Self-Preservation 

Self-Preservation 

​“Look, I am not denying that you have a lot of people to take care of, and I am not saying that you must remove any of them off your priority list. I am just asking you to include yourself on that list, doesn’t matter how many people are on that list, and it doesn’t matter what number you are on that list, just as long as you’re also on it”

    It was a dark day, and I was powering through The Most, putting on several capes for all the things and people I had to look after. My friend said this to me in the course of an hour long conversation of me rebutting every effort of hers to get me to admit that I was not okay. Boy, I went down fighting, and the only statement that I could accept to look after myself without feeling guilty was this fine one here. 

    Why is self -care such a hard act? Why is it that a small act of self-preservation can make one feel as though they are being selfish? Why are we programed to give continuously and feel guilty for replenishing ourselves? These words were the only palatable form of self-preservation that I could hold on to at the time, but since, I have been thinking….

    Sometimes, I switch off my phone. Most times I don’t reply to texts in real time, especially ones that upset me because that welcomes bad energy into my space before I have increased my tolerance levels enough to deal. Sometimes, I go back to my flat and sit with the pot of popcorn in bed while watching Being Mary Jane, instead of lunch or social outings. Sometimes, I hang out with people just because I recognise that I need a dose of social interaction after being in my own head too much or I’m bored of my own company. Sometimes, I spend my last R100 on three slabs of chocolate, a chilli cheese burger and a watermelon mcfizz and eat it in one sitting, instead of whatever responsible adult things are required for that week. 

    I think I have mastered having minimal needs but making sure to address them, and sometimes those needs are rent, sometimes its petrol, and sometimes it’s a Cadbury cashew and coconut chocolate or gin but I certainly won’t feel guilty for making either choice.

    The guilt associated with choosing yourself and what you need at a particular point in time over your responsibilities sucks. It is also such a significant internal tension to overcome in order to be functional and the role my friend played in this epiphany was so essential. She didn’t sit and write out my priorities and tell me where to place myself, she didn’t let me leave myself out my priority list then try supplement my lack of self-care herself, she didn’t undermine the importance of all the priorities on my list, she simply asked me to be on it. It is crazy that we need reminding to look after ourselves, and in as much as we can be on other people’s priority lists and know it, there is a key difference and importance for each person to put themselves on their own list. Nothing can supplement for self-love. No one can put you on their list in place of yourself on yours.

    Once you get passed that initial against-the-grain feeling of having your time, space and self, and the I-should-be-xyz-but-not-today-satahn guilt, you bring yourself closer the shift between first and last place according to your needs and life’s demands. 

    Ultimately, you can’t light fires with a burnt out candle…
    Don’t leave yourself behind, you’re going to need you too later.  

    The Contour Tutorial

    The Contour Tutorial

    I think that in a world where your hair is forced into being straight with chemicals as opposed to coiled and natural from as early as the age of three. It says something to you from a very young age, it says that you are to be corrected, that you are born wrong and your hair must be fixed into submission, and “fixing” it is making it look straight and flowing not stiff and coiled.
    I remember how in primary school, we always used to refer to the peach-coloured crayon/pencil as “skin colour”, I remember how all my people were always drawn in “skin colour”, and not brown because I was a five year old regurgitating the norms that surrounded me and failed to recognise my own brown skin as my norm. I’m half chuckling right now remembering this picture I once won some art competition for in nursery school. It was a picture of me riding a horse on the beach in the sunset, and my mom has somehow kept it all these years. In the picture my skin is light brown and I have long blonde hair… it was almost like five year old me had never looked in a mirror. I knew I didn’t look like that, but I thought that was what I was meant to look like because that was the standard that surrounded me.

    From a little black girl who played with white dolls and read books about little kids with blonde hair and blue eyes, it makes me question how deep one has to dig to find the identity of black and then of woman and merge the two when none is found in the literature (magazines and school books) we use to educate little black girls.

    The other day (basically how this train of thought came to me), I was sitting and doing my make up, as I sat there contouring my nose- it hit me… the essence of contouring your nose is to make it look more pointy and highlight the bridge, but of course my nose is flat and wide. Here I was, a full grown black woman and still correcting myself into European beauty norms… These are hard things to unlearn. We are raising little black girls constantly  telling them that they are wrong through correcting their speech, their grammar, their bodies, hair and overall looks into whiteness. And there is nothing wrong with whiteness but constantly trying to ‘whitefy’ the black girl by implication, says how wrong she is for being born black and female.

    While typing this I randomly decided to do a little experiment, which you are more than welcome to try too, I insist. I typed a google image search with the words “beautiful women”, and the entire first three page were different shades of white women and two of black women with long straight hair. Eight search pages later, not a single black woman with natural hair.I  was gutted. I tried again, this time searching just “women” and still, hundreds of white faces and one or two black faces. Perhaps it is a silly experiment, but it spoke volumes for what the norm is for how the world conditions little black girls to see themselves through white lenses.

    This took me back to a heart breaking quote I once saw, “black woman is the nigger of the world”.

    Our self love is hard, it has to be forcefully deliberate and it almost amounts to defiance just to acknowledge your flat nose, melanin skin, full lips, midnight eyes,  and hair that coils and defies gravity.Loving yourself as a black woman is a challenge and protest in a institutionally sexist and racist world.

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    *images not my own