Elikia nanga, there are small labours of love I do that you do not see, and perhaps shouldn't. But when you are old enough to read these letters, I want you to experience the things I remember and feel this love I have for you that seeps through my skin and collects as dew when I hug you or give you millions of kisses until you protest that I'm in your space.
Right now you are sleeping warmly in my bed, a pillow tucked on the edge to protect you from falling over. What you don't know is that every evening after you fall asleep in your bed, I anticipate your arrival in mine by preparing my space to be comfortable for you. I lay down pillows, but on an extra blanket, dim the lights and clear your side of the bed - for as long as you need it to be yours (despite that I often think of throwing you out because you snore, steal blankets and kick me in the gut throughout the night).
There are other things I do, in love - like play games with you when I'm really tired. Tonight, when we were driving home, we played games in the car. We made lion sounds, cow sounds and remixed 'Old McDonald's' as though it was set in a fantastical world featuring monsters and unicorns. And we played a game, 'Too many of...', where we listed the things we could see in the night that were many - street lights, red traffic lights, dark trees, cars.
And then, I think to myself, there are things that my inner world has too much of'; that are hidden in the darkness. Things that I have struggled to give words to, things that occupy my mind when we are apart or you walk in on me in the lounge staring blankly at the wall.
One of these things is not knowing how to be okay. I mean, I know how to be fine and jovial, but that deep-seated sense of security in-self often evades me. This, you will come to learn, is one of the reasons I am incredibly restless and busy, because it helps settle my mind when I have projects and plans to keep on the cusp of burnout. It is not sustainable to be this way. But you will come to learn that it is the outcome of a world of trauma that has required that I do not stop, lest I snap like the tightly wound elastic band that I am. I once read that 'falling apart' was not a luxury that black womxn could afford, by virtue of the fact that there would be few (if any systems) around us that could catch the fragments of our souls that need to fall.
I think in the context of raising you, this is very true for me but it is one of the things I am working to address so that you know you can fall apart and I will be here to catch you, at 3, at 5, at 10, at 20, at 40 and god-willing at 60. I work hard at big problems on which my contribution is a drip in the ocean of love that is seeping through the world. It is good that way, because otherwise I would develop a god-complex. But there is an even bigger problem that I need to work hard at as an unseen labour of love to you - learning how to be okay.
This is something that evades me by virtue of my need for survival and my constant expectation that I need to perform to survive and provide for you. It is both the lifeline that will pull us out of economic uncertainty and the rope around my neck that will strangle us. It will create a false sense of surety that hard work would truly bring true joy (as was my high school motto) - when in fact racism, sexism, homophobia, trauma, misogyny, selfishness, vanity and many more vices will diminish the gains from hard work because of the world and who we are in the world.
And so being okay requires a sense of calm and comfort with this trauma and a recognition of the small gains that make life worth living. It requires not always looking for problems when the dust has settled from the joyous stomping of our feet. It requires you seeing that inasmuch as I cry, I belly laugh and roll on the floor with you. It requires saying no. It requires getting up and leaving when we are unsafe. It requires resting and sleeping enough hours. Holding ourselves with gentle hands. Having fun. Being in solitude and being around people who build us as we build them. It requires trusting our intuition, listening to the ansisters that breathe within our gut. It requires rebellion that looks like rage, like kindness, like deep love-co-creation, like laughter, like swearwords, like vices, like complexities.
Perhaps this rebellion would be the making of a nuanced (rather than nebulous) joy, where you recognize that my tears of sadness are in an intimate relationship with my tears of joy. That I could not know the joy of making cow sounds with you in the car, if I did not know the sadness of isolation and rejection. That the same love that drives me to prepare my bed for you in joy, is the same love that has me doing our laundry at 10.30pm at night despite exhaustion. These things can co-exist beautifully and the chaos can be part of the love affair we have with ourselves. The important distinction here is that these are acts of choice by which I exercise my full agency to be your mother, at the same time that I am a living, sexual, social, political, emotional being.
That said, this is an early attempt at articulating to you that I know I am not always okay, and that I am learning what it looks like for me to be okay in the weeping and in the rejoicing. For now, it looks like sitting near you as you sleep confident that you are my closest connection to the ethereal in ways that push me into these spaces of self-exploration. For this I am grateful to you.
Na lingui yo.