Gabby Douglas has been on my heart something serious this Olympic season. I know she’s all the way in Rio and I’m nothing but a mere observer–but her spirit speaks to me like it would if she was my girlfriend two miles away, a church member in my congregation–like she was even me. I watched her four years ago shine and sparkle and give us all that #blackgirlmagic we so craved. Sprinkle. Sprinkle. I watched the media and Black women at large try to dissect every strand of her course hair. White folks could care less about our hair as much as we care about our own hair. Gabby fought back and brought home the golds.
This time around, Gabby stepped onto the stage and her shine and sparkle, well, her #blackgirlmajic, hmmm…something ain’t right. Minimal eye contact. Detached. Performance for the cameras and back to “normal”. Apathetic. Flat affect. Smiles that don’t reach the eyes. Mood incongruent with the setting. That fake smile. Simply put, this girl is not happy. Why? I don’t know. I can’t begin to know why this beautiful young trailblazer has missed a step. That she simply is not present. By present I mean not being in the moment. Not connecting with others. Not being your true self and relating to the experiences about you.
But I feel Gabby. How many times have I checked out when I couldn’t deal with the emotional threats made against me (real or perceived)? How many times have I withdrawn to that quiet space in my head and just mentally floated away? How many times have I taken off my glasses and allowed the blurry world to just be that–blurry?
Gabby is one among millions of women who may find it hard to cope with life’s challenges in one form or another. It’s not the challenges I’m concerned about yet rather how we cope that separates the wheat from the chaff. I spent half my lifetime trying to pretend that I liked everyone I met. I pretended that people excited me when in reality they drained me. I pretended that I was happy with my body when I really was not. I pretended I wanted to be “cool” and relatable when in reality I wanted to be in my nerd space with the do not disturb sign on the door. To me there was something wrong with being smart, organized, opinionated and introverted. After all, “everyone else” was wearing the long weaves, the high heels, and the big purses. That being in roles of wife/pastor wife, daughter, sibling, friend meant I had to kill my true self to become someone else. The pressure. Oh the pressure of living a lie.
Today, I still carry all those roles and then some. But it’s how I cope that has made me more spiritually and emotionally centered. My faith in Christ keeps me grounded. No, I’m not in seminary school reading the Bible cover to cover for the 100th time, but I’m connected to Him.
Do people still drain me? Yep. I just know how to better manage my responses and time spent with others and make time to be alone. Balance. Do I still find it hard to manage my hips and thighs? Yep. Fitbit helps. Wearing clothes that flatter me helps too. Acceptance. Am I still a nerd? Yep. Til the day I die! Truth.
Gabby is young. I pray it doesn’t take half her life time to strengthen her village, acknowledge who she is at the core, forgive herself and others and use this test to be her testimony. I want her to hurry up and feel better, do better, be better! But as with everything, I know it’s going to be more hard hills to climb before the road smooths itself out. Being present is no small feat. Come through Gabby. Come through.