Sis… Take Off Your Cape

Less than a week before William and I said “I do,” my best friend, Emily, said something that I tried to brush off before. My now-husband and I had just gotten into an argument about our smaller at the home ceremony. I had just finished cooking fried pork chops, mac ‘n cheese, asparagus, and brownies for dinner for ourselves and his best friend after making ceremony arrangements during my periodic breaks from keeping my job afloat in a virtual world. The argument got a little heated about whether or not we would have the ceremony indoors or outside; I know, in hindsight, very not worth the energy of this argument. I decided to take a drive and cool down before continuing the conversation.

I called Emily to make sure that I wasn’t crazy and told her everything that was going on. Honestly, this argument was an accumulation of two weeks of stressing out about whether or not we should cancel our wedding thanks to COVID-19, calling guests twice with updates about the plan, scrambling to put together a truly memorable ceremony at our house for our closest family and friends. I had just hit my breaking point while trying to deal with the emotional turmoil of a pandemic and trying to do my regular job with as much energy as usual. As I wrap up my story to Emily with the phrase, I don’t know why he thinks I can do it all; I am not superwoman. Emily’s response was perfect, “girl think about all you do regularly, is it his all his fault that he thinks that you are superwoman?”

It caught me off guard, but she was right. I usually proudly wear my superwoman cape of being able to do it all. Read three books a week, no problem. Start a website; I can do that in my sleep. Take a thought leadership course, heck, yes! Start a new leadership development program, that’s my jam. Make sure there is a fresh-baked goodie at home, always. Make sure the dogs have all the treats and toys in the world, I don’t have a sign at my desk that reads I work so my dogs can have a better life for no reason. Do it all on 2 hours of sleep, while working a full-time job, being a member of a few philanthropic organizations, and never complain or drop the ball for any of them, check.

I have no idea when I acquired this need to do it all, but I know it stems from the need to work 110% harder to get to the same place as my white counterparts. There is this constant pressure on Black women to do it all. I watched my grandmothers do it all. One grandmother had a Ph.D. in mathematics, taught college mathematics, kept the family history, raised three kids, cooked and kept house. She even got herself to the hospital when she went into labor with my dad because she knew she couldn’t rely on her husband to be on time. The other moved her family into a majority white neighborhood to provide them the best education possible, drove the local school bus, cleaned her neighbors’ houses, raised three kids on her own never letting them want for nothing, took care of her husband while he had cancer, was a premier bowler, and helped raise a whole lot of us in the next generation. I watched my mom do it all. My mom had my older sister in college, she graduated with a bachelors in science in nursing, raised my older sister, joined the Navy, raised three very opinionated girls, helped raise her nieces and nephews, is the second in line of the matriarchy, all on top of like twelve million other things I don’t know she does. And every other Black woman I’ve known has carried the weight of the world on her shoulders to create a better future for the next generation.

I know I needed to take a step back and hang up the cape to be able to be happy and healthy, but I have this nagging voice in the back of my head to do more to prove my worth. But I must remember that I have to prove that I am worthy of my own self-love, and take off the cape. I am worthy of taking a step back and sleeping and dreaming and being idle; I am worthy of the self-love that comes with taking off said cape and take the world off my shoulders for a bit. I do this to create a better future. I do this to help my sisters and my future children know that they are worthy and that they may rest as well. For all of our sakes, sis take off your cape.

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Cathryn is a Community leader who hopes to shift what community engagement and relations for the philanthropic community and encourage the next generation.

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Cathryn McClellan Kelly

Cathryn McClellan Kelly

Cathryn is a Community leader who hopes to shift what community engagement and relations for the philanthropic community and encourage the next generation.

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