Psychology

Keeping it Real on MLK Weekend

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So, how about this weekend? To some, we have a long weekend because  Martin Luther King Jr. wanted black and white kids to hold hands and appreciate character more than color. Stuff happened. Fast forward. Equal rights. Boom, no work or school Monday. (If your school or job doesn’t celebrate MLK Day, no hard feelings. You’re an individual, not an institution. May thine hustle continue.)

Yes, he was dynamic. Yes, his legacy is worthy of study and support. Yes, it takes a better person than most to participate in a blueprint to reroute people and reshape norms. Yes, martyrdom brings specialized reverence and pain, because people often leave the earthly realm before we can see them seeing that their work mattered.

Yet, he is also worthy of personhood. Of people recognizing that the most charismatic and profound struggle. No good protagonist is error-free. No person is perfect. No person is flat.

MLK Jr. may have been “creatively maladjusted,” as reported in the February 2014 issue of Psychology Today (PT). He was reportedly sleep-deprived, had exhaustion collapses, bed beyond where he wed, and is believed to have been manic. The flip side is what we often read about. Cue February lessons plans solely about Rosa Parks and a calculated version of him.

“Manic symptoms, meanwhile, are associated with productivity, creativity, and resilience to trauma,” Nassir Ghaemi, M.D. wrote for PT. “King was committed and courageous.  His courage had roots in his spiritual background, family support, and personal conviction.”

And while America has come a long way, I’d be remiss to pretend that it’s peace and butterflies domestically. We must learn and reflect if we don’t want to repeat. If we treat societal successes like luck, then when the rubber meets the road our ability to travel is left to strangers’ benevolence instead of autonomy.

Have things changed? How much? Do we contribute to these changes or take them for granted? Is class the new proxy for race? Are all immigrants treated equally? Are straight people still being narrow?

This post is not about solving these issues instantly, although I watched enough Captain Planet as a kid that such seems possible.

Division unites. Division hurts. Our differences take nothing from us. If anything, they should encourage us to learn more about ourselves, about other cultures, and history.  We should remember that one-dimensional portrayals are disservices and binary = bad.

I’m not as I often seem. I used to have anxiety attacks because of stress. Meditation, doctor-suggested HTP, eating every few hours, and slowing down to take deep breaths help. Wearing colorful clothes conveys my general disposition, makes me feel better, and sends liberal vibes (or so I hear). Drinking more tea than coffee seems to help, too.

I’m social, but find solace in solitude. Most days I don’t say anything to anyone for hours. Yet, I love people. I connect with them. They tell me things. Sometimes I share their stories (with permission, of course).

I want my time on this planet and in this body to count. I want to, as Beyonce says, wake up like this. With “this” meaning relevant and in my right mind. I want to attract critical thinkers who like to have fun and understand that being (insert special adjective here) doesn’t mean you have to be (insert group identification here).  I want to let my guard down at the appropriate times and perfect my mean mug other times, if it buys me peace to do what I’m doing. I want this research that I’m being super vague about to matter.

I want to remain pro-self without being anti-other. Exception: I’m averse to the generally anti-folks. (Is that hypocritical?) I want people I like to like me back and convey it blatantly and timely because subtlety gets lost. I’m often oblivious.

I want to unblock my ex without feeling like a can of worms is going to jump into my arms and try to samba. Y’all know how worms do. Cut them in half and they are seemingly cloned.

I want colonialism not to pervade academia and perceptions of who should have nice things, who knows what, and how success looks. More than anything, I want the freedom to be where, who and how I am supposed to be.

As Ghaemi wrote, “A saint is typically also a sinner, and behavior that seems most brave may have roots that are biologically prosaic even as they are psychologically profound.”

If there’s anything that MLK Jr. would seemingly want for us, it’s the soundness and openness of mind to decide for ourselves.

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