I call myself a grant writer. It’s written all over my professional bio. It has also given me two essentials truth to living: humility and humanity. By humility, I think of grantwriting as a journey into becoming fearless with failing. If today’s questions like how might we end a global pandemic or persistent public health issues with equally devastating disparities is burrow deeply in your mind, then a viable alternative is how can we become the vehicles through which we bring change. And in the course of change, how do we become fearless with failure. Grant writers have a monumental responsibility to bring healing , while also becoming prepared to fail. Many say there is an art to grant writing. I agree. But almost all roads lead to one or two or in my case more than 24 unfunded grants.

Yet still, I have learnt to value each failure as they occur. It’s the deep sighting necessary for the journey to becoming a grant writer, one where humility is key. I am not afraid to fail. I realize that the ideas I have may be ambitious, but I am willing to tell the story again. In fact I am compelled to write a new version of the story because humanity desperately needs ideas that last. By humanity, I think of grantwriting as a journey in service of others. If I am lucky, to create programs that last, lucky to tell the story of why sustainability matters, lucky to give the best of my ideas to the world, lucky to bring healing to people, many I may never meet, then I will forever be committed to ensuring that they attain their highest rights to health. Grant writing cuts in both directions for me, one that I will always remain patient as my story continues to unfold. Do I have all the answers? No. But humanity deserves those that committed to telling the story for however long it takes. I am prepared for the journey.

Perhaps the greatest gift grant writing has given to me is a never ending desire to learn. I am always in awe of the depth of learning that occurs with each grant I write. I come out of the process with each grant, changed even though the journey was emotional. I trust the tensions they allow, something I recently learnt as part of altMBA. The failures are uncomfortable and can be disheartening given all the agony and effort that goes into a grant. But it’s journey of going again, writing another grant, learning once more why this story matters, for whom and how it will unfold, whether I succeed or fail, that keeps me alert. The serenity I get once the story starts to unfold cannot be fully put to words. And it’s the mystery of that story, the way it would be framed, with nothing to hide, that makes this process a joyful one for me. The true destination of grants and their writing of them is life. I live my best life whenever I write new grants. They have changed my life and continue to transform it into higher possibilities.

I’m on the journey again with humility and humanity as my guide. I am preparing to also take wings and soar with this one. It really feels good, the writing of it. I have spent over a month many sense of one page, the most critical aims page, something I call a purple cow. I have draft version one. My colleagues pushed me. I drafted version 2 and shared with them yesterday. They will review on Monday. What they don’t know is yet is that I’m on version 3. I already see the problems with version 2 that they haven’t even reviewed and I have moved on. The journey continues to unfold. I woke up this morning ready to blog hear but the story for the grant kept haunting me. So I spent my morning trying to make sense of my Why for this grant. I almost missed church but I get it know. I can see things clearly now. Hence version 3. Will I fail? Yes. But I also realize these days that each grant chooses me so that I can serve humanity even if I fail. I have been chosen for the journey. I am prepared to move in whatever direction it takes. I am also keeping this one here because I can’t wait to share how grants continue to help me rewrite my life story. Until then, keep humility and humanity with grantwriting.

When the gates of new possibilities are opened for children, they go through. My daughter is a prime example. For her, reading is life. I have watched over the years, how it continues to transform her consciousness. I see it’s power through her lens. I see it’s push to higher spaces through her commitment. What I didn’t expect was the ways it would keep her responsive and alert to her own unique possibilities. Often we don’t see this transformation. Often we truly do now know that exact moment when a child becomes an author, when a child picks up a pen and starts telling their own story, when a child awakens to their own possibilities. I am living in that moment.

I have had the privilege of being a witness to this transformation with my daughter. Writing for her started passively, something to keep her busy with during the unprecedented summer of a lifetime with the start of the pandemic. In a pre-pandemic era, we read to oblivion. She earned her way through reading. I have no problem admiting that it all started when she was 6 and I promised to give $100 dollars for reading 100 books. She did and I paid. I have tried this same tactic with her brothers to no avail. So I pressed on with her. The following summer, the same charge, 200 books for $200. She did it again. And so our summer reading behaviors solidified and I of course was happy. Until the pandemic. One way to make up for all the books we needed was to go the library. The pandemic closed her abilities to use her library card. In a rather feeble attempt to keep her busy, I casually stated, why don’t you start telling stories then. What I didn’t realize at the time was the power of the word. That parents can birth new dreams in their children with words is astounding to me. I gave her the gift of possibilities.

