if it ain’t one thing, it’s another

I was diagnosed w/frozen shoulder last week. & it is exactly what it sounds like: a. frozen. shoulder. It hurts–to sit. to walk. to stand. to sleep. From fastening my bra to grabbing my seat belt to bathing my ass & styling my hair, my immobilized shoulder pains me to no end. A prescribed muscle relaxer even fails to relieve me. My mother, who has also suffered from frozen shoulder, said the bright side is I don’t have a frozen hip. Eh. & still, I hurt.

I’ve been sitting in this pain since August when it first hit me, & although folks have warned me against professing, “If it ain’t one thing, it’s another,” I am wading through its validity, cause this stuck shoulder is just one of many recent maladies. My frozen shoulder occurred as a slight, but obvious pain, some months (if not weeks) after a year-long bout w/digestive issues that, after seeing my primary care physician, a referred allergist & two gastroenterologists–which ended w/a clear colonoscopy, except for the internal hemorrhoids that flare w/dairy intake, straining, & prolonged toilet sits (which I’m prone to do when I carry a book into the bathroom)–resulted in my putting myself on a FODMAP diet. Although I cannot consume onions & mushrooms, asparagus, & cabbage, beans & garlic, w/out my stomach distending & bubbling toward a volcanic explosion, the FODMAP diet keeps my gut dormant, if you will. However, now I have an immobile shoulder & a very restricted diet. Add a hysterectomy to that– coupled w/the excision of my left ovary–& well, I am a 41-year-old body of limitations; my thoughts, nonetheless, are not.

And so, I am sitting here w/a frozen shoulder, wincing a bit as I type on a laptop that challenges the ergonomics of sitting at a desk & in a chair–both of which are either too high or too low to prohibit me from arching my back, reaching for the key board, trying to read the screen–& I’m feelin kinda sorry for myself. The orthopedic, who first x-rayed my shoulder, then injected it w/a dose of cortisone before an MRI I requested revealed frozen shoulder, informed me that frozen shoulder–medically termed adhesive capsulitis–is a conundrum to doctors who claim it can only be healed via physical therapy; & if that doesn’t work, then forced manipulation &/or surgery. As such, I am regularly seeing a referred orthopedic, physical therapists, & a massage therapist, & during each visit, folks ask me the same question: “Did you suffer an injury?” & I be tryin real hard to recall one–like, did I HIIT wrong? Did I lean into that downward facing dog too hard? Were my weights too heavy? Was my pushup posture poor? & each time, I come up w/only more inquiries re: my health: What caused a tumor to grow inside my uterine cavity, requiring my fallopian tubes be severed? What caused my ovary to adhere to my uterine wall & my uterus to fill w/fibroids? Why does my body respond adversely to every other vegetable, spice, & wheat? What caused my shoulder to freeze, to stiffen, to stop functioning? What injury injured me, & did it injure my kinfolks, too?

Did Grandma Rose worry herself into breast, colon, & lung cancer? Was Daddy tryin to fill a void & ate his way into diabetes? What so hurt Grandma Mary, Grandaddy, & Uncle Sam that they’d each die of heart attacks? & Mother Dear? Was she so haunted by her memories that she locked them away inside Alzheimer’s? From what injuries did they suffer?

Quiet as it’s kept, sometimes I think Mother Dear, my maternal great grandmother, lucky, for lately, I’ve wanted to forget much of what I’ve been remembering: watching the Spaceship Challenger explode–& 15 years later, watching a plane fly into the Twin Towers; attending my daddy’s funeral; predisposing myself to abusive relationships; being molested; teaching anti-Black Black & brown students; fighting the white real estate agent & loan officer who worked to swindle me out of my first time homebuyer’s privileges; receiving rejection letters from this editor & that publisher; advocating for medical measures that seriously address my health concerns; witnessing America flail at a democracy never promised to Black folks–& getting away w/it; defending myself against entitled students who file grade grievances; standing in the Walmart line behind the unmasked customer who sneezes into the open air; &, &, &, the beat goes on. No doubt, I’m embodying Fannie Lou Hammer’s proclamation: “I’m sick an’ tired of bein’ sick an’ tired.” & I don’t know what to do about it.


It’s the it that’s lodged itself into my shoulder, says my partner. But how do I move it? How do I rid myself of stress when my entire existence feels folded into stressful situations? I am on a pescatarian (+ FODMAP) diet. I practice yoga. I walk. I get monthly massages. I Netflix & chill (way too much). My partner regularly gives me reiki. & I write–as did June Jordan, Audre Lorde, Lorraine Hansberry, Lucille Clifton, & Margaret Walker, each of whom died of cancer. & I know we all will die of something, but I have grown quite conscious of the stress that takes a toll on Black women, tries to kill us–a slow death. & the awareness is wearing me out.

The CDC, whose director finally declared racism a serious public health threat last year, (cause the theatrics of a global pandemic was necessary to highlight the 244+ years of health inequities of Black folks), says that learning to cope with stress in a healthy way will make you, the people you care about, and those around you become more resilient [emphasis mine]. Resilient to do what though? To keep getting beat up? To fight the good fight? To inspire the next generation, teach them how to cope? To stay healthy enuf to work & contribute to the capitalism that capitalizes on our labor? To survive in a pandemic wherein we fail to thrive at fostering community & mutual respect? To maintain social norms that marginalize & erase? To stunt on social media? To keep tryin to make a dollar out of 15 cents? Resilient to what end?

Alice Walker’s Sophia tells Celie she better bash Mr.________’s head in & think about heaven later. & right now, the thought of doin that–of bashin Mr.________’s head in–is feelin icyhot. Maybe that will make my shoulder roll. (Shrugs good shoulder.)


  1. Hang in there dear daughter. Thank God that you wake up every day and you can express your stress. In my 74 years I have had many. However, when I think about it, my good days out weigh my bad days! Count your blessings! Know that you are loved!

  2. Dang! Sorry to hear about your frozen shoulder (had no idea) and your overall feelings of stress!!! Keep pushing forward…you’re a strong one.

  3. You are a GENIUS with your words. I felt every pain and every frustration that you wrote about. This too shall pass. Be blessed.

  4. No doubt, you weld the sword of wordsmithing like no other and have pulled me and my heart into this post. I, like your mother, trust, and believe that the scales are tipped in your favor, though it doesn’t look like it or feel like it now. I also am crazy to believe that the question you have put into the universe on how to scale this mountain will come. In the meantime, know that you have a host of folks who can relate, those who are steady encouragers, and ancestors in the ether pulling only for your good!

  5. I have always admired your writing. Your writing style feels good and should be studied. Thank you for continuing to share your gift.

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