What Burdens I Will Bear (Part One) by La Vonda R. Staples
This has been a year. I’ve been way up and way down. I’ve earned a large paycheck and I’ve also had to count out change in mostly pennies, nickels and dimes. I’ve earned my stripes this year. I never gave up for long. I did give up for maybe a week or a couple of days or even give myself over to tears for an hour. I never surrendered. I’m here. Big as life and twice as vivid and I must confess that I have trouble remembering that I’m almost fifty years old. I don’t feel an age. I just feel me. I just feel like I’m worth the fight for success, contentment, and fulfillment.
It is unfortunate that the word ‘burden’ has a negative connotation. The word only means something that you’re carrying. We say, “I don’t want to be a burden” and we know this is something negative and pejorative. But aren’t there happy burdens as well? Isn’t a bag full of money a good burden? How about a sack full of good ol’ greens, macaroni and cheese and candied yams? Isn’t that a good burden? A small child. Dreaming and smiling sweetly in your arms. I don’t recall that there are many things I can’t do with a child in my arms (has it been so long since I held one that I have to sit and think about it). I can cook, write, type, and a host of other things while holding that precious burden in the crook of my arm and pressed close to my hip. Yes. There are certainly good burdens. I didn’t even have to ask that question.
So, let’s start with the easy ones. I’m keeping all of the good burdens I picked up when I lived in Washington, D. C. I hope they return the favour. I have never been so constantly enriched by my companions in my life. It was like the folks I met in D. C. were like one of those old Earth, Wind and Fire albums. Not a bad single in the entire bunch. I was so very fortunate. I hope they keep me too. Likewise, with a couple of exceptions, I’m keeping the African immigrants I met over the last two years. I have never felt so dumb in all of my life as when I was listening to them, reading their work, viewing their achievements, and just experiencing different situations through their eyes. I’m also keeping everyone I met who resides in New York City. I don’t know if it’s me or if it was them – some kind of weird magic took hold and I was brought into an atmosphere of like attracting like.
Here are some surprises. I’m ditching nearly my entire family. We’ve had a good run. It’s time to move on. I have some things I need to see. We have never gotten along and I’m tired of lying and pretending like we do. Those who want to keep me are the ones I want to keep. Those who have never meant me any good? It’s okay. I forgive you. Please do the same for me. And not none of that crazy ass new-agey forgiveness with the requisite hugs and lunches and attempts (once again) to put together what has never been together. I’m talking about a firm forgiveness where we go off and just live our lives. Don’t have to wish me well. Just leave me the hell alone and I promise you (I’m so sincere) that I’ll do the same for you. This life, for me, is not a place to constantly regurgitate bad words and ill feelings. That’s wasted air. I could use that air to say something truly profound at the moment of my death. I could use that air to tell somebody, “they shootin’” and possibly save someone’s life. I could use that air to tell a small child that they are loved. In letting you go, I’m really deciding how I will use my air.
My children? My kids. My four babies. I can’t get rid of you. I can’t quit you. I love you. You are allowed to quit me but I can’t quit you. You know why I can’t quit my kids and why you can’t quit yours either? They don’t ask to come here. You brought them here and I think we bring these souls here totally against their celestial will(s). I really believe that there are little butt naked angels just clinging to the fences, gates, windows and doors of Heaven and pleading, “Don’t send me down there!” I really believe it. Who would want to be here if they had ever been to Heaven? So, I gotta keep the kids.
Now I’m also a burden too. I hope my good friends, my close friends, will suffer with me yet a little while longer. I know it’s hard. I know I’m heavily burdened and sometimes I drop a bundle or two. But please be patient with me because I’m making room in my life and my heart just for all of you. I’m clearing out this edifice so that precious little junk takes up my limited space. There’s one spot for my bad friend. One spot for my romantic friend. One spot for my intellectual friend. And there’s always room for two, three praying women and that’s the God’s honest truth.