She went away to that special place that writers tap into for inspiration and wrote her first short piece, illustrated by her and published by me. I have written about it in an old post focused on writing like a child (here) In fact the first lengthy piece that stretched my own writing when my keeplist began was my reflection of her first storybook Kaylin and Little Foot. I was stunned that she would take my request on and work on a story she would like to read. Since then, she has been writing and journaling non stop. I have pressed on too with my writing. She reads this keeplist. She also awakened me to my own possibilities with writing. When I recently asked why she continues to write, she said is because I do the same. She has made me more responsive and alert to the power of my words and action. Often we don’t hear this direct stuff as to when writing begins in childhood so pardon my focus on it.

But my keeplist today isn’t even about my daughter’s writing from the past. Rather, I want to talk about the future and how she represents what I know would be great ahead. A little over a week ago, I gave her a little blue book to keep her busy again. Her school was beginning Spring break for the week and she wanted things to do. I said let’s read. She mentioned she has read all her books and needed new ones. While we were talking, I was busy cleaning the house. As if on cue (the universe and it weird ways), I found a little blue book full of empty pages while rifling through materials I was cleaning. I tore away the used portion and said, why don’t you go write stories again. Be open and take us on an adventure. I left her to decide how to approach this assignment. I expected it to keep her busy. Little did I know that it would awaken the possibilities in her.

Enter, ‘The Golden Sapphire.’ How she comes up with her titles and table of contents is mesmerizing to me. How my words take her to a place where anything is possible is sterling to me. How she chooses to be open in this manner is what I intend to keep, for it is beautiful to me. I don’t know what the future holds, but the possibilities of it are there, if only she continues to do her part to see the richness of her ways. And she is stupendously rich. The unexpected dimensions of her ways keeps me alert to her future, one that personifies that word Nkiruka, what is ahead is great. I am keeping this here because I have no idea what I have done to awaken this in her. Like I said earlier I have tried and failed with her brothers, though the verdict is still out and I know they look up to her. Speaking visions of possibilities to our children is the most generous investment we can make. One that I intend to keep for myself and gift to her always.

Even as I share the images above, I am only using them here for emphasis as it’s the current story she is busy working on. Kaylin and Little Foot went on to become a chapter series, about 12 of them. Then there was The tiny, tiny team below, a short story collection illustrated by her, and a host of other collections. What I have learnt through this experience is that the ultimate gift we can offer our children is possibilities. The richness of it all is there, if only we help them discover it’s unexpected dimensions for themselves. Of course they must go through the door themselves. But the thought of bursting open, the gate of possibilities, the thought of awakening her to her potential, the thought of empowering her creativity, is a keep worth celebrating. It also a reminder to keep seeing the possibilities in children.

Perpetually mysterious, weird, and profound is motherhood to me. As a mother to four children, there are times when I feel like I know what I am doing. Times when I say stop, they actually listen and stop. Times when I try again, and it falls on deaf ears. That the role is constantly defined and undefined is part of the mystery. Nothing ever seems as it should. One minute a child might be crying for his drums or music instrument that you took away from him. The next minute he is perfectly serene playing with a party hat for example, while the drum and music instrument he just cried profusely for, sits quietly next to him. It’s this mystery that I want to keep like a third eye. Not to resolve it, but to stay vigilant to its gifts, to unravel its ways. It’s weirdness too is freedom especially when transformed to higher realities. For what is motherhood without an awakening of its many weird ways, an awakening of its wonder, even an awakening to the tyranny of descriptions that has plagued for centuries what it truly means to be good or bad. Like a third eye now, being a mother is forever mysterious, forever changing too, forever patient, forever being misunderstood, but forever full of possibilities.

This beautiful illustration by Ekene Kokelu personifies the mystery and weirdness of work and motherhood. Like a third eye, I am now awakened to all my possibilities, what lies hidden, underneath and along the margins.

