Racism: A Sacred Evil

[please imagine the following as being read into a mirror]

The sentence for racism is life.

Life unlived to its potential,

ungained in its community,

unexpressed in its reality.

I may not know who

first gave meaning to color of skin

but I certainly know what

white people have done with an idea.

What religion reinforced,

what arrogance, and a willingness

to squash life, not to mention hope,

with fire, rope, knives and guns

has done.

If you do not feel undone

by the shouts around you,

by the cries for support

for the simple act of acknowledgement

Let me tell you, forgiveness does not

belong to you.

Reconciliation may NOT be yours,

you have no permission to an opinion

until you shut your damn mouth.

You, who stay in comfortable ignorance

who perpetuate in everyday whispers

“You’re just nervous in this neighborhood”

“You just feel unsafe when you’re not

in the comfort of your own home.”

“You’re only mentioning him on the ‘Next Door’ app

because you haven’t seen him before.”

“It’s not really racism unless you’re killing

someone while saying, ‘You’re black

and that’s why I’m killing you.’ And I would

never do that, so.”

Racism is evil in its sacred form,

sacred:

A part of ourselves we remain unwilling to open

A part of ourselves we reserve for gods alone

to judge

because it couldn’t possibly be true

unless god told me so.

Not for the confrontation of a young person

to impose a question where it wasn’t expected

Sacred is something holy

and as long as racism is holy in white minds,

we remain unmoved

as long as racism remains sacred,

death has no sway

no face will be enough

no broken-hearted family members’ tears

will convince you that this person was human:

this man, woman, son, daughter, mother, father

didn’t deserve to die.

didn’t deserve that prison sentence.

didn’t deserve to be sent back to their “own” country.

didn’t deserve to have metal on wrists.

didn’t deserve to have the concrete open their faces.

didn’t deserve to have chemicals in 9 year old eyes.

didn’t deserve to slowly bleed out in bed having woken up to gunshots.

while sleeping. while sleeping.

didn’t deserve to be shot for a phone in the pocket.

didn’t deserve to be shot for running away.

didn’t deserve to have a windpipe crushed.

didn’t deserve to be hanged in a cell.

didn’t deserve to be run over and dragged by a police car.

didn’t deserve to have 9 men’s fists come down on your body.

You will and have remained unmoved.

It is no one’s responsibility, anymore,

to hold your hand through the process

of enlightenment

It is on you to open your own mind,

it is on you to read a fucking book

and it will be on you, if more people die

if more children are without parents

if more parents bury their babies.

because you choose to remain comfortable.

The concrete onto which black bodies fall

with which racism builds walls

will one day turn to dust.

Your willful, unforgivable ignorance

is but a whisper in the determination

of those whose sacred places are open

you must bring your darkness to light to watch

the power of what light in the pitch black

can really do,

because no part of yourself may remained untouched.

Every inch of your ignorance must be overwhelmed

every inch of your soul laid bare

and those are only the inches you have eyes to see

There exist canyons.

Until you join this journey,

your life will be lived

in the prison of your mind

that limits the potential

of another at a glance

The prison of your mind

that decides what is possible for

another in an encounter of chance

A mind can be more free with a body in a

barred cage than a free body

inside an idea that is rigid and hallow

daily creating new cages

The sentence for the sacred evil of racism is life.

D*A*B*D*A IN REAL LIFE

Denial

Anger

Bargaining

Depression

Acceptance

The Stages of Grief.

Ugh.

Fine.

Blocked letters as though they represented

stones across a gentle pond

upon which I gracefully saunter over.

Fuck.

That.

Here’s what grief looks like in reality:

...[insert terrible life event]...
Denial (shock)
Denial (still fucking shocked)
Depression (shock fades, tears begin)
Depression (who are you and why do you know about my life?)
Depression (more crying)
Acceptance
Denial
What's the point of bargaining? Does anyone really do that? What a stupid block.
Depression (yep, crying)
Anger (Fine. If that's how its gonna be)
Acceptance
Anger (I hate this reality)
Acceptance
[funeral (or insert ritual to 'honor' the past)]
Depression (tattoo #1)
Depression (I'm still crying)
Denial
Anger
Acceptance
Depression (god, yes. I'm still crying)
Depression (it's fine that the rest of the world moved on. I'll remain broken in the corner)
Depression (do you think its possible to lose weight from crying so much?)
Anger (tattoo #2)
Anger (leave me the fuck alone)
Depression (fucking, yes. I'm still crying)
Bargaining (Oh, I get it...I'm trying to bargain these god-awful feelings away. Oh)
Anger (tattoo #3)
Depression (do I look tired? wow, what happened to "hello"?)
Anger
Bargaining (again)
Depression (how is anyone surprised by these tears?)
Acceptance (you're making such progress)
Depression (one year later)
Acceptance (wow, I made it a whole year)
Depression
Depression (look, I don't know what to tell you. Yes, these tears are for the "same" reason)
Bargaining (please, let this be the last time I melt down in public because of candy necklaces)
Anger (reflecting on the way things "used to be")
Anger (no longer being able to be normal)
Anger (tattoo #4)
Acceptance
Fun (those of you who understand, know what I mean)
Depression (yeah...dude. Still crying)
Denial (Did I really just watch the same shitty result happen in my life again because, I am, certifiably, broken)
Anger
Acceptance (tattoo #5)
Therapy
...[this list continues]...

