that even as I dumbed myself down to make others comfortable, they still found a way to take me down a notch or two further; it is no wonder I completely stopped hearing the music playing.

My recent medical woes have been both a freedom and an imprisonment. I need to get healthy- whatever this is, I will fight it with all my might, and I know I will prevail. In the meantime, I have opened my eyes to the fact that I cannot keep playing the foolish game of ‘make them comfortable” because it does not serve anyone any good. I can’t even be mad at anyone because I brought this all on myself. I have two daughters and a son who deserve better than what I have shown them so far. I look forward to getting past whatever temporary madness I am currently suffering through so I can go into the business of taking over the world: in whatever tiny or large corner that I will find myself in

Happy 2021

 “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”
– Alice Walker

Today I met an angry black woman

The line at the first food wasn’t particularly long and she and her family were next in line to order. Engrossed in a deep conversation with her teenage son, she didn’t hear the “next customer” shouted by the pleasantly polite cashier/ order taker.

The lady behind her asked if they were in line to order; a pretty routine question albeit worded in a conclusive manner: as if they stood in fast food lines to converse with no intentions of ordering food. She said yes she was and continued speaking to her son. At this point, the lady behind her made a move to go to the now yelling employee and it was then that the black woman noticed what was going on and moved ahead to place her order. The “about to take your place while you yap” lady took it upon herself to comment to black lady that the server had been calling the next customer in line, by this time having abandoned her quest to be said next customer. The black lady, with as much malice as she could muster in her voice, told her she hadn’t heard the beckon and would be placing her order now thank you very much. Almost took your spot lady then proceeded to tell black lady that she’d been advising her about the open ordering counter all along. Please insert the all knowing “mmmhhhhh” emoji here and roll some eyes for good measure.

You see,  black lady was me and the random lady is somewhere living her life- probably having completed forgotten the exchange or full of venom for others like me.

I wouldn’t have thought much of it either if my son had not told me later that he’d thought I over reacted; that was heavy coming from my teenage son who’s always found me the voice of reason. I justified my reaction by stating that a) she could just have told me the server was calling me instead of asking if I was in line to order b) the move to bypass me and then change her story once caught in action justified my snark.

However, because I am said reasonable Libra, who always weighs everything one too many times, I did start questioning if perhaps I’d over reacted somewhat. On the one hand, the two points above are true and surely deserving of a snarky attitude. On the other hand, I had just walked about an hour in 30 degrees Celsius in my quest to reach the almighty 10K daily steps (don’t even get me started!) and my head was literally boiling.

The more likely reason though was that I had simply acquiesced to my membership in the angry black woman race.  It is not a club I was glad to join but one that I now realize is perhaps a survival mechanism more so than just bad manners. It brought to mind an article I’d read in the blog Psychology today suggesting that black women are the most invisible members of society (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-social-thinker/201012/are-black-women-invisible) and must work twice as hard to be seen, let alone respected. Across the pond, black women are dealing with similar if not identical issues as we are (https://metro.co.uk/2017/08/03/black-women-are-the-least-valued-people-in-society-6808199/). The point about black women being the least desirable group of people to date is especially worrying to me as a mother to two beautifully black females who may not allow me to get rich renting their rooms to weary travelers if they can’t couple and move out at some point.

So, did I overact somewhat? of course I did. It wasn’t premeditated but at some point, one deserves some R-E-S-P-E-C-T; heck we were both standing in line to buy heart attacks in a package so I didn’t appreciate the better than thou attitude. Perhaps the angry black woman exterior is just an attempt to matter; to be visible. I daresay though that it’s all in perception because society not only ignores us but expects us to silently and obediently tow the line and anything but is met with judgement. That my loving son has already joined “the man” was perhaps the most heartbreaking part of today but now that I am card carrying member of this subclass, I will find ways to show him my point of view and perhaps some brown skin girl out there will thank me for it one day 🙂