By ena ganguly
Hi, if you’re reading this, congratulations! You have made it to the year 2019. It’s been hard getting here. There have been so many roadblocks, naysayers and obligations in your way that may have distracted you from properly loving and caring for yourself. I know, I can relate.
Even in this brand new year of 2019, as I try to move from a place of positivity, it feels like everything is too much. No matter how many times I wash the dishes, they pile up again. No matter how many times I go to the laundromat, there are always dirty clothes, sheets, something, waiting for me at home. Cooking for myself, which is usually a grounding treat, feels burdensome on days where my back and feet ache with the sadness of this repetitious cycle of doing and undoing, doing and undoing, doing and…But hasn’t it always been so?
In my lifetime, I’ve watched my mother be five women at once. She taught all day, on her feet, active, scolding her students or treating them like her own kids, only to come home and stand in the kitchen, heating and plating food for us to eat. I saw her work around the clock: on the weekends, during the summer and winter breaks, and even after school. Often, I look back at that time in wonder. How did she juggle all that while being fully responsible for me and my well being?
A part of me understands now that some of what she did was out of necessity. She cooked, cleaned, mothered, and taught because she had no other option. Who else was going to do the laundry? Who else would sit down with her child to teach her math and science? At the end of the day, who would suffer if she didn’t cook or clean or be present?
I feel so much of that burden now, even without a child, because I feel deeply responsible for my well being. I mother myself, daily. Many of us do. I mean, yes I can eat out every day or decide not to do laundry for weeks, but ultimately, it hurts me in some way or another. On a very emotional level, it feels like self-neglect.
At the same time, I get so angry and frustrated at this vicious cycle of doing and undoing, doing and undoing, doing and…I feel alone, like no one else is here to lend a hand in household chores and duties. I feel overwhelmed, like I have so much to do and can’t ever get it all done. I feel guilty, because I know my families, to this day, benefit off of domestic workers who, through caste and class oppression, offer up their services for an inhumanely low cost.
In feeling all of this, I turn to my ancestors. I ask, am I odd to feel that the process of taking care of the self feels lonely? They pull me back in time, to an era where multiple mothers lived under one roof and each of their children had multiple women to call ‘Maa’. I think about that time, not as a golden period, but as a different period. A length of time where there was more community, more connection, more support and togetherness. It surprises me — this togetherness — as it is in sharp contrast to the alienation I sense with others in this time and place.
My ancestors continue. They show me a woman, waking up at the break of dawn, to go fetch water for the day, as another goes to the market to get the groceries and sell any scrap metals and fabric. The youngest makes the chai and breakfast as the men wake up for their morning showers and prepare for the day’s work. Everyone is in sync, like a well-oiled machine. All the chores rotate, seamlessly, between the three sister-in-laws who, though not related, refer to each other as sister or mother and take care of one another’s children as if they were their own.
But we don’t function like that in modern-day America. American culture finds it abnormal to share property, resources, and social capital like the way other countries did or continue to do. No wonder life is so difficult, so hard. In this world, at this time, sharing comes out of a need. A need to survive, to live, to resist through our existence. Queer, black and brown, and poor folks continue to share their resources, continue to live together, and support each other despite the external hurdles placed before us. We continue to make it. We wake up every day. We make sure to rest every night. We do what we have to do. We do what we need to do. We take care of ourselves and others. We make time for self care. We do the hard work.
And, for that, congratulations.
Congratulations for resting, for being free, and for exploring yourself without conditions. Congratulations for being easy on yourself this year. Congratulations for practicing softer, kinder self talk.
Know that this is a new era for all of us. You are not alone in feeling alone, nor are you the only one juggling a billion things at once.
Know that people before you have done it and they have imparted to you the same wisdom and strength so that you can do so as well. Our ancestors are not so far away, though their lifestyles definitely are.
What are you congratulating yourself for this year? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (allgoqpoc)!