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  • Writer's pictureRa'anaa Brown

XI: The Loss of Anything

I know it hasn’t been long, and yet somehow it feels like it’s been forever. When I began this little endeavour I told myself that I only had to write when I wanted to, when I was called to. Lately, I can hear the voice calling, but it’s as if my fingers can’t keep up like my mind can’t find the words that I used to know. This form of writer’s block is the most infuriating because I know what I want to say, hell I can feel my thoughts screaming, demanding to be heard. And yet, every time I sat down and began to tell a story, every time I began to type away, it somehow felt wrong. Even now, I’m unsure if this will be the moment where I find some solace, the moment where my thoughts temporarily align just long enough for me to put virtual pen to paper and share with you all.

Here goes something.

Have you seen Abbott Elementary? Before getting into my seemingly random tangent that will inevitably lead somewhere ideally interesting and quite obviously very personal, let me first provide you with some context. Abbott Elementary is a mockumentary sitcom that follows teachers at Willard R. Abbott Elementary School, a predominantly Black school in Philadelphia. Created by, and starring Quinta Brunson (a Black queen and icon), the show centers around Brunson’s character, Janine Teagues, a plucky and ever-optimistic young adult new to teaching who basically just wants to better her community, while simultaneously navigating her personal life.

Now Abbott Elementary is particularly special to me because unlike many other shows that feature Black characters, it centers Blackness in a way that is relevant, accurate, and honestly soothes my soul. Following the tragic end of Insecure in late 2021, I was left heartbroken, in search of, nay in need of Black content to consume. As an aside, the end of Insecure was tragic because Issa Rae did something that I have never seen before. She made a show about dark-skinned Black women that wasn’t entirely about pain, misogynoir, or any other stupid trope. Sure, it featured commentary on these things, but it was tactful and done in a way in which I, as a Black woman, felt represented. It felt like truly for once I could see myself on screen like my story mattered enough to be told, and for that, I am eternally grateful for the five years it lasted. The show didn’t get canceled mind you, unlike many other show producers (*cough* JJ Abrams *cough*), Issa Rae knew when to wrap up the show and gave viewers an ending I can only describe as spectacularly beautiful, and simultaneously heart wrenching. I know she’s not reading this, but in the event of a one-in-a-million miracle that she is, thank you Issa Rae for reminding me that we matter.

As Insecure came to a close there I was in search of some missing part of me. There honestly aren’t many shows that centre dark-skinned Black women in a positive way. So, when I got wind of Abbott Elementary coming just under a year later, I was thrilled. In my opinion season, one was excellent. The show featured a nice mix of diverse characters that were not stereotypes or caricatures of actual cultures or communities. And, surprisingly (or not because the show is made by a Black woman), the cast is predominantly Black. The show received a lot of praise, and not that I support the institution of award shows, but when Sheryl Lee Ralph won a Primetime Emmy for her depiction of Barbara, I damn near cried watching clips of her acceptance speech. Suffice it to say, when season two dropped in mid-September I was over the moon. I told myself I wanted to savour the moment, so up until now, I haven’t been watching the new season. I initially decided to wait until all the episodes were out so that I could binge it in a few days, and be left salivating for more.

But, lately, TV shows haven’t been hitting the same. I’m not sure if content is getting worse, or my mind is just craving something different, but regardless I found myself not feeling super satisfied with anything I’ve been consuming as of late (aside from House of the Dragon, which is a hot and spicy mess in a good way). So, tonight (well it’s tonight as I write this), I decided to give in to temptation and watch the first episode of season two of Abbott Elementary, knowing that the well-written script and perfectly fleshed-out characters would do the trick. Now, this is the point where I am going to give fair warning, if you are not caught up on the series, or intend to watch it, please note that this next section will include a spoiler or two. Consider yourself aptly warned…

Season one ends with a lot of interesting plot points, perhaps most notably the long overdue break-up between Janine and her trash of a man (now ex) boyfriend Tariq. Although it was quite obvious for the best, and for the sake of numerous forthcoming plot points, the viewers feel for Janine because it’s sort of unexpected, and there is nothing worse than being dumped by someone you should have dumped first. Season two begins with the impending start of the new school year. Summer is over and the teachers at Abbott are readily preparing for the new semester. Janine appears to be doing well, Tariq is gone and our girl is out here just focusing on herself and seemingly living her best life. But, as the episode unfolds it becomes clear that she is straight-up struggling. Bills have gone unpaid, as she was somewhat financially dependent on Tariq, and as a result, she is on the verge of eviction, and her car gets booted.

In a devastating attempt to avoid the boot, Janine tries to move her car while her colleagues look on in shock and concern. She ultimately gets out of the car at which point they all express concern for her well-being. Janine takes a moment and divulges that she has really wanted to not allow the break up to affect how she’s been doing, but it’s been incredibly hard. She is having financial issues, but despite it all, whenever she gets notice of a bill the only thing she can think of is how she misses her interactions with Tariq. Janine expressed genuine sadness, and admittedly for a comedy it was such a dark moment. Her co-workers look on in disbelief and empathetic sadness, at which point Melissa ends up saying the wisest thing I have heard in a long time, “you just got to go through it, not over it.” This is where I lost it.

