It’s been an interesting week. Today, it’s my mother’s birthday. I was talking to my Dad, and he said he had been with her for 47 of her birthdays, that is, this is the first time in 47 years he’s not with her on this day. I think it’s hit everyone hard, like dates tend to do.
I’ve taken a lot of lessons from my friends and clients on grief. The big one is, when you hit a date like this, DO SOMETHING. Do something other than mope around and feel sad. Start a new tradition, or do something in honour of the person you’re missing.
Today, I baked cookies. I tend to bake or buy houseplants when I feel my mother or the grief especially strongly.
During the whole allergic reaction to the laxative episode, I forgot to mention: Biggie showed up.
He said, You should listen to your mother.
In that moment, I heard my mother’s voice, when I was seven years old, telling me I needed to eat whatever it was on my plate because I needed the “roughage”. That’s what they called fiber in the 80s, I guess. Roughage. I didn’t actually know what “roughage” was, but according to my mother, I needed some. Iron was another thing she was talking about, all the time. This is why I had raisins in everything. They were supposed to be full of iron AND roughage. (As an adult now, I don’t think that was true!)
Biggie went on to pass his hand over the top of his stomach and tell me a bit of his story:
I used to get stomach problems too. (Constipation, retention.) I was always a heavy weight, you know, even as a kid. They called me all kinds of names, I said “I don’t care, you just call me Biggie.” They did, that became my name, and I liked it, you know. I was taking the power away from them, I was owning my body, I liked it.
I never really looked at *why* I was holding on to the weight (while I was alive.) I look at it now. I was carrying the weight of my mother’s worries. She worked so hard, and she was always worried about money. But we really didn’t go hungry – that was important to my mother, that we always had something to eat. Maybe it wasn’t the healthiest stuff, but you didn’t think like that where I grew up – you had food, or you were hungry. No one was talking about healthy this and that – none of that bullshit. If it was food, it was good.
I always ate everything and anything that was around me, and that was the first thing I could do for myself, as a kid, was feed myself. I’d get my own money, and I’d go buy my own burger. That was important to me, providing for myself. I wanted to provide for my mother, so she didn’t have to work so hard, and I always provided for my family.
I ate, and a lot of people who are carryin’ the weight of their family or their history, we eat to make our bodies match our burden, the burden of life we carry. To make the struggle… visible. So we get seen.
I refused to be ignored. I would talk shit (yells) YOU SEE ME STANDING HERE, DON’T ACT LIKE YOU DON’T SEE ME. (arms out, chin up, powerful.)
I had these stomach problems just like you, because we eat for the same reasons. Growin’ up, there was so much shit around me that I could not control. I couldn’t control being black. I couldn’t control the neighbourhood, the chaos around us all the time. All of us (his family) we want to be safe. We could never relax. That was a need. So instead, I would try and fulfill a different need, you know, if I ate, that was the fulfillment of a need I could control. I couldn’t change the world around me, but when I had a juicy cheeseburger and fries, I was alright. I was eating, and taking care of myself. I was proving to myself that I was okay.
I would get the stomach pains and the heartburn, you would never go to the doctor. I didn’t ever ask to go to a doctor until that (record company exec? Lawyer? Someone who knew Biggie after he was famous and had a vested interest in Biggie continuing to live-) said “Hey, man, you want me to call a doctor up here?”
I had to do a show, and I couldn’t really stand up straight, so I said I’d see a doctor. I got some pills but they didn’t help much, until that mother-fcking doctor figured it out, I had constipation all up through my belly, here (top part of the large intestine) and all through here, down the side. SHIT!!! HA!!! (belly laughs.)
I felt a lot better when we took care of that, I thought I might even be one of these guys going to the gym, but shiiiiiit, no. I ain’t never going to be no gym-goin’ mother-fcker. (chuckle.) I got a weight bench, and some free weights. I liked doing my arms and stuff, but I never lost any weight. I didn’t really want to. When I had my kids, my little girl, you know, I thought about it.
I just always put my focus on taking care of my family, my people. I knew how to eat, and that felt like takin’ care of myself. That’s what I did for myself, I wasn’t really into drugs (white stuff – then shows me weed, he liked that. But he wasn’t really interested in heroin, cocaine etc. Shows me money, that was okay. He didn’t really like using, just weed, just food, just alcohol and some cigarettes / cigars.)
Of all these skinny mother-fckers you talk to, (pretty much all the other musicians) none of them know what we know, how to carry the *weight*. People like us, big people, heavy-set, the heavy-weights, big people know how to get shit done. They got some SERIOUS shit going on. That’s because we always carry other people’s shit, and it builds up all around us. Some random (asshole) hands you his shit, and you go, “okay, I’ll carry this too.”
Whenever you see a big person, you know they’re carrying around a lot of shit that don’t belong to them, that was (shoved at, forced / foisted on) THEIR shoulders. You see a big person walking around, you know sure as shit, that person’s strong. That’s a survivor. Look at all that weight they’re carrying.
They’re holding on to so much. They’re keeping it together.
That’s what I did. That’s what you’re doin’, girl. You need some ROUGHAGE! (laughs!) You listen to your Mama!
I was talking to Sweetie about this bit of information from Biggie, and she observed that food is a lot like currency. We need it, we consume it, it is energy that flows through us, or gets stuck. It’s something that needs to be balanced and nurtured. You need to take care of your paper, and your roughage.
Thank you, Biggie. Serious shit, there.