Right Now, This Is the Best I Can Do
I used to be a life coach.
Then Ferguson happened. And Flint. And Standing Rock. And 45.
And I was done.
I put my work aside because every life coaching model I know assumes that the only thing keeping people from their dreams is themselves. It’s hard to keep selling people that story when systemic injustice exists, when you know that sometimes their “failure” wasn’t their fault.
My coaching practice was full of young black women who had hit the wall of injustice and believed that if they had said more affirmations or believed in themselves more it wouldn’t have happened. They’d come to me and wonder what more they could do, how much harder they should work, to get access to what they wanted.
As a life coach, I was trained to help them subdue their gremlins (those self-sabotaging voices that are the ONLY things that lie between us and what we want). Instead we talked about the Non-Profit Industrial Complex, respectability politics and how both can eat your soul alive. We let ourselves feel the disappointment that planted itself in our chests when we realized that the America we had been promised doesn’t exist….yet.
We talked about the fact that oppression is bullshit, that we deserve more than this, but that this is what we have….for now.
We realized we weren’t alone.
We found ourselves dusting off the lessons our families taught us when we were too young to believe we would need them.
Lesson 1: How to remember who we truly are when the world constantly lies about people who look like, love like or live like we do.
Lesson 2: How to stay whole when the world threatens to tear us apart.
Lesson 3: How to put ourselves back together when it does.
We shared the lessons we had crafted ourselves —
Lesson 1: How to find a good therapist.
Lesson 2: How to drop the “strong black woman” trope.
Lesson 3: How to land the job even when they told you your hair was unprofessional, then use that job offer as leverage to get paid more somewhere else.
Lesson 4: How to laugh when the manager says “we don’t promote black people here” and laugh again when your closest white friends can’t believe he said it.
Together we remembered how to live a liberated life in the land of the oppressed.
We marveled at what we already knew and walked away whole.
See, what I had forgotten, with all of my self-help/pseudoguru/Law of Attraction training, was the power of community.
Community is what makes our existence possible. It’s what makes our existence bearable.
Community is where we say “Oh God, this f-ing hurts” and hear “I know. You’re not alone.”
I don’t know if community, healthy community, is the solution to oppression but it’s the only thing I can believe in right now.