It makes sense to me that writers don’t agree on whether writing is therapeutic.
For me, it always has been, but for some, writing is just hard and grueling. Writing has always been a site of pleasure even when I was writing about pain. It has offered me sanctuary and escape, transformation and beauty, solace, comfort and more.
As I’ve gotten older and grown in confidence and experience, writing has started to also offer me joy.
For Black women, especially, who are expected to do so much emotional labor and work in different contexts in this country, joy is a revolution. It is an act of resistance to decide to be well, and to choose joy.
This was hard to do this week, especially. I argued with myself about it, somewhat publicly on Twitter, briefly. I wrestled, privately, with whether I should be sharing. I have been writing, in no particular order, about the historical trauma and chronic stresses that Black women hold in our bodies due to racism; the long and ignored history of Black women’s political participation in this country since before the Nineteenth Amendment; fiction and poetry at the intersection of police violence, mental health, and Black Christian resistance to the full range and humanity of queer identities that literally kill Black women with silence — directly or indirectly.
When I finally stopped; when I realized I was triggered and needed to step away, there was more to be done but there was also a historic spectacle centered on the devaluation of women and patriarchal resentment — where a respectable woman was speaking bravely and an angry, livid, entitled white man was lashing out angrily and I just could not be a witness. I could not do the work of being a witness because I was tired.
I say this not because I want anyone to play any tiny violins for me — my life is wonderful and full and I have privileges that I have been both blessed with and I have worked my ass off for. I say this because I wish when I was younger I would have read, seen and heard more Black women say and model for me what to do when you are depleted.
We have seen with the very public suicides of celebrities what happens when people suffer privately with their demons; but there’s another choice to overwhelm. There’s a proactive answer to overwhelm, to fatigue, to the stress of burnout: Go some place quiet. Fill yourself up. Do what you want to do, for as long as you can, for as long as you can afford to. Do not die, literally or figuratively, at the mercy of what you think other people expect you to perform of your pain.
I’m thankful to have friends and loved ones to affirm me and to affirm this. They save my life. Every day. Every hour. Every moment — often without realizing it. They are constant reminders that I don’t have to expose myself constantly to things that are triggering and nor do you.
That is a long, precious set up for this essay about pigeons, which I know will seem so random and is a bit different for me. I wanted to laugh and humor myself after exposure to hard things and a ton of hard work, so there you have it.
Yes, hard things are happening, and there is work to be done. But I can still claim joy in some of these moments to write myself well. And you can, too.