Even in the middle of chaos, the patience through which we make sense of the chaos cannot be completely unraveled. What keeps this aspect of our lives interesting is that some of us, myself included, expect the chaos, as weird as it may seem. We widen out due to it, like a ripple in a river. We even learn to thrive with noise in the background. And the noise of a crying toddler can be huge. Life changing even when they attempt to cry and talk at the same time. But because life as a mother is fluid, I have no choice but to expect chaos whether from a 3 year old whose only recourse is to cry when things seem impossible or from a new baby whose happy place is to be tucked in your arms for all eternity. How then are we expected to work? Yet we do and do it to the best of our abilities. This is why the mystery of this phase continues to slowly occupy my reality. Slowly keep me vigilant to all its possibilities, it’s richness, it’s fullness, even what lies hidden, between, underneath, along the margins of life as a mother and life as an academic researcher.

I can be in the middle of a crazy crying spell that may last for one hour, trying to appease or please, or trying to be stern and unyielding. By the next hour, I am writing a near stellar specific aims page for a new grant. I maybe making plans for movie night, even spending an hour and 30 minutes watching Lorax for example with my children. The next hour, I am reviewing grants, exceptionally beautiful ones, for example, from impressive scholars focused on using geospatial science and machine learning to construct predictive models for disease outbreaks in sub-Saharan Africa. This mystery, it’s possibilities, it’s richness and hidden dimensions are profound to me.

Enter, freedom. One thing that keeps this mystery going these days is freedom, both with my imaginations and my dreams and this blog full of what to keep. I am free to go anywhere and everywhere, and keep anything from my experience because of my children. They help set in motion my time for example, its limits and abundance. For when there is silence, time is abundant and I am free to do as I please. They also help frame my destiny. All the spectrum of chaos I encounter with them, helps me set in motion what matters, including how I hope to shape the world for them. For it is always about them, whether from the beginning or in the end. They are the touchbears of my legacy. The ones to tell the stories of who I was to the next generations and beyond. The ones to sustain the stories of my silence, my survival. And for that story to thrive, for the next generation to hear of it’s beginning, it’s resolution, it’s connections, it’s essence and become defined or not defined by it, keeps me alert.

The continents inside of mothers, the possibilities that resonate, even the chaos that abound along the endless journeys we take remains a weird mystery to me. Though we may have fixed perceptions of what this experience entails, even my life story is more mysterious to me with each passing day. My goal with each keep is to widen this mystery and embrace its weirdness. Not so you understand it as it can never be fully understood like with multiplications or divisions. Though many have outlined what they know in their heart motherhood entails, and I have no doubt that many resonate to their ideas. My goal with this keeplist is to push the boundary a bit more. To redraw the outlines, to probe a bit, or create tensions, all along the spectrum of weird. For isn’t this mystery with motherhood weird afterall, especially for us working mothers. That there might be good aspects to being weird mothers who work or even negative ones along a spectrum, is compelling to me. The steps I take along this journey, with all its mysterious weird ways, is freedom to me. So keep this mysterious and weird journey of working mothers in mind.

Marsh wrens are little songbirds that build multiple nests in their territories. Often described as dummy nests, males build these nests for three reasons. First as a courting center, male wrens use dummy nests to attract, sing and display their male fitness to females. And it’s a battle for desirable sites, desirable mates. For to attract a prospective mate requires displaying nests that not only impress, but also remove other males from their territories. Second as a decoy, dummy nests are used to confuse predators, thereby reducing predation around breeding nests. So the more dummy nests around 1 active breeding nest, the greater the odds that a predator would find an empty nest and leave the area before discovering the breeding nest. Third, as a cover or site for survival, dummy nests are used to shelter new nestlings. Court, confuse, cover, these three C’s, perfectly illustrate how I have silently survived mothering and work during this pandemic of a lifetime.

A marsh wren.

As a mom to three children under the age of 8, I did my best to become friends with the complexities of homeschooling. A desirable harmony with homeschooling was the goal when school began in the Fall. The Spring version of homeschooling at the start of the pandemic was a disaster. I wanted joy in the Fall. So, we began for example with a family newsletter to chronicle our daily experiences through homeschooling. We took pictures, shared little stories, even encouraged ourselves to love school now effectively at home. It lasted for six weeks. Homeschooling was at times harsh, was at times vigorous, at times rattling and at times weary and I did my best to court it fully even with joy in mind.

One of our newsletters in the early days of the pandemic. This was issue 2.