You sort of catch the drift, yes?

if you come to me

dating,
searching,
seeking,
moving heaven and earth…
well, okay. I – for sure – have never tried that hard.

while I would love
to feel known
seen,
vulnerable

I acknowledge reality.

the freedom
I want
can easily become
the freedom
I lose.

I want to understand
men, love,
but in reality,
I don’t believe
anyone does.

we all

just

make it work.

I do not think myself
innovative
unique
one-of-a-kind
by any means

and if I believe
my experience to be
my own form of normal
I must acknowledge
that some days
you
also feel like
me

“you’re special.
just like everyone else.”
was likely the
most important
phrase I could have heard
at that time

my own form of normal
is wrapped in my own form
of recovering fundamentalist

it is my intense idea
of integrity
that prevents
this moving forward

hope mixed with truth
that you never wanted me
and while there’s no harm
in a little flirtation
allow me an honest response:

if you choose
to come to me
wanting something
temporary

it gets to be okay
that I want something more
and tell you no

if you choose
to come to me
wanting something
limited. restricted. once

it gets to be okay
that I do not fall in line
in that docile
midwestern
feminine
way

and simply give you what you want

if you choose
to come to me
while in a relationship
considered “open”

you had best believe
and understand

I do my homework.

I notice everything.

the way you interact
and its inconsistencies
seeking me – returning
to the scene –
apparently in control,
never taking control

and if you choose
to come to me
open
had better not
in reality be
tolerance

openness is open: transparent.

tolerance
of bad behavior
is fear of losing something
and that is not open

she is good.
she works hard.
she is also worth your time.
worth your attention
worth your love

even when its routine

like I would want
another woman to say about me
if I were partner,
and not mistress

I get karma
and I know consequences.
if I choose you
in this context,
even just once,

I should expect
the same to happen to me.

if we like each other
toward different goals,
it’s okay
for me to let you go

I know what I want.
I always have.

if open relationship
in reality means
questioning
but prioritizing comfort

if you simply seek
to lock down the next thing
before your grand exit,

try again.

I’ll not be here
to pick up the pieces

if you come to me
it’s because
you’re ready.
not because
you’re finished.

hope is a thief

Formulas are meant to create results.

Dependable results.

But hope is a thief.
It steals life
in moments
in pictures
and dreams

In what if...
what if...
what if...
what if...
maybe one day

Born into my zip code
all I have are these two hands
these two feet
and should I lose them
...what hope?

fear and formula 
go hand in hand
one motivates 
the cultivation
of the other

it's just that
formula,
once created,
is not always a
dependable result

perhaps, 

rather,

it is too dependable

perhaps formulas
do exactly
what we create them
to do, 

just more fully
than we imagined

hope is sown
in the soil
of doubt
and fear
the result: formula

or maybe, 
that is wrong

are they formulas
planted in 
hopeful soil
which yield
doubt and fear?

when does hope pay off?

maybe it is
the mind of
the girl
from the village
that plays

that mind
which says 
life should be simple
when simplicity
in reality
is impossible

life should be complex
life should be intricate,
intimate,
perpetual,
compelling,
everything and nothing,
chaotic order,

...now I am carried away...

but what exists
between 
simple
and
complex?

regardless.
hope is painful
hope is a lie
given to poverty
to make it work harder

ease and comfort
are given at birth
to the zip code
that prevents
star-crossed love
from finding a way

and yet,
enticing it all the more,
hopes on different pages
differing timelines
different formulas

hope, then, 
is for you
not me

I can only work
toward a dream
that will become
a new horizon
once I meet it

fundamentally me: part one

Reflection #1: You can take the girl out of fundamentalism, but you can’t take fundamentalism out of the girl.

