It killed me AND it made me strong

“If it doesn’t kill you, it will make you strong.” I heard this axiom over and over as a child in my grandmother’s house. Whenever there was a challenge of any kind. A new skill to parade publicly. A poem to recite. A welcome to extend. A piano solo to perform. 

“If it doesn’t kill you, it will make you strong.” 

Strong has always been the goal in raising Black women. My grandmother knew strong would be required if I was going to make it in this world. A world she couldn’t even have imagined at the time. Strong to have a good marriage. Strong to raise good children. Strong to embrace my faith. Strong to succeed in a career. Strong to survive racism in the myriad ways it roars daily and often surfaces from hidden places. Strong would be required. 

It had always been her best weapon. It equipped her to survive the hatred of her light complexion. It supported her as she single-handedly raised her children. It framed her struggle to maintain her position in her church. It informed her as she raised and nurtured more than 50 bosom babies she hadn’t birthed.

IF IT doesn’t kill you. 

But IT did kill me. It made me strong but it also killed me. It broke my heart. It traumatized my soul. It delayed my skill for healthy relationships. It hampered my ability to believe in myself. It dimmed my view of who I was and am. It deposited an element of mania even in my laughter. 

It killed me too. 

Missed opportunities. Neglected miracles. Untried challenges.  

Not softly. Not figuratively. Not tentatively.

It killed me too. 

It killed me AND it made me strong. 

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