Reclaiming My Space
The pandemic doesn't take a break and neither do we. But as therapists and those caring for others, taking time off is the healthiest thing we can do. Hear from Kimberly Pearson - therapist, mom and doctoral student as she reflects on reclaiming her space following a much needed two-week vacation.
After months of adjusting to the new COVID normal, I took time off to regenerate and reclaim my mind, time and energy. I thought it would be a time of rest and relaxation, but instead became a time of reflection and introspection, which renewed my spirit, much like the bloom in springtime after a hard winter.
Although this virus is actively working to destroy life, I vigilantly fight to keep myself and others safe, but must take time during this fight to stop, take a break and reclaim my space.
On my first day off, I realized I had not walked out in my backyard in years, and when I did I conveniently ignored all that was out there. I’ve cavalierly walked over the leaves, the broken bricks and stuff randomly tossed out.
As I swept away the debris, I uncovered grass snakes and lizards that had created safe places to hid. My initial response was to call my brothers or pay someone to clean. Looking at my ugly patio, I thought about how many times I could have avoided this mess.
I begin to wonder - what other places in my life have I neglected with unwanted critters living there? Is this what happens when we do not practice self-care? Neglect, complacency, unbalanced priorities or simply ignoring things and hoping they would disappear led me to this place. Was I afraid? YES! Did I need help? YES! Was someone coming to rescue me? NO!
Looking out my window, I recognized I needed this space and only I could make it useful again. This was my space. I own it and I must reclaim it, so I started the cleanup. I swept the dirt into piles. In each pile, I imagined the different areas of my life – professional, spiritual, family, social, and my personal life. Beneath each pile was the concrete. The concrete represented me.
These things relied on me to thrive. Just as the neglected concrete functioned as a space to hold the dirt and trash, without self-care I, too, was a space for trash to pile up in different areas of my life.
For example, racism is just as much a part of my professional life as any other person of color trying to navigate a career and build financial stability. It’s challenging. Like most women of color, I’ve navigated with two strikes against me as a female and African-American.
This pile represented the dirt and trash collected from my struggles for equal pay, opportunity and respect in the workplace. I’ve ignored and suppressed the impact of racism and discrimination. I accepted jobs knowing I was being paid less. I smiled complacently in places where I was the only Black person around and casually shrugged my shoulders when I knew the conversation was void of diverse thought. I dared to think what was under this pile. What has complacency cost me? What if I had confronted my fears and spoken up or challenged the triangulated dialogs that led to no solution or clear thought?
Sure, I’ve held the door open for other African-American women and men, but in the same way I had opened my back door and tossed another item into a useless space. I’m guilty of welcoming my brothers and sisters into environments where I knew trash was piling up. As I prepared the piles for pick up, I realized that holding a space without cleaning it up doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a useless space. I must reclaim my space.
Truth be told, I’m conflicted with the whole "White Privilege" and "Black Lives Matter" movement. Not because they are not important, but it appears to be another attempt to get White Folks to save Black Folks. Of course, Black Lives Matter and white privilege exists. However, white privilege is not going to stop Black People from ignoring dirt piles in their own yards. My issue with this narrative is the notion that abolishing white privilege will create opportunities for Black people. This does not compute for me. I don’t want to give up my own (although limited) privilege for someone else to benefit, so it’s not appropriate to ask others to give up their privilege. The problem is the abuse of privilege and anyone who is privileged can abuse their privilege.
Let me be clear, systemic racism is an abuse of privilege. The problem is not white privilege, it is the abuse of white privilege. I am often asked by my white colleagues, "what do I do about my white privilege." Don’t do anything – just be fair. In any abusive relationship, the interaction is considered abusive when a false sense of power is wielded over someone else, and done to the detriment of the other person. When abuse is motivated by the color of one's skin, it is racism. When others who are privileged become abusive, it must addressed.
As I reflected on my internal conflict with the white privilege narrative, I think of others who are more adaptable to outdoor living. They are privileged to have the resources, skills, and tools to make their outdoor space immaculate. That doesn’t describe me and I am at a disadvantage when it comes to outdoor living. Does their advantage inhibit my ability to create a beautiful space? No!
My fear of outdoor critters cannot be an excuse to give up my outdoor space and then complain about what I don't have. I'm not giving up my space or privilege, nor will not ask anyone else to give up theirs. As I worked to reclaim my space, I became more empowered recognizing my own privilege, as I am privileged to have a space to clean up. It is not anyone else's responsibility. I, all by myself, must face my fears and put in the work.
After removing the dirt and trash, I realized some of the dirt had been embedded in the concrete and my new space needed to be power-washed. As I meticulously sprayed every spot, I was reminded that even after recognizing my own privilege, facing my fears, sweeping the dirt in the piles and removing each pile, I still had to work on me.
My self-care led me to search my heart for anything that remains incongruent with the life I want. I must continue my commitment to pursue a life that is useful, regardless of my fears. I must be courageous, willing to address the dirt before it piles up and recognize that I am privileged to have the space to do so. This is my space, no one gave me this space, I own this space. No dirt, trash or crawling critters will occupy this space ever again.
Kimberly, soon to be Dr. Kimberly Pearson upon completing her PhD in counseling, is a trauma-focused therapist who helps clients of all ages eliminate behaviors that lead to self-defeating or societal-defeating consequences. She applies complementary therapy approaches and techniques to help her clients reestablish their support system, rebuild their lives and uncover their hidden potential. Kimberly's grandparents and parents both had life-long careers in ministry and faith leadership. Kimberly is a sought-after speaker and serves clients at The Center’s Network Offices in Oak Cliff at Cliff Temple Baptist Church and New Covenant Christian Fellowship Church. To schedule an appointment call 214-526-4525.