My own experience in this life has been this summary: I grew up in rural Nebraska. My parents divorced when I was two years old, and my brother and I split our time between parents. This was absolutely normal to me and I loved it…call me a Gemini, but existing as the same person in two different worlds was truly a gift. Perhaps my deep sense of wonder and adventure comes from this moving around and packing a bag all the time. I only have one memory of my father actively talking about his disappointment in the relationship with my mom breaking up. I don’t remember the car we were in because I remember the back and side profile of my father’s head which meant some sort of back seat situation. One of those trucks with the teensy pull down “chair” behind the main seat.

We were on the street behind what used to be the cafe where everyone went. It wasn’t on Main street. That’s Mom’s Cafe. It was the other one…”caddy-corner” – or in expensive terms – adjacent to the State Bank drive-thru. Where the old gas station/pharmacy/candy story across the street from Betty’s house. She was my babysitter. I don’t remember what it was called, but they had a menu item named after a family friend whom I was always suspicious of – called, “Big Al”. He was a stocky brutish man who was in construction and drove a skid-loader. My main memory of him is some drunken racist rant one 4th of July at my uncle Billy’s lake house. But I love my family. I feel proud of the memory of them trying to protect the guy he was yelling at by shooing Al away and calming him down and trying to comfort Al’s victim. I will always think of my family as protective. I always look back on that protective habit and feel comfort and safety. That’s also very tied to my identity.

If you’ve never grown up in a small town, think of it like an office environment where you’ve been for 10 years. You know everyone. You say hello to everyone. You generally know about everyone and some basic piece of information, because you’ve been there forever and so have they. Life becomes monotonous with them and you begin to take stability for granted – just like everyone else. Relationships take a great deal of time to develop. And in a small town, there is ample amount of time. It’s like good character development in a TV show or book. There’s time to develop the nuance of reality. People with habits, complex backgrounds, yet hope. Knowing someone thoroughly is what seems to make them a ‘good’ person, I think – at least in our minds. That is what makes them feel like your neighbor, that you could perhaps depend on them in a pinch. I think that’s what I see in that memory of Al. Al must have a complicated background that my family knows about and instead of casting him aside or shunning him (like I would happily do if I saw him do that again), they tolerated this bad behavior and comforted the person who was verbally assaulted. In a small town, you can’t escape or avoid someone forever. There’s less anonymity. The only way to disappear, is to really just leave. Which I did.

I knew I was in a small town when my father died. I was ten. It was 5th day of 5th grade. A Wednesday morning. The school secretary took me out of reading class. His death was sudden. The third heart attack, apparently massive is what they called it. My grandmother told me, “God wanted him to come home and be with him.” I know, that’s weird and unclear sentence. Not to mention bizarre and unfair of God..but I digress.

Later that evening, I was walking into my house from collecting the mail or something. But, I remember the brunette lady two doors down, whom I’d never spoken to before. She said, “Are you Stephen Sharp’s daughter?” I shook my head ‘yes.’ She said, “I heard about your dad today. I’m sorry for your loss.” I was really confused about this. So – here’s my reaction: I smiled and said, “Thank you!” and went inside. I SMILED? And I said, “THANK YOU.”

What the actual fuck?

Isn’t it funny how memory and our brains work? The connections we make with “what fires together wires together”: neuronal pathways forever fused together through sight, smell, touch, emotion, taste and sound. I am grateful that my parents never spoke ill of each other, and I think I am lucky. My charming, hilarious, and awesome father knew my mother would have fuel to keep a fire burning as fidelity was never his strongest quality. And my shy yet fierce mother’s determination not to remain in a relationship that wasn’t good for her, and not to deprive us of a vastly important person in our lives.

Basic notes: I had always grown up going to church. I was always wildly sensitive. I mean, seriously. This was no mere fall and scrape the knee and burst in to tears for a few seconds kind of sensitive. To give myself an ounce of credit, I was fearless at times. But mostly, I was a picky, neurotic, insecure, needy, whiny, terrified, and if I’m being harsh, an inconvenient kind of child. I screamed and cried the first day of school in second grade, which I think were the same classrooms I had later in 4th grade (so my memories melt together sometimes). Josh made absolute fun of me in the cafeteria later in the school year, and I mean…stood on the bench, pointed at me in front of everyone (keep in mind, its a small town…so that’s like 30 kids, but still) and announced how I cried the first day of school. But he was right and I was beside myself distraught to have to go to school again.

