One of my images from  Kelvin Bulluck 's series,  Face Naked .

One of my images from Kelvin Bulluck's series, Face Naked.

This Tuesday was deterring. I set my alarm for 5:45AM. Waking up that early would allow me to stretch and meditate before the day started. Instead, I woke up at 7AM -- the time I intended to leave the house.  I had no time to gather my (mental) self before heading out the door. Despite meal prepping and picking out clothes the night prior, I was all rushed beginnings and anxiety when making it to the car.

I arrived to work 20 minutes late and began embracing coworkers I hadn't seen all summer. Though tired, I felt the warm tingles most associated with family reunions. Two of my students came to help me with my room. I bum rushed them with hugs, as well.

It hadn't been more than a few hours before I was fighting to keep my eyes open during a meeting and plagued by an awful headache (that was present while typing this at 10PM).

My masters classes start next week. The thought of completing those assignments in addition to my work load makes me sick to my stomach. Granted, that may also be an attribute of the birth control I started yesterday.  I'm hoping that all of these adjustments is what has my body hating me and exhausted.

Whatever the case, I had nothing for Zora when I got home. I needed to close my eyes and nap, so the most I could offer her were cuddles and endless TV time. I peeled myself out of bed to warm her dinner. I peeled myself off the couch to get her ready for bed. I didn't give her a bath. Per her request, I gave her vitamins and brushed her teeth. She didn't go down without a fuss, and the interruption of her typical bedtime routine is likely to blame. Essentially, I am to blame. 

I was excited for the school year to return. Chris and I created a detailed schedule, and I'm excited to see it in action. I'm excited to troubleshoot what I didn't do well last year and come back better for my students, but I'm intimidated by all the demands of being a "working" mother.

I'm juggling side hustles with school... and feeling over exerted. I'm also trying to stay fit. Delayed sidenote: what mother isn't working? I mean, really. We're all doing our best or some imitation of it, and some days it feels blatantly obvious that our best simply isn't enough.

The kicker in all this is that I was born to a woman who was born to a woman that did parenthood as a solo act. My grandmother, the first female/Black stock broker in Norfolk, got her degree and began her career at Merrill Lynch while escaping an abusive husband. My mother worked gruesome hours as a cosmetologist while raising two children, doing her damndest to have a dating life, and battling arthritis/lupus. 

The photos I attached to this article hold a special place in my heart, because at 27, only 5 years shy of the age my mother was when she transcended, I finally see an image of me that reflects her. It shows me in my mother's likeness, and my expression reeks of her joy. It's typically a non-negotiable that I'm a spitting image of my father. However, this photo serves as proof of what I had yet to realize: as I am constantly shape shifting, my face is forming into my mothers. 

When Kelvin, the photographer, asked me to model for his Face Naked series, I said yes without hesitation. Never mind, the anxiety I had about sitting in front of a camera make up free and completely exposed. Never mind that I considered wearing clear mascara and added more colored string to my hair as means of embellishing. I said yes, and I meant it. Little did I know that these images would be a gift given in the knick of time.

Despite all the struggles a single mother inevitably experiences, the most tangible memory I have of my mother is the sound of her laughter. I remember the way it passed through her teeth and how it lit up her entire face. I remember the wideness of her mouth and having a full view of every tooth. How grateful I am to see that same expression on my face in lieu of all this life I'm living. I don't know when single motherhood became so normalized, but this joy on my face is my mothers. Her burdens were greater than mine. Her health was waning. Her village wasn't nearly as dense, but her joy was ever present and tangible. The expression on my face tells me I'm capable. It tells me I'm not doing anything that hasn't been done before. It tells me I have eternal access to joy and laughter.