When I first saw this scene, I loved it. It reminded me of my youth, growing up surrounded by “alpha” men. I remember learning to “beast” EVERYTHING. I grew up to be a woman who forged through all pain, took a licking and kept ticking. To use one of my father’s football terms as a coach, I could “go head up” with any man or woman regardless of size, age, privilege or perceived strength. I had heart and growing up in my family having heart was everything. I was inadvertently raised to be the “Man” of my Father’s dreams. I was proud of my ability…. to go sing in front of powerful people with no entourage, to travel in Africa alone, to find my own way any how.
Eventually, this lifestyle of “beast”ing it took its toll on me. I didn’t know it but I was rubbing my skin so thick that my heart couldn’t shine through. I was so tough no one knew the beauty of my soft, peaceful heart. I grew up surrounded by boys and men and suddenly my family was “man”less. Only sons, cousins and non custodial fathers whose contributions to my life were complete. The women were bigger men than the males they chose to mate with. Single motherhood was no big deal and neither was loosing internal organs.
I was a “Beast” and I used that energy to forge my career in music, to avoid vulnerability and to act on red flags I saw in men and in life. The Beast was real and powerful. Having no male support hurt me as a woman but empowered me as a person. I had to fend for myself and continue with my life’s mission either way. And that I did. In power and in direct opposition to everything many softer women told me, expected, believed possible. I scared many women. However, I honor the part of me that knows how to “Beast it” and I appreciate the ability
One stressful, anxiety ridden night. I sat with my God Mother, and she said something to me. She said,
“Liza, I was watching Beasts of the Southern Wild, and I saw the scene where they told Hush Puppy to Beast it and I thought of you. You were raised that way. I need you to know . . . you don’t have to . . . “beast it”… you can fall and be hurt sometime….”
She wasn’t aware of what she was unleashing in my life. I was stunned. Like a shark that had just been poked by a cattle prod. Numb, paralyzed and dumbfounded I said,
She explained and with every word, introduced me to a life lived in the nude. A life of tears and pain. She is the kind of woman who cries in public, gets dangerous when she’s angry. By no means is she a sissy. She’s heart and soul but it’s external. I noticed her method after this conversation. I, being egomaniacal and a “survivor” refused to let anyone see me sweat, denied all appearance of struggle or lack of control. The idea of not “beast[ing] it” circled around my head and down my body.
- Crying real tears
- Expressing my pain
- Hurting and actually feeling the pain
I was raised to keep walking, keep looking good, put that misery in a song and keep moving.
This “suggestions/accusation” changed my life.
I heard her and understood. Something in her tone said, “You are supported. It’s okay to cry, fail or surrender sometime. Your value is in you, not how powerful, brave or tough you are.” Suddenly, there was nothing to prove and that crazy idea of trusting God or the Universe to sustain me was planted in my soul. The Beast, was an option and no longer a requirement. I was free to be easy, be in pain, be vulnerable, be . . . me. The woman I’d protected and hidden in the safe room for 15 years.
That is the woman I’ve chosen to be. In spite of the racial injustice my family has endured as African Americans, or the injustices that continue to happen, I can endure and feel all at once. I can let go of the thick skin I’d grown to know as my own. I can be successful and vulnerable. I am finally all of myself and I don’t have to beast it. But! If ever I need to . . . I can.