The Gospel of Mary J. Blige
I was 13 when Mary J.’s ‘My Life’ album dropped. I was an extremely angsty and depressed teenager and when I listened to it I was positive that she had written that album just for me. I listened to it often and when I fell head over heels in love with my husband at Freshman (High School) Orientation and he, in turn, ignored me for the next three years it went into steady rotation. Although I don’t listen to her as much as I used to – it’s mostly Kidz Bop and NPR these days – the title track has stuck with me.
In the song ‘My Life’ she says in the first verse that ‘when you’re feelin’ down you should never fake it/say what’s on your mind/and you’ll find in time/that all the negative energy, it will all cease’. That line – ‘when you’re feelin’ down you should never fake it’ has been my mantra, especially in these last few years. I spent so many years faking as though everything was great. I would complain, yes, because it’s natural, but things were fine. Until one day they weren’t. And then I didn’t know how to handle it. I didn’t know how to tell people that I was scared to be a mother, that I was afraid I was failing as a wife, that I felt like a failure for not going to medical school, that I was embarrassed that all of the weight I lost had come back with a vengence – that I wasn’t as put together as I thought I appeared to be. Because honestly, I didn’t think people wanted to hear it or actually even cared.
Here’s the truth – there are days when the thought of leaving the house makes me cringe. There are days that I take everything personally and that I’m convinced that it’s just me against the world – you know, like Tupac. And when we live in a world where everything is about creating your own joy, where negative thoughts are frowned upon and everyone just wants to be happy – it can be a little frustrating to be the odd man out. But for me, always being happy, or feeling the need to put up that front, is why none of my closest friends knew I was having suicidal and homicidal thoughts after I had Josephine. Because you know, I had to be happy.
Listen, I’m not knocking the “Happiness” movement. But I also think that if you’re having a bad day – if your present situation has you down, it’s okay to admit that. For me, I have to admit it because when I don’t, I hold it all in until I crash and burn hard and fast. But I don’t stay there. You see, I know that happiness is situational and that joy, which is everlasting, comes from God. And I remember that even when I can’t be honest with others about how I really feel or that they’re judging me because I’m not “Happy, Positive Corliss”, I remember that Mary said, “You won’t really need no one else/except for the man up above/because He’ll give you love…just believe in He/cause He’ll give you peace of mind, yes He will’.
Until next time…