There was a traumatic experience that I had of peeing my pants in first grade that made me feel like I was irrevocably the worst child ever. I had to ride the “bad kids” bus and I had to wear these gray cut off shorts that Betty had to bring to me and she was SO angry and inconvenienced that she had to bring them. I sat in the back of the group on the first grade carpet (the brightly colored ones that they have in first grade) waiting for the second bus to go to lunch hugging my legs to my chest, and rocking back and forth still faintly smelling urine on my legs. I think when 2nd grade started, I was terrified that something like this would happen again. From that moment forward, I had what everyone in my family referred to as a “bathroom problem”. I would become so terrified that I would pee my pants again and that everyone would hate and disown me, so we had to pull over all the time on road trips. I could never make it through standing in line for amusement park rides and missed them all. I had to leave an IMAX movie in Hastings and my father was so mad that he spent that money and missed the IMAX. To this day, standing in line for amusement rides, I feel that same sensation – it’s called anxiety. Ha! Who knew?! I understand it now, but it’s this faint reminder of the anxiety I was experiencing then with all the fears I had of not being able to rise above.

I was a hard child. I was. Trust me. I could even keep going with more stories. My poor aunts and uncles that were tasked with watching over me. Goodness. I was truly afraid, I think, that everyone would disown or abandon me, and that fear made the experience so much worse.

Enter my father’s funeral preparations. My brother, Adam, cousin Kacie and I sat with my Auntie MaryAnn. She bought these white balloons and explained this beautiful abstract idea of letting go and we released the balloons into the air (I know, but we didn’t know then). We stood on the corner of the wraparound porch at the funeral home – “caddy corner” to the Library, Police Station AND City Hall. Yep.

The viewing.

Why do we do this? I remember standing next to Kacie and touching my father. I don’t suggest it. It will make a proper existential crisis for anyone. I remember, specifically, this bouquet of all red roses with one white rose (or the inverse of that) and some story that someone was telling of my father. And I knew, in that moment, that I had no idea who my father was. No real clue. I daydream ALL the time of coming across people who randomly knew my dad – because it makes absolute sense that he would have met everyone in the world. I have been stopped most times I’ve been back home to hear someone say a fiercely kind and amazing word about my father. And I always wish it will happen every single day.

The funeral.

“I have to be strong for my family.” I didn’t shed a single tear at his funeral. Not a single ONE. I was kind, welcoming, and grateful to each person who showed up. I said hello to old friends. My soon-to-be stepdad was there with my soon-to-be stepbrother. I remember where they sat. I met my father’s first wife. Actually, I found out my father had a first wife because she was staring at me with these amazing and surprised big eyes. I found out much later that they divorced because my father had become infertile from Chemo/radiation treatments from having had cancer twice in his 20’s. So, she was staring at me because I, in a terrible form of wording it, was never actually supposed to exist…at least in her mind. We all found out later that it is possible for infertility from exposure to radiation to actually reverse itself. The body is an amazing thing. I meet a lot of people now who have children they were told would never be possible.

I remember seeing the redness on the faces of all my family members. Their confusion that I wasn’t crying. I remember my uncle Tommy’s eulogy. “Stephen Sharp was a man…” was how a lot of the sentences began. Pastor Bob told everyone this thing that I told him to say, because I felt bad that I had annoyed my father so much in the days leading up to his death to teach me how to carve wood. He became so angry and exploded and my brother and I were so afraid of him, we ran away to a different room in the house. Part of me feels like I had contributed to his death. Unintentional blood pressure spike…heart attack. Pastor Bob told everyone that my dad was going to teach me how to carve wood. Such a random detail with so much to unpack behind it. Now, when I hear random details like that, I give them great credit for how much weight those little details likely bear. I also found out later that my father was told that too much scar tissue had developed in his heart and his final heart attack was inevitable. He began making phone calls in his last weeks, tying loose ends, saying some quizzical goodbyes, and even called my mom to say thank you for always letting him see us kids.

I was so sensitive as a child. But my father’s death was a turning point. This is literally the reason for this whole post. I refused to shed a tear because I felt that I was ridiculed so much as a child and made the butt of so many jokes that I refused to let people delight somehow in the most fundamentally important loss of my life. I would not give anyone the satisfaction of my tears. No one would get to call me sensitive again. I was SO clear why I was doing it and so upset that people didn’t understand. I think my father played defender for me. And he was gone. I had no line of defense to protect me.

So, I turned to church. The only times I cried from that point forward was in a church/God setting. I put my effort and anxiety into proving I was worthy of God’s love.

Because I knew that, as a result of my father’s death, certain things were no longer an option, I threw myself into service of all kinds. At such a young age, I gave up on my life being my own, to determine through my own lens. It had become about service. Life lived for others, for the greater good, for a greater purpose. In some ways, I needed this. I needed a tether for remaining present. I needed a purpose or goal toward which I would aim.

