When I go to the gym, I’m an exorcist, and I rarely go out of my way to speak. I give a friendly smile to the person checking memberships at the front desk, followed by a knowing head nod to the faces I recognize on my brisk walk to the locker room. I briefly exchange pleasantries with the regulars as I pull off my sweats and strap on my waist belt. I plug in my earphones and vanish into my own world…feeling something like Abraham Lincoln, the vampire slayer, as I attack the demons stored in the fat cells, bad habits, and anxieties that have attached themselves to my body and mind.
I have a routine and I stick to it … walking around the gym, huffing and puffing … dragging myself to the next exercise machine … forcing myself to push through reps and sets with very little time in between. Sometimes I can barely breathe … most times as of right now, really … as I openly torture myself in an effort to reclaim what God has given me … and what the world, self-doubt and an addiction to pleasure have worked so hard to take way.
I feel good when it’s all done. Interestingly enough, these torture sessions actually fuel me with the energy and insight to tackle every other aspect of my day and life. My workouts are my morning prayer. My stretches are my meditation. For the most part, my music is my positive affirmation. And my movements are me, wrestling with God, fighting tooth and nail for the right to walk uprightly as God’s son.
So imagine how much disdain, or how much exuberance, depending on the topic, I must feel to break my silence and actually talk to somebody as I complete my ritual. It takes a lot. And these past weeks, of course, has been a lot.
Too much, really.
I’ve thought of penning open letters to the White world, where I’d scream “No mas” like Roberto Duran, not wanting to take any more of these undeserved, nonsensical public floggings that are being laid on my people. I know, Mike, they don’t really care about us but, d—, can you go back to the subversive tactics for just a moment …please? We’ve developed our own armor to survive the unceasing, all-out assault on Black lives, but these police killings, police pardons, white-washing of Black history, and public hangings of Black personhood are way too much for two weeks, Joe. Please back the f— up off me before I snap in a way that will be pretty hard for us all to come back from … as if coming back is really a desired option in the first place.
But … anyway … imagine my disdain in hearing Black folks, Black men in particular, all hard bodied up as if they were preparing for war, who turn up their nose at Black Friday boycotts and public protests against injustice … claiming that ain’t nothing going to change … cause Black folks can’t never stick together. These beautiful Black men, and I assume some sisters too (cause while I’d much more prefer it, I’m not in their locker room) have abdicated their rights to walk fully as God created them, even as they perfect their bodies on a commendable journey to good health … while leaving their mind so exposed to nonsense that it makes them appear coonish beyond reason.
I suppose, at the end of the day, their mindset is a reflection of what I get so upset about with some of the young’uns with whom I interact. People so much prefer style over substance. They could have a car with a rotted engine that is on struggle mode every time they hit the ignition, but as long as it looks good — foreigned out, candied painted up, and sitting on them thangs — then they’re good to go. Challenge them on issues of substance, and the need to first extract the gasoline from the ground that is necessary to actually move the car, or the engineering that is necessary to actually correct the problem … and they get to talking about how the car really wasn’t built for them in the first place … and that they need to build their own car … but since Black folks ain’t never learned or manufactured nothing, they’re going to just polish up what they’ve got and mind their own frickin’ business.
As I perform my daily exorcism, my love of God and God’s people forces me to engage in exorcising these brainwashed individuals as well. Cause no matter how good they look on the outside, they are trapped by the insecurities and unconscious inferiorities that have targeted them for so long, that they don’t even realize the role they play in the devil’s army.
So now … I take my headphones off, and I speak with just a little bit more intention, and a lot more love. I hit a rally or two. I pay attention to what I buy and who I buy it from. I do some things … and though I know it’s not enough … it is something. Cause I’m still on a mission … my exorcism is far from complete. But we all need the positive affirmations. We all need the positive acts. Some of us only need a little. Still others of us need a lot.