As if that wasn’t enough, the pandemic ushered in a new age of confusion alongside the madness of reality. In fact, we’re were all mad. We learnt to smile with our eyes and laugh with our mouths all invisible due to mask wearing. We learnt to accept and cringe with school at home and home at school. Even with assignments from homeschooling that required our children to imagine animals were mask, a bee for example wearing a mask. Like, I said, madness became a new normal. That and hiding. We learnt to hide in bathrooms for work, hide in closets for sleep, hide in cars to free ourselves from the chaos of running, energetic children during the day and night, in the morning or in the evening. They were everywhere hence the age of confusion for mothers like myself. All that work life balance we said we had, with home helping to strike the balance became a lie. In fact, as a global health researcher, there was no balance not with work or with my life as a mother to three children and a new infant, born at the height of the pandemic.

My son drawing a bee wearing a mask at the beginning of the school year. Even I was confused, a bee wearing a mask!

Yet through it all, the pandemic became the cover I never knew I needed for my survival. Not only did it awaken my eyes to the multiple dimensions of my life, it also helped me realize how much for example, I love to ask questions too. Questions that keep me alert to my potential. Questions that continue to awaken a desire for more. The sense of unfinished questions, unfinished goals, unfinished ideas, became a cover during the pandemic and it kept me motivated. I also taught my children the significance of their own questions, and how it can usher a confidence about yourself or what you are grateful for as with the drawings from my daughter below.

When asked what are you thankful for, my daughter drew her response.

In the past few months, I not only courted the pandemic, but I watched as it ushered an age of confusion with my role as an academic scholar and a mother. Ultimately, the pandemic became a cover or a shelter for survival and self-discovery. One that provided the time necessary to discover what I am called to do in this world. That I long to make explicit our stories, long to shed light on the unthinkable, long to disassemble every myth, and long to recognize the brilliance of Black women who mother and work moves me enormously.

The time also has come to turn light on all the unexpected corners we court in life, all the spaces that confuse, and all the things that act as covers so we soar. My world as a Black woman scholar with four your children is vastly different from how other people see me. I know this fully well. And by courting the pandemic, allowing its confusion to wet my soul, while also basking in its cover, I know my way forward. Keep marsh wrens and their 3 c’s in mind and court, confuse, cover your life story.

The saying that no one is free until we are all free is seared deeply in my mind. That it shouldn’t have to been this way, with vigilance now as an ethos, stays deeply in my mind. That eight people, 6 of them Asian would be killed for no reason, also seats deeply in my mind. That they were working hard for a livelihood, at a place where rest should be the norm, burrows a hole deeply in my mind. That I imagine they felt protected, maybe even secured, with each other, is etched deeply in my mind. I imagine they fought to live, fought to claim their rightful place in the land of the living, in a place of rest, breaks my heart in pieces. I imagine their eyes, the look of disbelief, the look of shock, maybe even awe, not for the killer but for life, breaks my heart in pieces. I imagine they did their part to ensure we remember their names, and not the cowardly act of a fool who shall not be named. I imagine them free, from all the pain this world gives. Free from all the attack, free from all the hate. Just free.

Though they are gone, love will conquer the hate they tried to sow deep in our minds. Love will heal and put back the broken pieces of our heart. Love will free them all. One after the other, love is all I have left, with all 8 of them now buried deeply in my mind.

I told my husband yesterday that I was the Beyoncé of grantwriting. He laughed. I was serious. Imagine breaking records with all the grants in my head, the same way she broke the record for the most Grammy wins for any female artist over the weekend. Something about what Beyonce said in her acceptance speech made me realize that it has always been inside of me, this desire to be creative. It’s why I am drawn to grantwriting. I have been asking questions all my life that the only logical way to creatively ask them and get paid or call it a career is through grantwriting. So I am keeping this one here for the moment when I too start to break records. It’s coming. I put in the time. I do my part to be truly innovative. Not the type to recycle ideas, but the type to think outside the box literally. One of my favorite grants of all time written by a dear friend noted the following and I’m paraphrasing: ‘individual researchers innate tendency towards homogeneous ideas, are part of the reasons why we find ourselves in the mess called health.’ His words about all of us being homogeneous is seared deeply in my soul. He is also right. It’s the reason why I deliberately look for new people to collaborate with. Deliberately even sell failure to them when we begin so long as they are willing to begin. It’s the reason why I always seek change. For if you want to be Beyoncé, then you have to be prepared to change the music all the time. I am.

