Dear Thriving Bride,
No one told me how to do any of this. I have been molding it and carving it up and out of me as I’ve spent the past four months preparing for my wedding. I thought about this last night as Obama won the election. No one told him how to become the first Black President. No one told him how to become the first President who had an African father. And no one told him about how to become the first president with “a funny last name” as he often says. I will be married in 3 days, and I am thinking a lot about “first moments” and figuring out how to do things not from a place of knowledge but form a place of what we believe is possible for our own lives. Today I want to talk about my African mother and the lessons she taught me. Somehow, I believe those lessons are helping me do all of this and do it in a way that feels good to me. In essence, I believe I am doing what she could not do for herself: choosing who I love knowing that I will always be safe and cherished instead of living in fear and terror. I wish she could have done that, but I am doing it for the both of us.
There is an African proverb that says “I am, because you are.” As the election results came in last night, I thought about Obama’s book titled Dreams of My Father. In the book, Obama talks about the ideas he had of his father based on his grandparent’s stories. His parents divorced when he was still very young, so he had to piece together who his father was. This is just a small part of the book, and I know it is also about so much more, but it got me thinking about my parents and their dreams. After all, I did have two African parents whose vision of the world was shaped from their home country and background. The truth is, regardless of how absent your parents were then or are now, it is impossible to forget the impact they made on you.
For all the mistakes my parents made, I have to give my mother credit for some of the amazing life lesson she taught me. Even though I often felt like the scrawny ugly duckling (my breasts came in later than I hoped and I was pretty scrawny and I was being sexually abused by my older brother) while I was growing up, my mother always imparted this idea of interdependence. I remember anytime I would compare myself to anyone else she would tell me to remember that if I kept doing this, there would only be three options in my life: being totally miserable because I could not match up to other women, being totally mean and hateful towards other women or just deciding to end my life because every and any one was better than I was. In some way, she taught me about what was possible for my life and I did not even know it until adulthood.
I look back now and it seems kind of funny. She pretty much let me and my sister know that if we expected to be like everyone else, we might as well jump out the window because that was never going to happen. She encouraged us not to look down on other women or judge them for any reason whatsoever. ” I am, because you are” meant that if I considered myself beautiful and called other women “ugly”, then I in fact was not beautiful because I was a reflection of others and they were a reflection of me. It’s not a Western idea, so it might be hard to follow where I’m coming from, but I hope some of this makes sense.
There are brides out there who might be skinnier, prettier and wealthier than you. And the list goes on. When you hit those moments, remember that you are both a reflection of each other. And of course we all have different circumstances! Life would be pretty mundane if we did not. Now, wouldn’t it?
I’m here to tell you that she is a reflection of you, and she exists because you do. And by the way, nothing (our money, our beauty, our wealth) really belongs to us anyway. We are given the opportunity to have these things in our lives for some time, and then we must let them go at one point or another in our lives.
Thank you Mom! Somehow, despite your ability to protect us from Dad, you helped me keep my sense of self intact. And right now I need that more than anything. So again, thank you!
To all the brides out there who are feeling like they are not quite “good enough” in any way right now. I advise you to “check yourself” and figure out if you want to live the best life you have to the fullest or spend all your time being upset that you’re not as skinny and pretty and wealth as so and so.
For me, this is a time waster. Just quit worrying about someone else and go be your best self. I bet that self is pretty bad ass!