Thankfulness as Resistance: A Letter to Women Who Find Thankfulness in Half-empty Glasses

Thankful for patience

On nights like this, you look for him. You seek the sincerity in his voice and the heat of his palms – the only touch that gives you peace and the blessed assurance that is a warm black man’s body on the right side of your bed. On nights like this, you search for the most distant of memories - the sun burning, the wind whispering to your soul, as if to speak life and death into your body for nights to come when you won’t know whether to sink or swim; whether to soothe the scabs in your soul or to scratch them wide open for the world to see what it can be to be black woman – forever laboring but never labored for. When his body ejects itself from yours, his back becomes the surface on which you plan your path to freedom. On nights like this, you pray for patience.

Thankful for self-love

You look into mirrors and see imperfection before you see miracle. The skin hangs off your cheek bones and gradually swallows the contoured planes that should embody elegance and natural beauty. Your forehead protrudes and interrupts the conversation between soul and crown and you look into mirrors only to remember that beauty left these planes on the back of a phoenix. It left you trying to undo ugly; it left you attempting to grow hope on your face as if your mother promised that coconut oil could repair fractured self-love. You look into mirrors and convince yourself that they are broken, because at the age of twenty, after dozens of self-esteem workshops, thousands of morning pep-talks and hazy nights when someone promised their kisses on your skin would remedy your broken mirrors, you still don’t believe that you can recreate beauty. You still see imperfection before miracle and that shit just does not add up.

Thankful for sanity and peace of mind

You wake up to deep, dark doom invading your chest and a breathlessness that can only be explained by you running away from your shadows in restless dreams. On days like this, you are scared of what the unsealed crevices of your soul can do to your body; on days like today you are scared of yourself.

When you were young, you would hold onto memories like they were sustenance, as if they could free you when reality felt too draconian, too immobile. And you would sit on your grandfather’s knee and coax Kenya circa 1950 out of his lips. You would secretly hope that his stories would take you to a time when the present felt pure and re-imaginable. Now you sleep on the edge of cities that fake peace and he is no longer here. You squeeze your eyes tightly, hoping that the beads of sweat on your forehead will dilute lived experience into theory and teach your mind to unlearn what it is to remember intentionally, deeply. You hope that you will forget what it is to recount the seconds of the days that you’re training yourself to forget.

Grateful for holy ground

And you open up your palms as if holiness simply drifts in the air waiting to infiltrate sexed bodies. Sundays used to begin and end with your hands reaching for the sky, willing yourself to believe that you could touch white cloth and carry some holy light away with you in your tightly clenched fists, to heal any darkness that would attempt to swallow you whole the day after. And you are tired of seeing fault and complacency in a place that should be cultivating revival and revolutionary love. And so you cling onto white cloth in your dreams, hoping that it too will learn how to fix brokenness. But as you sleep in your bed that night, the white linens shielding your cracked knuckles from the light night breeze, you remember that linens only cover brokenness, they were never made to absorb it.

But you know you are grateful for every piece of bitterness that colors your voice today. Each drop of pain reminds you that the roads travelled and untouched intersect on your tongue. This pain reminds you that you are miracle, not imperfection. You are birthed in resistance and you are living against history, your knees do not quiver on these grounds anymore.

And so you write lists to remind yourself to be grateful:

1.     Don’t you know that the sway of your hips is testament to the hushed prayers of mothers passed?

2.     Don’t you know you are magic?

3.     Don’t you know that the lines in your palms connect the glass ceilings, past and present?

4.     Don’t you know you carry redemption in your thoughts?

5.      Don’t you know that with every step you have taken on this soil, you have summoned the strength of women who lived with their heads above tides that had been sent to drown them?

And when you find yourself battling against lonely nights, remember:

On nights like this, your mothers engraved your name on the back of your feet, hoping words would bring life to resistance. They called you by your names: Power, Strength, Peace, Creator.

They spoke life out of their own lungs and into yours. But there are days where that is not your burden to claim. Remember. 

On nights like this you look for their reflections in the shards of glass that have been created with every breath of air you have claimed from this earth.

Your existence breaks glass ceilings and mends broken hearts simultaneously – which is to say your being is a dangerous resistance of old,

Which is to say you are not new to this

Which is to say I know you and you have parted oceans with your tongue and your palms. You are not nothing and I am thankful for you.

Selah. Breathe.

by Mumbi Kanyogo

Mumbi Kanyogo