But what happened when I left it all behind? I got a job in a coffee shop and literally started serving other people. And I had to spend so many hours doing so for the sake of surviving in Los Angeles. This question of purpose still hangs over my head. I have officially run the course of working hard for a greater purpose. But it’s taken nearly an entire decade of my life post-religion to actually be okay with living a life directed by my own self, for my own goals and aims. Those which have nothing to do with other people.

to be continued…

 

 

 

undo…and my obsession with card games

When I was young, like somewhere between 8 and 12, when I knew how to use a computer, I became obsessed with Tetris. I would go to my grandmother’s house and I would spend an inordinate amount of time playing Tetris after school…so innocent. And then, my grandmother downloaded something like 200 varieties of card games onto a blue floppy disk. That’s when things got interesting.

I would say I’ve lived much of my life on the outside, looking in. Considering the moves I would make and thinking through as many details ahead of time such that I could make the best one with the least collateral damage available.

Lately, I’ve been considering the footprint I have created in this lifetime. Typically in these reflections on this little blog, I remember all the times I felt shame or guilt as a child, young adult and even to adulthood. The times I hurt others because of my selfish actions. The times I intimidated or even caused fear in others because of my anger or intensely guarded emotional framework. The times I chose my own ego and turned someone else into the butt of teasing or jokes so that attention wouldn’t wind back toward me.

Sitting for hours playing card games is an ancient past time. Being a Gemini, it’s always been important to me to have about three different things happening simultaneously in order to accomplish something, one small inch forward. That presents itself in daydreaming, having people who aren’t in my life anymore present questions to me and me – in my own little daydreams – answering those questions as honestly as I can. I would say, in my mind, I’ve had thousands of relationships that haven’t ever happened. But, I’ve also surprised myself with the answers to all those questions that have arisen.

A long time ago, I wrote about this woman (in a vision I had) with dark hair and bright green eyes. Obviously, she’s my version of my best self…my truest self…except she can fly and is, generally speaking, way more capable of life. Anyways, I like to think that these daydreams, the questions that wind up being presented, are her way of guiding me into becoming her. My own best version of myself – including the eventual flying.

The reason I became so obsessed with card games is that I could replay the same hand, try different things, and undo. The undo button is my favorite, and I cannot tell you how many times I wish, in this life, that I could undo things: words, actions, that I would have dived in to protect someone instead of laughing with others at their expense. That I would have been more brave, or let someone know in the beginning that awkwardness was my fault and there’s nothing they could have done differently. I was broken: an absolute swirling mess of emotions unsorted, un-categorized, and unpredictable.

Its only dawned on me in these recent years that everyone is like this. Every. Single. Person. Is spinning out about things they wish they could undo. Times they lost patience, lost grip, lost a friend, lost a lover because of a word, or set of words, actions, or in-actions that created very real – potentially unintended – but real nonetheless, results.

The truth is we get no opportunities to undo. Thus, my current argument is that regret is useless. The seeds I have already sowed are sowed. I know I will meet their result later in this or another life. What I can do, however, is accept the consequences and see them for what they are as I experience my present and future. No one deserves bad things, and at the same time, existing does not also mean one deserves good things. We just do not deserve. Period. Life is life. We walk, run, live, move, have our beings in these lives we lead.

When I was in 8th or 9th grade, I was walking home from school one day and I had this thought that I didn’t have enough time in life to make every possible mistake and learn from it. Instead, I did the ‘holy’ thing and asked ‘god’ for wisdom. Pretty profound for freshman, hey?

Problem.

I didn’t want wisdom in the sense that I understand it now. What I was actually asking for was protection from pain. I thought wisdom was analyzing and calculating risk so that I would “wisely” make better choices and have less painful consequences.

Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. I actually feel just as bad for all the inaction in my life, just as much as the actions that definitely caused pain.

For the most part, chaos is part of reality. Life shouldn’t be about attempting to control chaos. It should be about remaining present to all the potential at any given moment. Understanding that each moment creates a set of choices. I can attempt to understand the consequences of any choice in any moment; but, control, order is an illusion.