Photo of author by Danielle Provencher

It is no secret that I went through a very traumatic breakup this past summer, I am incredibly transparent. But, what got me was just how much this situation paralleled my own. Have you ever seen something and felt like it was made just for you? Well, dear reader, that was this moment for me. Mind you, my ex was not as garbage as Tariq, though he definitely had his quirks, the feeling of missing someone you objectively know you shouldn’t is perhaps one of the hardest things our loving minds can experience. I’ve been talking to my therapist (GASP, she’s in therapy! Kidding, I think everyone should be because it’s good for mental health and overall well-being) about grieving, and what that does to us as humans on a spiritual, and physical level. Grief is something that we often associate with death, or dying, but, as she explained to me, the loss of anything in life that we are attached to can lead to grief.

So, for instance, the loss of a long-term romantic partner whom you were convinced you would marry and live your happily ever after with perhaps, can surely cause someone to grieve. And grieve I have. Similar to Janine, I am typically an optimist. I am a dreamer and don’t like to let the rain stop my parade. And similar to her, I don’t think I truly recognized the sadness and grief that I was and am still feeling because oftentimes it’s easier to pretend that it’s not there. This isn’t to say that I want that person back in my life, or wish the breakup didn’t happen, I am cognizant that it was ultimately for the best, and in hindsight long overdue. But, that doesn’t mean it still doesn’t fucking hurt. It’s the feeling of ripping off a bandaid when you didn’t even know your knee was cut. The sensation of your parachute being cut when you hadn’t fully landed, no you won’t die, but breaking your leg on impact definitely made you shed a few tears.

At my therapy session this past week I said “you know, it’s his loss,” something I say all the time when a relationship or situationship doesn’t pan out as anticipated. And you know what? My therapist looked me dead in the eyes and said, “why is that?” I was admittedly caught off guard. I’m not a cocky person, hell I’m not even confident, if anything I’m quite the opposite, but I like to think I’ve got things going for me at least. Like a kid with marshmallows in his mouth mid-game of Chubby Bunny, stumbling through sentence after sentence trying to explain why I was a catch and shouldn’t inherently feel bad about another thing falling through. She helped me unpack that “his loss” is my coping mechanism for emotional avoidance. She gave me homework to then use the famous FEELINGS WHEEL, to try to contextualize exactly how my last few breakups made me feel. So, lovely, kind, and understanding friends that is what I’m going to do, and I implore you to do the same.

I’m disappointed. Even though I am intelligent enough to know that some things aren’t meant to be, when you care for someone deeply or share a deep connection, it is understandable to feel some type of way when things don’t go as you’d initially hoped. I’m embarrassed. I don’t often share intimate parts of myself with people, so when I do, and aspects are thrown back in my face, intentionally or not, I feel vulnerable, and horrified, that I at one point felt safe enough to share these private parts of my personality with another living being. Anger is an interesting emotion to unpack because most of the time it stems from a place of hurt above all else. Beneath my anger, I found feelings of disrespect, frustration, and honestly betrayal. But, the thing that I am feeling most of all is grief.

When you adapt your life to accommodate something or someone new, it understandably takes some time to adjust when it is suddenly removed. I mean, who is going to eat the cookie dough batter when I bake, make my tea just the way I like it (a thing I still am incapable of doing on my own apparently), or talk to me before bed when my anxiously hyperactive brain begins to wander? The short answer, I will. I watched an incredible panel discussion between Dr. Syrus Marcus Ware and Leah Lakshmi, on their forthcoming book The Future is Disabled: Prophecies, Love Notes and Mourning Songs, and Lakshmi was asked a question that I admittedly can’t quite recall, but the response is relevant. Basically, they spoke of their own experience with a recent (I believe) break up, and discovering the difference between solitude and loneliness. Truly genius, and genuinely what I needed to hear evidently at this moment in my life.

I moved to Montreal just over a year ago, at the time moving with my now ex and my forever lovely furry friend Rayla. Before that, I had lived in Sudbury for nearly eight years. Eight years of friendships, connections, and discovering myself suddenly left behind after a nine-hour drive. Now, I don’t regret moving to Montreal, I know it was definitely my time, however, the first thing that went through my mind this past summer was, oh my god, I’m going to be so lonely. The fear of having no connections, no chosen family, and no community around me was terrifying and straight-up devastating. But, like most things in life I’ve been taking things one step at a time. Some days I get ahead of myself, or people try to rush me into thinking about way down the line, but I know for me, what I need at this moment is to focus on the here and the now. And you know what? Somehow in focusing on each moment, like the special entity it is, chosen family has found me, and this community is beginning to feel more and more like home.

I often feel powerless, like life is so completely out of my hands so sure, I try not to focus on it. But, I think Melissa was right. This is just the beginning, not the end, and yeah I’m going through it, but it sure as hell beats going over it, only to have that molehill become a mountain of a problem down the line. I am incredibly thankful to have the space to be vulnerable, and honestly, it inspires a sense of hopefulness, confidence, and freedom within me. So, thank you for enduring my thought process and staying with me throughout this journey. Like flu-ridden sinuses clogged up, my writer’s block has been liberated by a beautiful, messy, and long overdue nose-blowing session. As boogers ooze from the nostrils, so does my literary creativity once more. Let the snot run free, and may it never stop.



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