At approximately 6:15pm on September 11, 2006, I sat down in my leather recliner and tried to remember if I took the time to breathe while dressing for work, while riding the train, and while at work. It is evident my respiratory system continued to function on this emotionally driven day of 911 remembrance. If it did not you would be reading a dead man’s commentary. Since I am not dead you are reading the words of a man who is alive, but drained from the stresses of his days.
Have you ever been so busy that you forgot to eat? If you know me you know that I will never forget to eat. However, I am one to forget to take a deep breath during my
self-created chaotic days. There have been countless Monday’s, Tuesday’s, Wednesday’s, and Thursday’s that I do not remember breathing. Seriously. It was not until I was sitting in my car at the end of a day while waiting on the light to change that I remembered to take a deep breath. And, at that time I was aware of myself. Truly aware! The deep breath was my reminder that I was a living human being. It was also my reminder that I have neglected myself. On days like this one, which is at least 4 days of my week, I did not leave my office, I ate at my desk, I rushed applicants off the telephone, I typed numerous emails with countless misspells (thank God for spell check), and I even forgot to drink my four quarts of water. This is not the way I should carry out my day. Unfortunately, I have become the one thing I dislike: A busy, self-centered, french fry craving American.
I cannot recall the last time I just relaxed. Even when I try to, the damn cell phone rings. How I detest my cell phone. I have told whomever would listen that I want to throw my cell phone out the window and never get another one. But, I have convinced myself that I need it. Isn’t it funny how our minds work? I forget to take a deep breath during the day to center myself, but I will not get rid of something that’s a constant nag.
Since I am losing the battle to slow down, I decided two years ago to take my deep breaths during my therapy sessions. Yes, therapy. You can’t be surprised that I have a therapist. If you have not noticed I am a complicated, conflicted, pissed-off, and intense black man. Some say I am a walking time bomb, and many believe my intensity is fueled by hatred. I contend that this is far from the truth. I don’t hate anyone or anything, I just dislike… Well, I will not get into that. If you are an avid reader of my commentaries you perfectly know what and who I dislike. You also understand my commentary objectives. Continue to read.
During college I did not understand why my white classmates were going to therapy. I thought they were trying to bring attention to themselves, and I also thought they were wimps. They complained about everything. “My toilet is stopped up; my room is cold; my room is too hot; I have too much research to do; my parents did not send me my $500 monthly allowance; etc.” It was an endless list of crybaby crap that I could not understand because I just was happy to have my own bed. It was their unnecessary whining that helped me realize that some of them were incapable of doing what was necessary to be happy, and I realized I needed to face the issues surrounding my upbringing. I could not do this alone. I needed therapy assistance to address REAL problems, and not trivial privileged people matters.
All this time I have been trying to be better than them (those white folk who threw temper tantrums at my undergrad school). Why wouldn’t I, when I was told, “Brian, you have to always be one step ahead of them because they have skin privilege and you do not.” This was hammered into my mental psyche every day of high school by my uncle Raymond. The pressure that developed from his ACCURAATE statement has overwhelmed me for years. To some degree therapy has eased the pressure. However, because of the accuracy of his statement I have been on a mission to stay three steps ahead. As a result of this, I have become an overachiever who finds it necessary to be “perfect”. We all know that no one can be perfect. Believe it or not, we cannot be “white like snow” like the church told us we could be while forcing the image of a pale face Jesus down our throats. Now, that’s perfection at its best: white like snow and a white Jesus! Many of us (black folk) have tried to be “perfect” and from our efforts we have worn ourselves ragged. To the extent that I can only breathe on Thursday mornings during my 45 minute $150 therapy sessions with a white man who is fascinated by my blackness.
So, Brian, what are you trying to convey here? Well, I am trying to encourage you to breathe. Really breathe. Take more deep breaths, turn off that text messaging machine, and most importantly look into going to therapy. I have always believed that black people are prime candidates for suicide. Considering our history we should have killed ourselves a long time ago. The raping of our heritage was brutal. It stretches back to the West coast of Africa. The affects of the rape is evident today in the way we treat each other, and in the methods we have taken to “stay ahead of them”.
Through my therapy I have discovered that I have spent years trying to please everyone around me. I have tried to be the image I created of Brian E. Payne, and not be Muata: He who searches for truth. I have worked so hard not to fail. So much so that I am compulsive with all my actions. This has led me to always attempt to be perfect. Not white like snow perfect, but PERFECT. My actions have suffocated me. I want to breathe again. How about you?
Written by Muata. Inspired by those black folk who finally stop saying, “Ain’t nothing wrong with me. I am just tired.”