You cannot have one without the other. Yin/Yang. Hot/Cold. Masculine/Feminine. Order/Chaos – these are not finite dichotomies. These are fluid labels meant to give direction, not define potential. Chaos needs order, and order has no purpose without chaos.

that’s all

-me

death_of_a_tortured_soul

part of me is dying.

it is the part which believed
I could work hard enough
-for anyone’s sake-
to find my own value
reflected in their gaze

it is the part of me
that thought another’s
pride   in   me
would be the place
I found worth
wrapped up
and handed over
like a paycheck

and if I did die…
remember me
in my best moments
my vulnerable moments
even in my anger,
pain and struggle.

remember the spectrum
of my life
not exclusively the light
or moments of wit
I had these changes.
I had contrast.

do not think of me
as dying alone

because I lived free

choosing a path _unlike_
the one written for me
at birth

if I died alone,
I did so
stronger
than I ever thought
I was allowed to be.

my life,
perhaps the life of a gemini
will bend toward change
mind you,
vibrant words do not
accurately reflect resistance
to those changes

regardless of temperament
through change
one must pick that flower up
from off the dusty street,
stick it in a book
and mark that surrender

a life,
marked by death,
change,
transition,
opportunity,
chaos,
I may not HAVE much,
but I have those changes
I have the   degree
of contrast

the past
used to be
something
that reflected loss:
a tearing away of innocence, even
held such color in my memory
that I held onto ferociously

it was the pedestal
through which I would gauge
the quality
of my current existence

while I may no longer have
some of the people
that made the past seem
so much sweeter,
perhaps more comfortable,
helped me feel more confident,
I have looked into eyes,
I may never have seen

I have these changes,
this contrast

loss makes life challenging,
there is no doubt

different than what I assumed
it should have been

that I always thought
I was robbed of

but it was never ease
that I was guaranteed at birth
you are born.
you live.
you die.
everything is temporary.

if I wait long enough,
I’ll come to the end of everything.

that which is stupid
that which is unjust
that which is crazy
that which is delicious
that which is beautiful
that which is awful
that which is ecstatic
it
will all
end

definition is a phrase
that I use
to give color
to a moment

but I have these changes
I have this contrast.

my first song

There was a tiny room with four pianos. One of my favorite images is picturing a blank slate. And any instrument sitting idle: drum, guitar, saxophone, clarinet…and the piano, these are all blank slates in their own right. Any freshly opened computer terminal. Any new draft. Each of these things come with some amount of thrill.

All that to say, I had just moved to college. I was a quiet, mid-western girl with a very active imagination. But I wrote all the time. I had filled at least 7 baby journals and gave those journals up for proper binders with loose leaf paper in them. I mostly just took literally the idea of having a personal relationship with what I then understood to be ‘God’. I would write diary journals to God. When I tell you my father died when I was young, you’ll understand precisely the role that played.

The words that poured onto paper that day in the room with four pianos, were, “Mothers pray that their sons won’t fall in love, with someone like me. Messed up hope. Messed up faith. Messed up family.”

Growing up in the Midwest, in my experience, came with many things taken for granted. I mean, in the literal sense:

It is granted that:

I am a female, one day I will be married.

It is granted that:

all families should have one mother, one father, together in one household.

It is granted that:

faith is the basis for all worldview plumb-lining…measuring, evaluating, etc.

It is granted that:

I am an overly-sensitive person.

That summer, a cousin was married. At the rehearsal dinner, the mother of the groom stood to address the room in adoration of her future daughter-in-law, saying, “You know, my husband and I just prayed and prayed that [our son] wouldn’t wind up falling in love with someone from a broken home.”

When trauma occurs, the brain makes decisions that last a lifetime in mere milliseconds. My father died the 5th day of 5th grade. It was a Wednesday. I stood at this strange intersection (physically, mind you) at his house…well, houses. Behind me were the two cars that he’d planned to fix up for my brother and me when we turned sixteen. I was standing at the back of the trailer he lived in, looking at the house he would never get to live in. I was staring at the mound of dirt that had now grown grass…that’s a bizarre picture to paint. But,

It’s true that things come to you exactly when you’re ready for them. My father was ready to move into a house, and quite literally, one was available to just transport onto the property he lived. The mound of dirt I was staring at had compiled as part of the ground-leveling process. He had the ability to ensure everything was installed and readied for living in. He, indeed, many of my family members are quite good at these things…was/were. It is also true that at any point in time, you may not be around to see your plans through to fruition.

So, at this strange reality that was now my life, I decided then and there, that because my father had died, I could never get married. These two things were so wired together in my mind that I was certain it was true.

It is also why I was certain that lady was right. All of these truths being granted, she was right to pray for this particular thing. She was praying these things for all the wholesome, motherly, protective reasons. I am certain that, had her future daughter-in-law been from a ‘broken family’, she would have dug deep to share in the joy everyone felt at this wedding. For me, listening in, it was death sentence, of sorts.

I haven’t actually had a boyfriend since high school. There have been men, many unrequited, some one-nighted, and throw in some indecent exposure and assault, and that basically makes up the picture of my luck with men.

