There were days of silence. Not because I had no words, but because they won’t do. There were days of screaming. Not because I had no control, but because my mind needed to hear myself say Ahhhhhhhhh from the depths of my soul. There were days of tears. Not because I still had no control, but because what is control anymore. So I cried. I screamed a lot. I cried some more. I broke down and when I could, I pulled myself back up. I gave myself permission to accept not being okay. On those days, I hugged myself more, laid in bed and looked at old photos and videos with my children. Something about recollecting a pre-phase, helped. Especially for days where I gave myself permission to run. 12 miles a week, my highest on record. I gave myself stillness, a silent one, to just look and stare at the clouds or trees. Trees with their mysterious ways, especially icy trees, became my friend. That and nests. I gave myself permission to learn about nests, why birds build them, how they secure them, even how they discard them when done. I learnt a lot about nests. Hummingbirds for example build their nests with silk. Imagine that. I gave myself permission to ask questions. Beautiful ones too especially with my children. I told them to do the same and they have been non stop. I gave myself permission to radiate kindness or dream big, all words across my son’s shirt. That and happiness. That there could be happiness in moments like this was an anomaly. But with my children, I gave myself the permission to choose joy.

I also gave myself permission to listen to poetry. Pinke Gordon Lane for example dedicated to a woman poet or my dear friend Ritamae Hyde’s a mother’s love. My daughter did most of the reading and I simply listened so the words could reach the depth of my soul where screaming, and tears remained. I gave myself permission to imagine. Our imagination took us to the dinosaur park, the looking up statue, and everything Forest Park had to offer. The park itself was a constant ray of hope through all the struggles. Finally, I gave myself permission to read. Also sorts of books became my friend. All Toni Morrison books and Bell Hooks, and Audre Lorde and Patricia Bell Scott. There were also all the books by Chinua Achebe, Ifi Amadiume, Chinelo Oparanta who became my friend though on social media, and Ben Okri. Toni Cade Bambara’s Black Woman made me feel seen. Also Ta-Nehisi Coates Beautiful Struggle. He helped me give myself the permission to struggle beautifully all while keeping what matters. Between the world and me was a constant reminder that I mattered.

Ultimately I gave myself the grace to accept this experience. The grace to see it like a famished road, a crawling baby, an invisible ink, even a deer, my post on the mere sighting of a deer being a favorite for me. This was a pandemic of a lifetime. We were living through unprecedented times. That word was everywhere, though it never fully meant much to many people. So I accepted that people are never going to understand. I accepted that that those who cared, well, cared. In their own ways, they reached out and saw me and touched the silence, heard the screams and the tears, and did their part to fill the gaps that remained with love. Those that did, helped on those days when the burden was unbearable. Those that demanded, well I know their place in my life. For them, I gave myself permission to be like small axes.

But through it all, I fully know why my keep list matters. It has been like a space for therapy through this pandemic. A space for self-discovery. Like an eagle flying in the sky, it has become as space where I soar on my own unique terms. Like a root buried deep in the soil, it has become a space where I unearth the hidden, invisible parts of my life as a mother, including telling the stories of my children, one on spectrum that I never ever intended to tell. That I have been dealing with his beautiful struggles the past 6 years was supposed to be for me and my family. But the pandemic made me uncover it so others may understand why some mothers are screaming. I screamed too. I also cried. I was silent. And I survived. And such is the ramifications of the COVID19 pandemic one year later. To which I say keep all mothers and all caregivers in mind.

I recently asked my kids what they would like to do in the New Year that they have never done before. My 8 year old daughter would love to plant a garden in our new home. My six year old son wishes to stop crying. While my three year old son, simply wants to keep playing. Their hopes and impediments, depict how 2020 went down in my home. It was indeed a beautiful struggle. As we approach the start of 2021, my prayer for them and myself is that we stay focused on what really matters to us. That and the power and gift of struggling eloquently.

A small plant gift my daughter got to start her garden.

I share this because there is a video circulating via WhatsApp that depicts famous Nigerian pastors praying at the start of 2020 that their congregations may know blessings, abundance, plentiful grace, with unstoppable victory. I am paraphrasing but their prayers were the typical great prayers you hear at the start of a new year. You will read so many of them in the next 24-48 hours. As I watched the video, I was perplexed as to how none of the pastors saw a pandemic coming, a recession, closing of business, even homeschooling. None of them saw or prayed for the grace to bear whatever 2020 had in store, all it’s impediments and all it’s hope. No one prayed for folks to struggle eloquently in 2020. Yet we did. This was a tough year. An unexpectedly difficult year. But even it’s difficulties, every single struggle I encountered this year, was a test of my ability to struggle eloquently.

So as we kick off another New Year, while I would love to pray for abundance and blessings, plus plentiful grace and happiness, I would like to add to all that, may you also struggle beautifully. Keep normalizing struggle for the word also noted that when you are weak, when you are at your lowest point, he is strong. And if you know who your maker is, even if you pass through the deepest shadows of hell, he will be there. The truth is, you will pass through it. That’s why struggles are necessary. That and so you never forget that he will protect you as you pass through your struggle. The key is to pray for the grace to pass through all of it especially in the New Year. As you do, may your struggles, all of it, be as eloquent as you are.