We were drowning.
Not just me, but so many around me, too. Often I wondered why it was, how it was, that so many of us were so poor. How did it come to be that we had been relegated to standing in the freezing snow, waiting on the bus? I asked myself why the man in the Dickies jumpsuit didn't know that he made the entire bus smell. How could he not care that the whole of the essence he presented to people was one that was comprised of matted hair and piss?
Then I remembered. It's easy to get lost in your pain.
People abroad dream about America, but it's not like you think. There are places here where there is so much suffering you couldn't even begin to imagine it. Granted, there are no visible civil wars. What there is, though, is a hopelessness born of poverty, history and racial division. There are projects and row houses filled with rats and drugs and prostitution; they sometimes sit across the street from mansions with smiling families that the poor people will never enjoy, theirs having been ravaged by the vestiges of slavery, classism and a penal system that swallows sons and daughters whole.
Mine have not been exempt.
They went to jail and I slipped a little deeper into the abyss. How does one counsel grown men? Managing your own trauma while trying to support incarcerated loved ones is like flailing about after having fallen off the side of a boat. I struggled to find a line...any line...that could help me to hold on. I am a woman of faith, my God did not abandon me. I prayed often yet and still I felt as though I needed something more. It was then that I realized that I needed to pull from all of my resources--internal and external--if I were to save myself.
I would have to make of myself a knot.
If you've ever attempted to untie a knot, you know that knots are complicated. So am I. I set about remembering my various parts: my strength, my intelligence, my empathy, my education and my resilience all became lines in the cord that would become my knot. I am the sum of a million parts: my ancestors, my experiences, my religion, my loves, my children, my Bible study leaders, my school, my gym and my neighbors.
I AM. I am an accumulation of all that this nation has made me, a giant knot of a woman. Taking regular inventory of my whole person has helped me to hold onto hope at moments in my life when it seemed that there was no hope to be found. I force myself to remember all that I've already overcome and then rehash all of the one liners that have helped me to trod on. They are their own magical cord, the cord that is weaved most intricately throughout my knot's many lines.
I will keep my eyes on the prize.
One foot in front of the other.
All things through Christ who strengthens me.
I made of myself a knot, untangled me to reveal my parts and thus became self-aware. I loved my people enough to pursue the knowledge to build, so that I could make them a safe home, someplace where they, too, could examine, untangle and reconfigure their own knot of a being.
We will not drown. We will become the knots that keep each other from going under.