Frankly none of this was to paint a picture of my sad existence. What I actually want to discuss is the danger of an idea. The idea embedded between the lines of that fucked-up song. In this way, faith, and the never-ending list of unspoken agreements/understandings/amendments/secondary clauses/appendices/footnotes/addendum items/exclusions/conditions    hurt me.    This idea. That I was broken because of things that were outside my control. That those life events defined my future. A faith that champions the idealized family unit, in a patriarchal culture, fails to exercise one of its dearest tenants: freedom.

I thought life events define ones’ life. Or maybe define my character – which then leads to the rest of my life, no? Perhaps, better, it defines my capacity? Or maybe just my general worthiness? Who knows what’s really going on in the mind of a ten-year-old, right?

Much of my life was spent in this liminal space of knowing everything was settled, but still trying hard to prove that I was good enough for something more. All because of this idea, that brokenness is determined by outward factors. Honestly, I think I have spent so much of my life working with people cast aside as ‘broken’ because I have also been trying to fight for my own worthiness in my effort as well.

To exclusively champion one form of life, condemns the rest. Worse, it forces untenable situations to remain when they should be freed. Freedom from chains, not roped into more knots. All because of the idea that brokenness is determined by outward factors. My. Friends. BULL. SHIT.

What I have learned is that people will always shine. People have a rich depth of capacity; yet, each one determines the lens through which that brightness shines.

I think I have finally, nearly, worked myself to death in this attempt to prove my worthiness – likely to myself. But. I cannot prove worthiness which is inherent.

Here are the new tenants which I take for granted…my amendments to the ideas I learned:

It is granted that:

I am a human being. Everything is negotiable.

It is granted that:

Family is as I define it. It is not some rosy, glossed over portrait or instagram feed by which I determine how well I am doing or whether I am happy. I will be both nurturing and hurtful when it comes to family. Capacity goes all ways, in all directions.

It is granted that:

“Did you murder someone? Are you pregnant?” One of my favorite lines from a film that I can’t quite remember the title of…this is my basic plumbline.

It is (still) granted that:

I am sensitive. Yep. If you can’t handle it, there’s always a door marked “EXIT”. At this point, I’m too happy to let you leave.

That’s all,

me

 

grief is not a straight line,

my friend.

It is messy.

Zig-zags and switch-backs in every way

that surprise and startle anew each time.

Each aspect of grief is, to me,

a road I make

through the wilderness

that terrifies me.

The road must be made,

because I must move forward,

and there is no manual.

 

Grief is a neural imprint of

the heart’s reminder of humanity.

The one way I understand how my brain

affects my heart,

and vice versa.

 

Every morning I wake up aware

of the life I don’t have,

the journey I thought I was on:

“this is not what I wanted”

Erased?

Delayed?

In the shock of grief,

mouths move around me

my head in a tunnel

swollen, but eyes squint to

attempt to make sense of apparent words.

I should nod some sense

of acknowledgement

But, when I do hear words,

they are the wrong ones.

Unless you’re here to tell me it was a bad dream

I cannot hear your heart.

I cannot feel my own beating.

 

I want to laugh

to engage in the skin of

that person I once was;

but it would be a lie.

I would walk around

as a billboard’s promise:

all would know deep down

I am not what I seem.

This smile you ask of me

costs my integrity.

 

Alone

I find myself untethered

on an island amidst

a hurricane.

Everything becomes magnified.

Silence, a vacuum.

keys in my purse, clanging cymbals,

my feet on the ground,

an unwelcome cadence

to someone else’s march.

 

The distant crash of a wave calls.

I can see myself running to the water’s edge,

being engulfed by its steadiness and strength.

 

Only the ocean can know.

 

It alone has seen everything since the beginning.

Only the ocean can empathize,

can comprehend and allow for

what I am not doing right,

or well,

or at all.

Like showering.

or eating.

or smiling.

 

Emotions are dangerous

so I try to push them away,

they just don’t seem to end.

The shower becomes my ocean

and as I cower beneath its relentless stream

the silence collapses in on itself.

A now hallow body contorts

attempting to cave in from

somewhere in the middle of its frame.

Perpetual betrayal.

No matter how much I try

to stop breathing,

the center involuntarily gives way,

flooding my lungs with air.

These bursts of air only

to be heaved out yet again.

I clutch my chest

to remind myself

my heart is actually still beating.

The cycle of it

is eventually met by silence of another kind

when the body is so tired

exhausted in a way few seem to talk about.

And sleep meets a swirling brain.

 

One foot forward.

Each moment as it comes.

Weeks become months

and people stop checking in.

Have they forgotten?

Paranoia.

They hope my grief only lasts a week

and I am, again, abnormal.

