“All the women in me are tired.”
One of my favorite stories is that of the egg, carrot and coffee bean. The story goes like this:
Once upon a time a young girl comes home extremely distraught and runs to her grandmother to find solace in the kitchen. The daughter goes on a long rant about how awful the world is and is in a state of despair. The grandmother then asks the daughter to aid her in the kitchen as she has a valuable life lesson to teach her. The grandmother had prepared carrots, eggs and coffee beans. She instructs the granddaughter to place three pots of water on the stove and set them to boiling temperatures. Once the water boils, the grandmother asks the daughter to place carrots in one pot, eggs in the other, and coffee beans in the last.
After a few minutes the grandmother turns off the stove tops. She asks the granddaughter to come look at how the boiling water had changed each of the food items. The grandmother asks the daughter to explain how the carrot was before and after it was placed in boiling water. The granddaughter says its prior state it was hard and its post state it became soft. The daughter then explained the egg’s prior state was it was hard on the outside and soft on the side, and its post state it became hard both externally and internally. The daughter then evaluated the state of the coffee beans and said its prior state it had a strong scent and in its post state it had an even sweeter scent that transferred over to the water.
The grandmother then tells her granddaughter that the purpose of this exercise was to teach her the different ways in which people respond to adversity (represented by the water). Some people are like carrots, they are strong-willed with a tough exterior, however, in times of adversity they weaken and become soft. Then, there are some people who are like eggs. They are soft and gentle however, once faced with adversity they become closed off, and hard. Lastly, there are people like the coffee bean; in times of adversity they turn lemons into lemonade – they make things better. She then asked her granddaughter to reflect on if she was a carrot, egg, or coffee bean, and which one she wanted to be.
I learned how to wear sadness well after going in and out of spurts of depression and anxiety. There would be weeks straight where I’d be driving and find myself thinking thoughts like what if I didn’t brake here and fantasized myself “losing control” of my vehicle and flying off the 520 bridge. Then there’d be other times where I’d research and calculate how many pills of what kind would knock me out the longest without causing irreversible damage. Needless to say, that was a shitshow as I recall the day my friend found me unresponsive in my room and waking up to commotion as she hunched me over the toilet. The room was spinning, my muscles were spazzing, and I could barely speak. It took me a few weeks to fully recover and regain feeling all over my body. You would’ve thought it would’ve deterred me from experimenting with pharmaceutical vacations – but it didn’t. I mixed pills like cocktails until I finished my prescriptions. – I actually got better with time as I learned my body’s limit. The interventions my friends had with me literally went through one ear and out the other. I got kicked out of my major, withdrew from school, and my boyfriend at the time and I had broken up. I felt like I was living out a Lifetime movie – shitty and underwhelming.
I’m not quite sure what made me stop. I wish I could pin point exactly the moment where things started to change but I can’t. Just as sadness can catch you off guard and creep on you, so can joy. I found myself slowly hanging out with my friends, applying to internships, and contesting getting kicked out of my major and re-enrolling in school.
I watched a Ted Talk, one of my favorites, that talked about addiction. If you haven’t watch it – it’s called “Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong” by Johann Hari. It talks about as a society we stigmatize and ostracize individuals who have substance abuse problems. Throughout the speech the psychologist goes on to make a case that, “The opposite of addiction isn’t rehab, it’s connection.” I wonder if that’s what healed me – when I’m sad I tend to implode and distance myself from everyone – so maybe gradually being around more people made coping easier? Who knows though I’m probably making this up in hindsight, that whole period is so blurry.
I still find myself grappling with spells of sadness, but the weight isn’t as heavy anymore. I think resilience is like a muscle the more you challenge it the stronger it gets. I try to keep the story of the carrot, egg and coffee bean in mind. In fact, lately I’ve been wearing my sadness oddly well – my best creations stem from it ranging from writing, art to even launching businesses. When I catch my mind wandering in a negative direction I focus on building something that can make something better for someone else out in the world. I truly believe an idle mind is the devil’s playground so I try to keep myself busy when I can. It’s still probably not the most healthy mechanism I can admit (cue Solange’s “Crane in the Sky”) but if I’m going to be sad and whether the storm – I’m going to make the most out of it by making something beautiful out of chaos. It can’t be coincidental that my homeland of Ethiopia is known for its coffee beans, right?
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