Beyoncé breaking record’s with the most Grammy wins for a female artist.

In my years of grant writing I have noticed that even the well funded researcher recycles their grants all the time. They get funded so why change. The ideas may be couched under different titles, but it’s the same ideas. That they even get the funding isn’t the answer either because when they are done, nothing really changes. I used to be enamored with the funding but these days my eyes are open and I’m telling the truth. Nothing is also sustained. ‘Why bother with a grant or yet another study if it will only be fleeting?’ Another quote form one of my favorite papers on sustainability. I can tell you the ending from day one with studies that won’t last because, well they have been consistently telling us the ending from day 1, if only our eyes were open long enough to see.

I prefer to be different even if it means failing or being called ambitious. When sustainability is your mission, your ideas will ambitious. All my earlier grants deliberately had the word sustainability in their title. Even though they all failed, they made me a better grant writer, one that I might add is better off than those who get all the funding. For failure let’s me keep dreaming, keep fine tuning the ideas. I prefer this process too of reimagining what it would be like if we tried this way or move in this direction or even throw everything we know out of the door and start afresh. I long for innovation. I am not afraid to go talk to an entrepreneur, to ask how did they come up with their ideas in hopes that I can bring it to my field. I have done so a lot. Recent example, altMBA.

As if my plate wasn’t already full, last Thursday I graduated from Seth Godin’s altMBA program designed for people who want to make a difference in the world. It was an intensive 30 day program. It also changed my life. I was in a learning community with thought leaders from Facebook, Shopify, people with their own business, people making music, all of us with the intense desire to be the difference, to be the light, the world desperately needed. I learnt more than my soul could even take from people with ideas and perspectives vastly different from my own. They opened my eyes and my ears to the possibilities inherent in ourselves if only we believed that we are capable. I understood my assets and boundaries a lot better, made sense of my narratives, publicly spoke for change and achieved my goal written from day 1, about 4 days before the deadline. By the end of the program, I knew in my heart that my journey through this life is only beginning. And I am the Beyonce of grantwriting, one much prepared to dance with fear, prepared to do the hard part even if I fail, prepared to make a ruckus for a sustainable platform for research. As if I don’t have enough to do, I am also the next leader, of what working mothers should keep. All my stories will be told as I continue to do the emotional labor necessary with telling the truth of our experience for our silence, for our survival. Keep being the Beyoncé of your field.

As I type this, I am sleepy. Tired too. I almost didn’t write today. I let work and all it’s intricacies take control. I am writing now given the commitment I made to myself. That I would write not only in joy but also in pain. Not just when alert, but also when sleepy.

Bell Hooks once shared in her book Sisters of the Yam, that when we speak the truth of our lives, we begin to heal. Telling the truth, a flat-footed one, as Patricia Bell Scott would suggest, is a crucial step in any process of self-recovery. Telling the truth releases the burden of hiding. Telling the truth helps to shape and determine my destiny. Telling the truth keeps me alert. It’s also a reminder of the powers that lie deep within me and a commitment to honor that power. And so writing has become a space where my truths are uncovered, where my feelings are expressed, and my thoughts are listened too.

Writing for me is also a place of hope. An intense one. It’s the one place I am free to be myself. Free to touch my core self. Free to let it be. Free to let it move as I want. Free to let it speak as it feels. Writing is hope for me. A space where my soul is restored, where my mind is recovered, where my being is redeemed even while sleepy. Keep telling your truth.

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.

She maybe the first to wake up. The last to sleep. The first to soothe the tears or shield the pain. The last to cry her tears or open the hurt. Mothering is both a skill and art. The first is popular. From knowing how to nurture connections with a new life, with the life itself upon its arrival and the greater community to simple gestures of love with every bathing, every soothing, every singing, every caring, every feeding, mothering is a skill that varies with each mother. Though it can be rekindled, rejuvenated, refined, with each passing day, each passing moment that let mother’s relieve the joys of this skill.

My boys and I.

