Disclaimer: This is not a thinkpiece. This is a me piece.
“Your grandmother had a very hard life, you know,” my mother said. I’d just learned that my grandma had been hospitalized for a minor issue that was a symptom of a chronic condition. I was taken aback. I’d always known that my grandmother, an assertive, sometimes tactless, but always encouraging woman, had not been dealt the best cards in life. Growing up in the 1930’s in abject poverty in Jamaica, she was pulled out of school at age twelve to begin working. There was no electricity. She was very dark skinned. A “coolie” with textured hair. Opportunities ranged from being a stay-at-home mom to a domestic worker. She married a man who struggled with his own demons that often revealed themselves in a bottle or a balled up fist. I’d known this, and yet, I had never heard my mother say it so plainly. Perhaps she knew more than I did and had chosen to keep more of the painful details to herself.
When I spoke with my grandmother later on to check on her, the conversation was different. I spoke with her differently. I listened more intently. She always ended phone calls with a relevant bible scripture and encouraging words and that day was no different. “Work hard, Adriana. I never had the opportunity. But I prayed and asked God to make sure that my children and their children did. I pray for you. I pray that you find a husband and that I live to see you have children.” I took those words to heart. I worked harder this past week in the office, pulling around-the-clock hours. I focused more intently on projects. I prayed more. Not for a husband- but for peace and discernment.
And then I saw Beyonce’s visual album “Lemonade” last night.
Readers have either seen it or will see it, so I won’t even attempt to discuss or summarize the feature at length. I found it to be one of the most stunning visual representations of a love on fire- be it romantic or love of self. It spoke to me in ways that were certainly intentional but came at a time when I thought I had it all together. I suppose that’s the perfect time to have your world turned on its head. When presented with a mirror of your own cycle, your own broken record of “intuition, denial, anger, apathy, emptiness, hope, forgiveness, reformation, reconciliation” can you look at it with a steady gaze and straight face? Can you say “yes, this is who I am and who we are and I’m okay with that?” I could not. At least not honestly.
I suppose that as a black woman living in this country at this time, I look great on paper. Good income. Good job. Educated. Genuine friends and family. Good health. Gratitude is something that I practice daily, yet I found myself attaching myself to men and getting into ill-fitting relationships because it was the “right thing to do”. As much as I am comfortable with who I am, I seek partnership this is real and true and a reflection of what I think and feel about myself. But I have sold myself short several times. I have overlooked moments where I was made to feel less than. Or problematic. Or “hard to love”. I have often cried myself to sleep, wondering if a man was cheating on me. Then cried more when I knew he was. I have broken things. Thrown things. Called women who called them. Then once I decided I was done, deleted and blocked them in every way possible, put on my “I’m a bad bitch” cloak and repeated the same story starring me and featuring the same characters with different names.
I am in the midst of healing from all of that, tending to my own garden and watching as the fruit of my labor begins to sprout. “Lemonade” for me doesn’t center around romantic relationships. It’s about my relationship with myself. It’s about knowing and loving yourself enough to know that sometimes when life hands you more lemons than sugar, you do the best with what you are given. Then you pray that your daughter, should she be handed a few lemons, will make a lemonade sweeter than yours. And that kind of lemonade isn’t made overnight. It may take months. It may take years.
Life handed my grandmother lemons. And while I have been handed a few of my own and am not sure how to work my magic to make something out of them, I am grateful knowing that I am the lemonade she prayed for. And for now, that is all the sugar I need.
Peace & Love,