an up close and personal look at caring for our souls in the middle of a pandemic
there was nothing that used to irk my nerves and vex my spirit more than having to wear pantyhose and a slip under my dress every sunday of my adolescent life.
but, according to my mother dear, the Lord expected us to come into the house of God in our sunday’s best - which meant that i would wear whatever combination of dress, hose, and patent leather shoes she could afford. and, i would do so gladly - regardless of how much they itched.
as i grew accustomed to watching as we girls and women sat, moved, and flowed in our dresses in such a way that our bodies would be suitable to look upon by those around us, it was not long before i noticed the dreaded phenomenon that seemed to draw even the daintiest of the church mother’s from their unshouted graceful presence.
“oh, no baby. yo’ slip is showin’!” they would shout in a sharp whisper and rush to the poor soul’s aid to cover her until the god forsaken undergarment could be returned to its rightful place - tucked safely beneath the skirt and beyond anyone’s line of vision.
it didn’t take long to reconcile that having your slip out was a no-no for the politics of respectability most of our elder women considered the standard. After all, to have a showing slip could mean any number of things. that you were unkempt. Out of sorts. undone. un-put-together in some way - all of which would be an affront to a certain notion of being a kept woman.
in the past several weeks - 10 to be exact - i’ve wrestled to be the church mothers who tightened and brushed things back into their rightful place. under a neatly pressed dress or skirt. to keep up with the appearance of put-togetherness.
but it dawned on me how much more it’s been necessary for me to be the young woman whose slip was showing because, in all honesty, i have lost all ability to keep playing along like i’m okay.
the truth is my slip is showing because i haven’t been okay. perhaps, even before the pandemic hit.
between news of a college acquaintance’s wife and her untimely death, the stresses of working from home when you have no workspace, the challenges of being a newlywed, and the pressure i have been putting on myself to carve a space for myself and my work, it was as though my soul finally said enough.
i’ve broken down more times than i can count. suffered stress migraines and sleepless nights. shown serious lapses in judgment and character. pushed away those closest to me only to need them desperately in spite of my silence. i’ve faced a darkness that at one point i would have been too ashamed to name as thoughts of death and hopelessness. my slip started to show.
and what my slip started to show is that i haven’t been myself.
maybe, none of us have. especially, those of us in ministry and other lines of work who have had to put on masks that are foreign in order to continue ministering to the people and dawning a brave avatar in the face of such deep fear and uncertainty.
beyond my love for jesus, i found a new therapist - an amazing black woman who specializes in wholeness and breaking generational trauma and cycles of negative behavior. and, though i still feel the weight of the world in my body, i am cognizant of the power of soul bearing in the age of covid.
that somehow, these broken pieces that all of us are carrying around with us, can be made into a mosaic where brokenness means you belong. that you’ve lived to tell the story. that the fragments of puzzle that this era seems to be creating will somehow all fit together one day, regardless of how neatly. and, that speaking out of the depths of our soul, will create room for God to put flesh on our hopes, dreams and, maybe even our sorrows.
"that somehow, these broken pieces that all of us are carrying around with us, can be be made into a mosaic where brokenness means you belong."
i know. this idealized meaning making is not where most of us are or will be anytime soon. trust me, i get it since i may be back in a funk tomorrow if there is more grief to bear.
but it still seems right to me to offer a few things that have helped me hold space for my grief, God’s grace, and my greatest hopes for the future.
3 tips for soul bearing (& soul caring) in the age of covid:
baptisms can happen in bathtubs & showers. [many days i found myself resurrecting my belief in God and my belief in the goodness of myself and others as i washed away the stress and tears of the day. Letting the water flow helps.]
release yourself from performance. [when the tapes of #AhmaudArbery being murdered surfaced & the truth about #BreonnaTaylor 's senseless killing, i was angry and deeply emotionally disturbed. but i had several zoom calls to attend. what did i do? i began each meeting, naming where i was - a faithful opponent of white supremacy in all its forms - and uplifting Ahmaud’s & Breonna's name. it made some uncomfortable. it comforted others. but most importantly, it called me into accountability to my authentic self in that very moment. and that was all that mattered.]
keep record of yourself offline. [whether it's writing or drawing or snapping random photos or leaving a personal artifact in a secret location - do something that tethers you to life beyond the machine of performative culture we are living in today. create an extension of yourself that is not subject to other people’s gaze or critique. and bask in the glory of your fullness when all else in the world seems empty or lost.]
i know i’ve been away from my blog for a while, but i hope these tips help you. i encourage you to share your tips for soul bearing & soul caring in the age of covid with me in the comments below or via email. i’d love to hear from you. either way, i pray wholeness and healing for you and your journey. and remember, it’s okay for your slip to show.