But as art, the impression mothering leaves on the woman is lasting. As art, mothering is another matter. Like knocking on a moonlit door, it is full of silence. Even when the knock is louder, the silence remains. Amidst all the loud noise, the crying babe, the running water, silence for her being. Not because her soul isn’t stirred or shaken by the knock. She listens. Not because the knock isn’t louder or that she doesn’t lift her head. She is still. As art mothering is full of this silent stillness. This form of art that engulfs those who mother is often hidden, invisible and between everything else that occupies her being. As a mom to a child on the spectrum, my life depends on it.

When we started my son with behavioral therapy at the age of 2, the goal was to gain skills to help him function above his noise. I learnt new thing’s like the mind’s love for stimming and gained new skills like redirecting the mind. Almost none of the skills I gained worked. The brain was indeed a powerful element. I was prepared to work with my son so long as we got basic skills down like using words rather than pointing or looking people in the eye rather than looking away. But the place where I lacked power was with the crying. When the meltdowns begin, triggered by almost anything, nothing stops it. The brain has a mind of its own.

On one occasion, the meltdown was intense. The behavioral therapist was in our home. She looked like us. One of the drawbacks of therapy is the lack of people that understood your frustrations with few words. Melissa did. She was the reason why I believed therapy would work despite my inability to acquire any skills. But on this day, the crying was strong. She took him to a room. Removed all the things that he would use to hurt himself, kept him in the room, locked the door and proceeded to ask him to calm down. I was silent. My heart was crying, but in silence, in stillness. I listened to my son cry during a period which felt like eternity. Though his tears were visible, mine was just as strong, though invisible. Melissa pleaded, asked for him to remain calm. The brain still had a mind of its own. This process lasted for over 45 minutes with the brain acquiescing. Through Melissa, I knew we could listen to the stress, though the brain may still win. Where Melissa had the power to knock and the brain opened, I lacked the emotional strength to do the same. Everytime I knocked on my own during my son’s meltdowns, the brain won.

Overtime pieces of the tears began to engulf my being. I too began to listen, to dance to the rhythms of the brain, it’s own language. It’s been three years since the incident with Melissa and now, the brain does the knocking. Imagine speaking to an open brain. Overtime, after years of countless knocking, and with the help of countless people, I watch as my son’s brain started to do the knocking, started to open up. Though the meltdowns are still there, they are more refined, more restorative, more revealing. Though his brain may still have a strange way with his being, a silent stillness is my response. Even when his cries grow louder. In stillness, I remain silent, listening to his brain’s language. Even with no words each meltdown has become powerful. And with no words, my silent stillness is just the same. On an occasional basis, the knock may be louder. Is anybody there, the brain may even ask of me. My silence, my stillness is just as loud.

My boys and I.

Ethereally lost in the world of words, Pinke Gordon Lane was a poet’s poet. She once said, her ideas, her reality, filled her with a drunken desire. I am learning about this desire with writing. Pinke was a master at writing poetry her way. She had a way with words that could make you feel drunk. She also wrote for herself, the kind of poetry she wanted to hear herself. Take for example one of her poem’s entitled ‘A quiet poem’ where she spoke of things often not quiet among blacks people, like pain. But rather than delving deeply into the pain, Pinke used words instead, like a soothing balm, to quiet the mind, the origin of pain. But it’s her poem, ‘To a woman poet I know,’ that I want to share to you all in praise of International Woman’s Day.

Pinke Gordon Lane

I deliberately choose to write my blog now, not because I didn’t have anything to say like the cliched Happy Woman’s Day, but because I wanted my words to move me as well. I am drawn to Pinke and her words because she first wrote for herself, the poem, or in my case, the stories, I have always wanted to read. If only more black women scholars wrote this book and I was given opportunities to understand as only we sisters know to speak, what to do when the devil knocked at my door. That my mind would wander is what Pinke’s poem states. It would wander but fall into it and wait for the truth. That my voice would not save me, is another thing Pinke stated. That I maybe lost, standing on the edge, even surrounded by terrible darkness as we help ourselves to make sense of where we find ourselves in academia. A space in need of light was the gift she offered. That and the need to dispel any personal and private hell black, lovely and lost women may be experiencing. Even when our voice cries our, with the silent air, dissolving us, our essence, our being, Pinke reminded me that my beauty and strength, my very existence, were all destined from the begin. She may have been writing to a woman poet. But Pinke was speaking to my soul. Keep knowing the beauty and strength of you. Pinke would want that.