Dizzying/Against Balance

I didn’t know you well enough to know what you were going through, but I really wish you had stayed around a little longer. I hope that you have found peace.


For the past few weekends and a few after-work evenings in between, I have spent time in the presence of some of my favorite people in Boston and in general, wearing the same grin almost the entire time with them, and on the inside for hours after. I have been feeling so much joy that I am always tempted to apologize to the people who have the misfortune on the receiving end of my excited chatter, even faster than my usual high-speed speech. My grandma still gets frustrated trying to decipher all my running together words, and tells me to speak Ewe because she knows my brain unfortunately moves much more slowly when I have to translate thought to speech in Ewe.

Usually, I will undercut my own joy with a sense of foreboding, with the fear that my rightful fate lurks around the corner ready to yank me back into the misery which I deserve and in which I belong. As unsettling as this type of joy can be when it is accompanied by anxiety, I also feel most like myself, like the little self with the Afro puff or 2-4 braids (the extent of my mum’s hairstyling prowess when I was little) winning dancing competitions at your birthday party and your cousin’s too, like the me who would not be skipped ahead to the next class because I couldn’t be contained in my seat after I sped through all my work (the teachers thought I was too immature, but in my defense, I was five) the me who earned the nickname Dizzy because that’s how I made everyone in the house feel.

This isn’t the temporary euphoria of the “I took my meds, now I’m healed, let’s hang out” variety. I feel deeply at peace and able to tackle the difficulties of building a life as an adult thousands of miles away from majority of the people who love you the most. Two years ago around this time, four wisdom teeth out, a pinched nerve­­—sit up straight at your desk beloveds—and wrongly processed insurance claims leading to hundreds of dollars in bills where there should only be tens would have sent me into a downward spiral of self-loathing, of feeling stuck and unworthy of anything positive.

“Was there ever a little girl in the whole wide world who was so loved and as loving as you!” -from a journal entry my mum wrote to me, dated December 31st, 1993

I would’ve been feeling as though the universe was conspiring to ensure that I would receive the punishment I surely deserved, which in turn made working through challenges even more difficult, leading to the spiral extending further downward and so on. I’m almost tempted to go as far as saying that what my mother and my therapist both call “the vicissitudes of life” feel easier and nowhere near as insurmountable when I’m not trudging through depression’s swamp. I am less inclined to apologize for things I didn’t do, to state plainly when I feel offended and better at expressing myself without the anxiety of trying to figure what the other person wants to hear, to recognize when I’m wrong without it turning into self-loathing, to believe that my low moments are some void of misery threatening to swallow anyone who gets too close. I feel more capable of staying at the surface of my life. Who knew this would be possible?

This was actually a low moment, but I look in this photo how I feel these days. You can catch me singing along to whatever is playing on my headphones at any bus stop near you. I am now one of those people. (February 2018)

When my mother came to visit soon after what happened had happened, I was newly on the mend, and I was talkative, and energetic, and dizzy. She kept telling me to calm down, and I folded into myself, offended at the suggestion that I was being too much, manic (not in the clinical sense) even.

“Why are you telling me to calm down? Isn’t this better than me being miserable?”

“Baby, it’s about balance. You just need to find a balance.”

At the time, I didn’t think to tell her that I am not and probably never will be a laidback person, and that if I have appeared laidback or reserved on and off over the past few years, that is what my misery looks like. I didn’t think to tell her that if balance means risking talking too much, slightly grating even, uncontainable joy and where I was that evening in March, then I don’t want balance. I was not upset with her, because I think she just forgot how Dizzy could be. I know I had. Because I’m blessed to be the daughter of a wonderful mother, I was able to explain to her how unsettled I was feeling about her reminders about balance. She apologized and admitted that her advice was coming from a place of concern that I might have been experiencing mania; what she described as an “armchair diagnosis” on her part, an attempt to make some sense out of a state she had never seen me in prior to that week in March.

I’m feeling dizzy, and joyous, and loved without condition or caveat. I’m feeling more like myself than I have since the Afro puff, like the painted-on self I have been pretending to be in order to get by and to appear untouchable. There are certain kinds of balance that I’m seeking; between rest and work; between enjoying retreats into my inner life and closing off from other people completely. I’m also seeking to open myself up to people and to love without fear of saying or being too much.


And here are some more things in which I delight: 

Orange line, rush hour, conversation between a mother and child:

Child: It’s a rainbow!

Mother: Where do you see a rainbow?

Child (undeterred by the mother’s doubt): Rainbow!

Mother: Ok, I’ll take your word for it, but mommy doesn’t see nobody’s rainbow.

A baby wearing a T-shirt featuring a picture of a sloth along with the words “slowly but surely, I’m going to bed.” It brings me great pleasure to add that the baby’s name was Zoë!

My therapist using the phrase “feminist utopias” during a session

A woman on the phone with small hands and lots of silver rings who reminded me of my friend Philippa

A house on my new commute with bushes growing over its white wall that look like bougainvillea; reminds me of home

Random parts of Cambridge that look like New Orleans (and I don’t mean gentrifiers whitewashing and taking over historic Black communities and make everything soulless glass and metal)

A Black girl with amazing boots and a T-shirt that says “radical and soft”

The swelling sound of the strings on “Eros” from the Beale Street soundtrack

Small talk with a Liberian woman who had lived in Ghana for years that started because she complimented the beads on my wrist and showed me her similar bracelet

A person wearing a T-shirt that says “Love is still the most powerful force on the planet”

A person wearing a T-shirt that says “I nap periodically” where I N-A-P was spelt with the periodic table symbols for iodine, sodium, and phosphorous

(I realize a lot of these are babies and T-shirts.)




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