Upon hearing today's news of the passing of this brilliant poet, I thought it only apropos to share my favorite Mary Oliver poem with you. It was assigned to me for recital in an acting class over two decades ago, and it spoke to me. Still does.💗
RIP, and well done, Ms. Oliver.
Monday, January 07, 2019
Malcom X ain't walked amongst us in way more than a month of Sundays, yet this quote is as true today as it was when he said it.
I stayed up REALLY late last night and watched parts 1-5 of "Surviving R. Kelly" - the 6-part Lifetime documentary series detailing the life and abuse allegations of this singer. Episode 1 was like memory lane: I grew up on Chicago's south side and recognized many of the places and events mentioned and shown. I couldn't relax into nostalgia, however, because I knew that some fuckery was afoot. By episode 5, I was peeking through my fingers at the TV screen, feeling like I was about to vomit.
R. Kelly was known for hanging out at a neighboring high school around the time I graduated and left for college. It wasn't even a secret. When I was in college, I heard that his grown ass had married Aaliyah, who was 15. I wasn't clear on whether or not her parents had okayed it, but it all sounded like some "crazy Hollywood shit" so I declared it Not My Business™️ and continued to bop to both of their musical offerings while getting my OWN life together. I was a superfan of neither, but when their music came on, I didn't turn it off.
As decades went by, allegations continued, Aaliyah died in a plane crash (rest her soul), a rape tape surfaced that included footage of R. Kelly peeing on 14 year old (I saw the tape- it was him), EVENTUALLY there was a trial... and I- by this time an adult with life experience and a different perspective, wondered how the hell this man was still walking around free.
I firmly believe that had he been raping and pillaging white girls wholesale for 30 years, he would be under the jail by now, dead or alive, prolific music catalogue be damned.
A few days ago, I saw a video circulating on the internet of young, black, female McDonald's employee physically assaulted by an older white man. Not only was he a man (which is bad enough), but he was MUCH larger than her. After a heated exchange about there not being straws at the drink station, he reached across the counter and choked her. She summarily proceeded to beat the shit out of him until her coworkers pulled them apart.
The comments seemed to be comedic ones, largely centered around the fact that she beat up a man almost twice her size, however I saw it differently. I had a viceral reaction to the fact that this woman, fighting for her life, was being lauded for her fighting prowess instead of being tended to. After the fight, the aggressor, not realizing he had been video-recorded, started blaming her and barking orders at other employees. A manager came over to address his concerns. NOBODY checked on this young woman. A later news story confirmed that SHE HAD TO CALL 911 HERSELF, and that she is afraid to go back to work because now she feels like anyone can do anything to her. This, my friends, is how PTSD works. But black people don't get to have PTSD or other mental illnesses. And black WOMEN barely even get to be sick at all.
"All the blacks are men, and all the women are white."1
When "Black" issues are addressed, they are primarily black MEN'S issues, and where "women's" concerns are brought to the fore, they are almost always WHITE women's issues. Black women who point out these facts are usually chided for being divisive.
In the meantime, we buttress everyone else's causes: donning our pussyhats in honor of a feminism that views us as an afterthought (if at all) while we continue to make less money on the dollar than white women doing the same work, and kneeling as a show of solidarity with black men, too many of whom never reciprocate when faced with the opportunity.
We fight to survive (often physically) and are maligned for being "aggressive" when our non-black counterparts are "spunky," or "fiery," or "assertive". We are constantly told that our hair and our bodies are the wrong kind, which has proven to be code for "the wrong color". We change them, and others make fun of us for trying to do what we have been told is beautiful. Our non-black counterparts make those same changes and are lauded as "exotic" and "desirable". We don't change them, and we are put down for not trying hard enough to be beautiful. We exercise our creativity in a myriad of forms, many borne of not having many resources, only to have those creations labeled as "ghetto", then co-opted by others, renamed, and declared "elevated". I call bullshit on all of this bullshit. TO-day.
Yes, #BlackLivesMatter and the #MeToo2 movement are valid and important... but so are black women. Full stop. It's high time that we move through the world in full possession of this knowledge, and stop accepting anything less than what we deserve from whomever offers it.
1. From the title of THIS book.
2. A movement created by Tarana Burke (a black-American activist) in 2007, and largely ignored until co-opted by white feminists in Hollywood ten years later.
Tuesday, January 01, 2019
Today finds me nineteen days post-op from a laparascopic myomectomy. I had abdominal pain for (literally) ALL of 2018, and it took doctors over 9 months to determine why: subserosal fibroids.
Fibroids are common amongst women in general, and black women in particular. The risk rate also goes up exponentially for those of us who haven't had babies, so... yeah - my black, child-free self was bound to get them. I heavily side-eye the doctors for taking so long to figure out what was causing my pain, but that's not what this post is about. This post is about the aftermath.
I've spent a LOT of time at home alone, post-surgery. I have wonderful, caring friends whom I can call if I need ANYTHING, and many of them checked on me regularly for the first 10 days or so to make sure that I was ok. I appreciate each and every single one of them from the bottom of my heart. Over the last week, I've ventured out a few times, briefly, each time ending up with additional pain and fatigue.
My own frustration at not healing "fast enough" along with some others expectations that I *should* be ready to socialize (in whatever form), began to cause me tremendous anxiety... so I checked out. I muted all mobile device notifications and sequestered myself to the level that felt right for me, peeking out of my cocoon mostly just enough to let my parents know that I'm still alive and to peek in on Twitter every couple of days to see if the world is ending. Healing takes the time it takes and that it WILL HAPPEN if I allow myself the time and space to do so. I've breathed out expectations, breathed in healing, and in doing so, I've reclaimed that time and space for myself.
The resulting atmosphere feels like a mountaintop meditation of sorts, and I'm awestruck at the view from here.
We all know that looking at things from a distance allows you to see things that you would not otherwise see. Think "big-picture" vs. "small-angle" viewpoint.
I don't feel stressed or rushed, and I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything that will matter long-term. I don't feel beholden to my devices. I move on my own time, how and if I see fit. As a result, my mind, unencumbered by the usual minutiae, feels more free to be creative and make associations than it has in a long time. Without minute-to-minute demands from the outside world, I find that it processes more slowly, deliberately, and meaningfully.
My home is a peaceful place, and when it isn't, it's because of what or whom I've allowed in. Same with my mind.
So, now I've finally come to the point of this blog post: my over-arching goal for 2019.
For the past couple of years, I've decided on a principle to guide me through that year. In 2017, it was #SelfCare17. 2018? #GrownAndFree was my theme. I'll keep those with me, for sure, but this year?? I feel compelled to take a cue from my lived experience over the last few weeks, and,
Receive more, &
Guard my energy.
In a hashtag, I will:
because, apparently, I've been expending valuable energy on LOT of things
that don't matter (to me) long-term.
So I, like Auntie Maxine, am reclaiming my time in 2019. Huzzah. Watch me Whip, Whip, now watch me Nae Nae with joy.
I'm fully aware that I can't hole myself up in my apartment forever, nor do I wish to completely withdraw from the world - I love life and most of the people IN my life. I will, however, be extremely selective about how I spend my energies this year, and in doing so, I intend to cultivate fertile space within my mind and spirit for good things to grow. ❤️