First, let me tell you: I was knocked on my behind with the flu last week. Lost five days at work – luckily, two were holidays – and felt the worst I’ve ever felt in a long time. Chills, fever, body aches, congestion in my lungs, coughing all night long, headaches, diarrhea, you name it. If you know anyone who looks even vaguely contagious with the flu, run from them like your hair was on fire. Trust me, you do NOT want to get what I had. I told my husband, Black Man Not Blogging (BMNB), that if this is what pneumonia is like, if I ever get pneumonia when I’m old, don’t let me suffer – just shoot me. Take a semi-automatic gun, roll up to my hospital room, and just shoot me at point-blank range, but please, PLEASE don’t let me suffer like I was suffering with that flu.
That said, like most folks, I had made many commitments this month – I had an artist friend coming in from out of town to celebrate her 40th and not celebrate the fact that she, like many folks, is unemployed (luckily, I still have my job – for now). I agreed to speak at a Black History Month program at my old junior high school, which is now a middle school. I told my best friend Sheila that I would draft a business plan for a business she’s thinking of buying. My dog needs flea medicine and vaccinations. The interior of my car looks like a dog grooming parlor. And my novel’s been going nowhere fast, and I paid to attend a writer’s conference next month.
But I had had the flu. I basically lost a week of my life. And just when I was coming out of it, I had all these commitments to meet with no energy to meet them with. I was basically giving from an empty cup. I wasn’t feeling 100%, and I just wanted to say “no” to everything and everyone and curl up in my bed and drink tea for another week. But I didn’t.
So, my friend came into town, and we traveled up and down the coast so she could see the shore and clear her mind(she’s from the Midwest). And at the end of her stay, she hooked up with an aspiring children’s book author friend of mine who is also unemployed and who needed an illustrator for the draft of a children’s book she’d written about a little black girl searching for God. They hit it off – both are faithful Christians -- and now they’ll begin collaborating on getting the book ready for publication and other projects.
I dragged myself out of bed today and spoke to over 400 middle school kids at my former middle school with the message, in accordance with their Black History Month theme, that “Yes, You Can,” with the caveat of one word: “If.” The “if” was, yes, they can accomplish their dreams IF they work hard, study hard, prepare themselves for an education, get an education, leave sex and drugs alone, and not make excuses, especially as students of color. Now that we have a black president, I told them, the day when they could ascribe their failures to “the system” and “the Man” are gone, even if that is the truth. It was a hard truth, but they needed to hear it. Needless to say, the teachers were very pleased with my message, since it’s the same message they’ve been trying to get across.
And now, I’ll write that business plan with what energy I have left. Next month, the dog gets her day at the vet, and my car gets its day at the auto detailer.
Mind you, I’m still not giving from a full cup, but it’s not quite empty either. If I had said “no” to the commitments I had already made, my artist friend might not have hooked up with my writer friend to not only write a series of Christian children’s books but plan a business empire based on the main character of the book – I’m talking dolls, clothing, etc. Black kids from my middle school might not have heard from an independent and ostensibly “successful” (as I was defined) black woman lawyer what their teachers have been telling them all along or see that someone like them could grow up to be a lawyer, doctor, president, or whatever they dream of being.
That said, I will be taking on fewer commitments. My cup is still not full. My energy is still low. But once I’ve said “yes,” I will do my utmost not to say “no” later, no matter how bad I feel, because I don’t want to think about what would have happened – or not happened, for that matter – if I had said “no” after having said “yes.”