Nothing feels right

or familiar.

 

Years later

I will be met with the notion of being “over”  “it”.

The many ‘its’ which have played a part

in this life.

I hope it is my feminine defiance which

presents a graceful middle finger to this idea.

I have finally realized the strength

in acknowledging pain.

In shedding each and every tear

until there is nothing left.

In confronting the unknown depths

of my self

and knowing there is another side.

 

I am all of these ‘its’ wrapped

into this version of self.

Presently, my feet remain on some path

one I was unaware existed in the realm of possibility.

It will be my path.

I will integrate these moments.

I will always know who I am,

because who I am is beyond these moments.

 

 

I have grieved my father,

all my grandparents,

the family I never met.

I have grieved ideas:

equality

justice

hospitality

in a dis-integrated world.

I have grieved

the choices I made

and the ones I didn’t:

my first sexual experience.

I have grieved the loss

of simplicity, the box

into which I am no longer welcome.

I have grieved the disappointment

and pain I have caused

and that which I have received

at the hands of those

from whom I wanted more.

I have grieved the fear

that perhaps I will never get

any of what I want.

 

and I still grieve these ‘its’ of my life

my relationship to them changes.

I am grateful for the capacity

of empathy I have found in my self.

The life I thought I wanted,

the path I thought I was on,

had its own limitations.

A blissful ignorance of which I am grateful

to have become aware.

 

One does not get ‘over’ the grief

of a life-changing moment.

‘It’ morphs and changes through time.

Pain changes over time.

My willingness to participate with my grief,

I think, has been directly related

to the incredible joy I experience.

in connection: human to human.

The subtle undertone and heartbeat

of peace that always holds me

after the torrential rain of emotions.

 

It is a still, small Self, in my self, saying,

“Never fear an emotion you haven’t fully met.

You will always make it through to the other side.

Find your heartbeat:

it just might become your best friend.”

 

 

that’s all,

me

bitches recognize dignity

 

 

Happy International Women’s Day

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

See the dots

connect the dots

look at the artwork

understand the details

of each dot in that piece

wide lens and microscopic

in the same moment

the weight each dot bears

because we are each dot

extending reach to be connected

we bear weight

experience surpression

with grace

with acceptance

with forgiveness

and yet

with reciprocity

with clarity

with expectation

learning the depth of love

for family

for community

for legacy

and also

for skin

for curves

for style

in how bodies change

in how joy surprises

in how disappointment,

and grief inform

the truth of life,

the fact of chaos

the courage to walk through

chin up

heart out

arms open

ready to welcome

able to let go

ever able to find

our own two feet

our own two hands

our own lineage

our own definition

words have hurt us

those of locker rooms

those of whispered competition

those of loud judgment

so also have fires,

so also have stones,

so also have laws

because inherent dignity

recognized

without permission

does not line a pocket

does not keep power in place

does not keep status, quo

 

glorious

messy

imperfection

is what we demand

is what we acknowledge

is what we savor

 

 

because to be feminine

is to integrate

joy

sorrow

delight

grief

pain

pleasure

freedom

captivation

I am all of this

I contain all of this

I experience all of this

and it is my own

it is all

one

 

please do not

make the mistake

of considering my words

permission

that things may continue

that violation is justified

that any one is ‘right’

as though I should remain silent

another five thousand years

I will not.

I am uncontainable

in my expression

in my freedom

in my self

do not attempt definition

or opinion as your form

of containment

as my nature defies it

To the man who assaulted me:

I

forgive

ME.

Go fuck yourself.

Forgiveness does not apply

to those who do not acknowledge

 

to those who will to remain ignorant

to those who have no ears to hear

to those who have no eyes to see

what has been plainly before them

and should you

make the mistake

of labeling this ‘lashing out’

 

consider yourself ignorant:

because

to shine light into the dark corner

of what has always been there

is just shining light

in the dark corner

of what has always been there

it is not for me to apologize

it is not for me to hold your hand

through your own ignorance

it is for me to recognize

in that feminine way

that dignity is inherent

in us all

that I find my own

when I fight for yours

that capacity is in every direction

even the ‘negative’ ones

in every way imaginable

accepting that what is

simply

is

it is not personal

it is not punishment

it is not ‘my fault’

alone, love surrounds

as space surrounds

as life surrounds

wide lens and microscopic

in the same moment

it has always been there

as life started the timeline

in which I exist

I participate by thinking

by expressing

by recognizing

the dignity of all things

even the painful things

even the joyful things

even the toe-curling delicious things

even the fearsome things

bitches

recognize

dignity

 

 

 

that’s all,

me