It goes without saying that 2020 has put us through the wringer. I can remember how mundane and uneventful my New Year’s Eve was back in December. I had just flown back to Paris from visiting my family in the States. Jet-lagged and exhausted, I turned in before midnight, muting my phone to spare myself the repetitive dings from well-meaning family and friends. I made no resolutions. I cast no hopeful prophesies into the future. January 1st would emerge just like any other day on the calendar.
Then, less than a month later the world lost Kobe Bryant. The news came to me and my son, Emmanuel, while we were having a video chat about his summer plans. He decided to apply to a program for high school students at Harvard to get the college experience. We were both pretty excited by the prospect of him strolling around campus for seven weeks and then with a jolt, a somber silence consumed the energy between us as we processed the reality of Kobe’s death. After our loving goodbyes, we each retreated to our screens to wrap our brains around what was happening in the world. This symbol of celebrity and Black success had literally fallen out of the sky.
By contrast, the coronavirus was a slow moving threat– one that most of us had ignored during the late winter months. I recall reaching out to an Italian friend inquiring about his family and friends, hoping that they were healthy and safe as that nation’s elderly were the unsuspecting target of a disease we knew so little about. But as the spread in the United States began to accelerate, it lay bare the woefully inadequate safety net that existed in the country while also exposing the institutional intention of inequity on racial, cultural, and economic lines.
Murder hornets, floods, earthquakes, May snow showers, and epic civil unrest against the front line pawns in a centuries old system of oppression and violence, I was beginning to think that the book of Revelations was finally coming to pass. Nothing screams anti-Christ more than Trump standing in front of a church holding a Bible upside down and backwards with billows of smoke and teargas left in his wake.
On a serious note, we have been in a collective state of trauma since the ball dropped, facing the false idols and corrupt social contracts that have governed our society for too long. While our egos might be aching for life to return us to our escapists pleasures, it is evident that each of us must face this reckoning in our own strength and with a yearning to heal.
This poem articulates with such simplicity the call for our collective healing. When I saw it for the first time, I put aside my own apocalyptic musings and thought about my year on mombbatical. There was a weird mutual voyeurism to my first year living kid-free in Paris. My friends near and far romanticized my experience, living vicariously through me as I made the most of each moment. In return, I could not keep my gaze off of the United States, pondering day by day if living so far away from my family and closest friends really made any sense at all.
It is true that I had many glorious days filled with wonder and beauty. Paris, in and of itself, is a sight to behold–the energy, the food, the architecture. But between Instagram posts, I endured several days of solitude, slowly trying to piece together a life and a future. The endless string of cloudy grey winter days often closed in on me while I was searching for my purpose and a greater understanding of the next phase in my life’s journey.
In a sense, I had a reckoning of my own as I came to realize that I was being called to have a much bigger vision for my life than I could conceive. My mombbatical was not meant to be a carefree frolic in the “city of lights.” It was a journey towards new horizons–a journey I had to make on my own without the distractions of a nine-to-five or Emmanuel’s comforting presence. And along the way, I picked up some wonderful insights and lessons about life itself. Lessons that may have been lost had my mind been cluttered with the trappings of modern life.
Watching the United States in the throes of two crises–a pandemic and social unrest over racial injustice–I have been moved by the collective and individual struggles that I see in images featured in every news story. Expressions of rage, hope, despair, and grief eerily cast behind colorful protective masks. White people, in particular, are reeling in this moment, grappling with a reality that they did not want to see because to see it would require having to do something about it. And action in this moment is complicated because it must be bold and nuanced. It must take place in the context of authentic relationships while extending beyond apologies and platitudes.
Most Black people will tell you that they are exhausted. We were already tired from the repetitive trauma of seeing Black people killed violently on video. The daily microaggressions and disheartening data about the state of our community relative to our other racial counterparts also take their toll. But, we know that white folks need us in this moment. We really want you all to figure it out on your own and we’ve been flagging all the books and movies to nudge you in the right direction. Yet despite all our efforts, The Help managed to be the highest trending movie on Netflix and we had to shake our heads. Then, a handful of white actors released a nonsensical black and white public service announcement about how they are taking responsibility and we’re like, “Nope. Y’all can’t handle this task on your own. You’re simply not equipped for it.”
So, even though Black folks just want to take a nap, we also really need white people to get this right.
George Floyd’s last words as he left this Earth were a call out to his deceased mother–a call that convicted the hearts of many mothers as we thought about our own children’s state of mind in their most vulnerable moments. To that end, I have decided to use my mombbatical platform as a way to facilitate healing in my own respective communities in the hope that the lessons and conversations will be paid forward to others in this collective effort.
Beginning Sunday, June 28th, I will be launching a 10-week series of Zoom conversations, Healing through a Mombbatical Mindset, at which I will engage seven women with myself in a dialogue focused on a specific theme based on lessons from my mombbatical and centered around how we can bring about healing in this moment. Some of the themes will be intention, rest, discomfort, urgency, and love.
Each week, I will put a call out to those who would like to participate in the discussion and the first seven people to sign up, with an eye towards diversity, will join me at 2pm EST/11am PST/8pm CET for a 90 minute discourse. Reflection questions will be sent in advance for our introverted friends who may need a bit more time to process. 🙂 Each call will also be recorded and posted on the My Year on Mombbatical blog site for those who were unable to participate.
More details can be found here.
The continued support that I have received as a blogger and writer has been the wind at my back. I am excited about this new opportunity to engage and make a difference as we’re all being called in this moment.