Sometimes, we have to borrow our confidence. Or extract a little from the environment, draw it from the air like moisture, open up and replenish ourselves.
I like the way I feel when I’m listening to “6 Inch” from Beyonce’s Lemonade album. From my first listen, it was one of my favorite songs. I like walking through buildings with my headphones in while I listen to it. It feels like the moment of triumph when you finally learn how to walk in heels: your shoulders are back, your hips adjust to the new angles and configurations of your bones and your limbs. You discover what it means to glide, to roll. You master the art of the stroll with purpose. Because, dammit, you are determined that these heels will prop you up, not bring you down.
When I listen to “6 Inch,” I strut. I feel like there’s a forcefield around me, and I wish I could see myself full on. I wonder what my face and my eyes are communicating to people around me.
This morning, I drew “The Tower.” I am learning that, in tarot, “The Tower” symbolizes disaster, upheaval, sudden change, revelation, etc. Sometimes I draw cards I don’t understand, or that don’t really resonate with me, but this one does. There’s been a lot of change in my life in a short period of time.
What’s wild is when you can feel the change and upheaval in your body and in your spirit. I feel myself stretching to accommodate new ideas, emotions and realities. Sometimes, my body lags behind. Now that I reflect back on other times of serious and sudden change, I can see that my body struggles and is often late to get the memo. I usually end up getting sick.
“The Tower” also signals liberation and renewal. In my own life, I feel myself trying to mend the disconnect between what’s going on inside with what’s happening outside; what does the path to wholeness look like?
People often talk about Lemonade as representative of a journey through grief and pain to resilience and healing. I imagine that, for everyone, the turning point in the journey is different.
For me, “6 Inch” / the “Emptiness” chapter is the crossroads of the album. After your tower has been torn down, there’s a moment before you start rebuilding. Sometimes, that’s a literal moment. Other times, it’s a day, a week, a month, a year. And really, we’re all simultaneously destroying and rebuilding, which makes things complicated and frustrating.
When I first heard the song, I was captivated by the way she repeats “She grinds from Monday to Friday, works from Friday to Sunday.” That line is everything, evoking women’s historical and contemporary realities of coming home from work, only to take up a second shift in the home. It also feels like every black woman’s story ever – the way you can work and work and work at your day job, and sometimes the fruits of your labor are just more work, usually on behalf of everybody else.
It reminded me of the way we can, for good or for ill, sometimes use work and “stacking our paper” as distractions from emptiness.
Emptiness can be painful, and rebuilding is long, hard work. But emptiness also contains within it a seed of liberation, and in those silent moments where you feel like you are buried under the rubble, you can also rebel. Rebel through surrender. Embrace the truth that just because “The Tower” has fallen, it doesn’t mean that you’re irrevocably broken.
“6 Inch” is the warrior goddess song. (I don’t care what anyone says: “Don’t Hurt Yourself” isn’t the warrior goddess song. It’s an invocation of wrath. Warrior goddesses are certainly familiar with wrath and make use of it, but that’s not the only thing in our arsenal, IMHO.) The song reminds me of my own my capacity to breathe through it all and emerge on the other side. Sometimes, I tap into it, and it gives me a little more strength to embrace chaos and uncertainty and face destruction head-on.
“6 Inch” is a testament to the fierceness of black woman vulnerability and power. I’m not talking about tired “strong black woman” frameworks that erase the pain that comes with our lived experiences. And you can also miss me with romanticized narratives about black woman trauma being some kind of noble rent we have to pay for living. I do not aspire to Atlas-hood. I need to shrug off the sky sometimes.
No, I’m talking about wisdom. And a fortitude that shines from beneath our skin, the life force that can be a whisper or a roar. That. That’s the thing that I hope people see in my face if they bump into me while I’m in the zone with my headphones on.