At the 25th Mile: Black & Surviving Now

I’ve never run a marathon; but I’ve heard folks say that miles 20-25 are the most difficult.  That point, when the race is almost complete, is when the urge to quit peaks: the carbohydrate fuel is dangerously low (and the body is pulling from fat reserves); every part of the body hurts from the blisters on the back of the heels, the muscle tears in the legs, and the pounding headache.  Limping across the finish line is a euphoric celebration of perseverance.

But what if those marathoners had to run another marathon just two days later?

Or better yet, what if at mile 25, the event organizers came on a loudspeaker to announce that the race rules had been changed. Now, all participants had to run another 26 miles, uphill, through mud, barefoot, in 107-degree heat?

That has been what living in 2020 (or rather surviving 2020) has been like for many of us Black folks.

We are blistered, battered, and exhausted.  We keep finding ourselves at the 25th mile, gasping for breath and trying our best to just keep on, keepin’ on.  We pull on strength from our ancestors, rely on our belief in a higher being, and lean on that good ol’ Black determination to help push us to take another step, then another, and then another when the universe resets the race back to the starting line.  We haven’t finished the first 26, or even had a moment to catch our breath, when we are dealt the next test of endurance. 

We are so fucking tired that the word “tired” should be retired.  We just don’t have a new word.  What lies beyond exhaustion?  Is there even a word to describe what we are?

We are the children of the 12 million Africans who were kidnapped, tortured, murdered, whipped, hung, raped, hunted and treated worse than animals; the kin of Harriet Tubman who led over 300 of our enslaved brothers and sisters through swamps and forests to freedom; and the offspring of civil rights activists who faced beatings, burnings, dogs, firehoses and every indignity imaginable.  We rock by the slogan of “perseverance” so there is something in us that keeps us pushing with barely a complaint.

Surviving: it’s what we Black folks do.

But damn … it seems as if there ain’t no news if it ain’t bad news lately.  We are having to dig deep– just to keep out of the hole of capitulation and despair. I’m relying on a few things to help me cope.

Calling a thing-a-thing

I’m a fucking optimistic person…a “who cares if the glass is half empty or half full, let’s just all take turns and drink from the bottle” kinda woman.  I’m spiritual – and believe there is a lesson in even the worst of times.  I’m the cheerleader of the crew. I believe that we are all getting lessons; and there have been some beautiful things that have come out of this time for me. BUT can we normalize saying when things suck? Can we release having to always be positive. I swear I wanna choke-out some of these folks in my social media feed that gotta act like shit ain’t droppin’ and don’t stink. Sure, we gotta embrace the good, but there is something healing about also owning the bad. 

Ignoring the 24 hours news cycle

Yes, there is a 24-7 news cycle. No, we don’t have to tune-in. Limit what you know. You don’t have to know what is happening every minute of the day at the exact time it is happening. What is you knowing going to change anyway?

Ignoring toxic people

As you ignore draining information; avoid and ignore draining people.  Some folks feel as if they are so special that even their bad times are worse than yours – like they have monopoly rights on unhappy and it’s your job is to rescue them.  I have been reading and re-reading the quote “you don’t have to burn to keep another person warm.” I love that, and am living that. 

We Never Knew What Was Going to Happen Anyway

We are anxious because we don’t know what’s going to happen from day-to-day. I have to keep reminding myself that we never did. Think about it – we really have never known what the next day would bring us.  In January, nobody knew we would be where we are now.  Life is inherently uncertain.

This is temporary

I don’t know when this time of extreme turmoil will end or how it will end; but I’m certain it will end.  I force myself to focus on who and where I want to be when things settle.  This too shall pass is an overused saying because it’s true. This time will pass. 

We are Us

We have always and will forever make it somehow. That’s who we are and what we do.

We are in this together

Yes, we are stuck at a 25th mile perpetually – yet again exhausted, breathless, and hurting.  But we are here —-together.  And we will cross the finish line.

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About Randi B.

Randi is a diversity and inclusion strategist, speaker, trainer and writer, focusing on making connections and cultivating empathy in this diverse world one trip, speech, article, book and conversation at a time.

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