On the Road to Angry Brown Lady

I started this post on December 6, 2016 like this…

For the first time in my life, I see myself clearly on a track and feel uncertain how to get off. The horrible injustice that seems to be finding its way to my eyes for consumption and emotional response has increased greatly. I am not stating that the amount of injustice in the world has changed, merely my observance of it.

My default response to most things is sadness and empathy. I feel sadness that the world continues to exist this way and that our global community cannot figure out how to listen deeper and love greater. Then I try to understand why and how the conflicts, disagreements and deaths happen. A new response is slowly rising within me.

I am angry. I am annoyed. I am furious. I feel deep rage. I wish ugly horrible things to the leaders instigating and calling for violence and intolerance.

This is not who I have been in the past. Anger for many reasons is not my default emotion. Anger makes me feel powerless. All of my impulses are good neither for me nor the world at large. So I sit turning the anger inward and it becomes deep sadness. It is better for these reasons to avoid this emotion. Only recently and out of necessity have I begun to embrace it.

This does not change however that I feel myself pulled in a direction with no way to deviate. There are two of me. The empathetic me tied to the train tracks and the angry me gleefully blowing the horn of the train about to run empathetic me over. Angry me has a handlebar mustache and evil laugh. I need both mes to get off the tracks.

I realize that within the anger there are deeper feelings. Behind my anger is a sense of deep exhaustion. A famous quote comes to mind.

 

“I am sick and tired of being sick and tired!”

                   – Fannie Lou Hamer

 

Read quickly about the speaker behind these words and you see something stronger than anger. You see a woman who was beaten, written off and still did what she thought was right. You see a woman determined.

I think even deeper within the anger is a sense of brokenness. More than sadness. I feel broken by the fact that just as I am recovering emotionally from one blow another comes to shatter what little solace I have found.

I don’t want to head down the track not only because I don’t desire to become a stereotype but also because I don’t desire to become someone I’m not. I try to live my life as authentically as I can and anger is not me. It’s not my go to.

There is also a huge part of me that fears the stereotype. I identify as brown to acknowledge that I am not only black. I have a vast and beautiful heritage filled with African American and Native American history.

Do a quick google image search of “Angry Black Woman” and you will find you have options. You can have: old, funny, ape, big, attitude, michelle, glee, mad, reality tv or at work sub categories for your search. Google conveniently provides them in pretty rainbow colored buttons above the original search results.

I don’t want to be that. I don’t want to be a meme. I like most humans want to be respected when I express feelings.

You don’t have to look far to see Native American Nations being made fun of for expressing emotions. I can’t even start to dive into that here. Maybe in another post.

So I find myself on the track. I’m brown and don’t feel like changing that. The world likes to make fun of any nonwhite person who expresses emotions. And I feel angry based on exhaustion and brokenness. What do I do now?

Avoiding, sitting on the sidelines only keeps me out of the public eye. It doesn’t necessarily change all of the feelings going on inside. And unfortunately I don’t see the injustice changing or moving anytime soon.

 

Flash forward to now…

It’s hard for me to believe that it has been 6 months since I wrote the words above. I didn’t post them then because I was still wrestling with myself and with how to write this post.

I don’t think I’m on the track anymore. There aren’t multiple versions of me comically trying to kill each other. No handle bar mustaches. I’m off the track and on a path.

Yesterday I graduated from a leadership program. I have had many unsettled feelings about the program and on this day I had an interaction that upset me.

I felt crazy. I felt militant. I felt angry. I reached out for help. And with that help came a clear sense of direction.

Today, I listened to words of wisdom flow from my dear cousin to me. I think of my amazing writing partner who’s more than family. I think of the words of my grandmother reminding me of my heritage and the strength that lives there. Today I think of my mother always at my side, my continual support. And I think of my white husband, the proud feminist and gentle hand by my side and at my back holding me up when my legs quiver.

I come from strong women. My heritage is beautiful. Today was the first day that someone complimented me on this. It was a good reminder.

The United States Government has tried to kill my people and failed in the 1800’s, 1960’s and even today. Black and Native people resourcefully and skillfully continue to live.

That is my commitment. I am going to keep living. I am going to keep being myself. My loud, emotional, thoughtful, inquisitive, brash, angry, empathetic, silly self. I love me. It took months alone to remember this and I won’t back.

I won’t go back to quieting myself for others. I won’t go back to tip-toeing around issues of discrimination, racism, privilege, inequality, injustice and every other thing wrong with the world.

I will no longer poison myself by turning feelings of anger inward. If I’m labeled a stereotype so be it. I know who I am.

I am a beautiful brown girl ready to learn, listen, grow and have a great impact on the world. I hope you’ll join me.

A Black Scar in the Carpet

a creative nonfiction piece

As she past the black dress on the floor, she was reminded of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC. Many years previous, in her theater design class, she watched a documentary about the designer of that memorial, Maya Lin. During the documentary, there was a veteran who had called the memorial nothing more than ‘a black scar’ within the earth. This dress was that for her living room floor.

She had set it out to dry two days ago. It was to be worn at the funeral of a distant aunt. The young woman didn’t own any black dresses. She only ever ended up buying them for funerals and then never wore them again. Her mother had suggested that she go to the local thrift store. She had and was happy to find two outfits for under fifteen dollars. The young woman had planned on attending both the wake and funeral. This was before she knew that later in the week she would be traveling to Arizona to help her husband say goodbye to his grandfather. Now the dress would be worn to the grandfather’s funeral instead.

Death had been lingering in her mind for a few weeks now. A conversation with a friend had reignited an old curiosity around the death of one of her uncles. He had died at the hands of the police. There had always been mystery around his death. He was alive. The police officers entered the room. They pushed him to the ground and then he never got up again. This was all the family knew. She had promised herself that someday she would meet the men or women who were in that room when her uncle died. She kept thinking about her uncle.

This had led to thoughts of her other uncle, the sweet grumpy one who had died less than a year ago. His birthday was coming up. He would have been 51. She knew this because for his 50th birthday they celebrated. Her mom got pizza and ice cream cake and invited all his friends. The young woman and her husband had joined. She had taken many, many pictures that day. She had felt connected to her family and so happy. After all, a main reason she moved to North Dakota was to get to know her family better.

Her efforts had not gone as she had hoped. They were all busy and had lives of their own. They were also different than she was and many of the numerous clan didn’t know her. She had grown up in cities far away. Many of them had grown up in North Dakota on farms or ranches. She knew they loved her, but during family events she always felt separate, not really knowing who to talk to. Her family loved her, of this there was no question, and if she needed help they would drop everything for her. She had desired something else though. She wanted to feel that she belonged. This would only come with time, but she knew her time in North Dakota was in its final lap. Her husband and she planned to leave within the next two years. Now was the only time left to make true connections. Being a military brat, she knew how hard it was to maintain relationships over a distance.

This desire to belong was only deepened by the sense of cultural bankruptcy which became more apparent daily. She had grown up off her reservation, away from her tribe. She didn’t speak her language or understand the traditions and customs of her people. In the past year, for the first time, she had bumped into many who were interested to know and understand her culture. Which put her in a particularly difficult situation since she didn’t know it herself. Her mother had done what all the elders of her time told her, “Get off the rez.” Now this choice, made before the young woman was even a thought in her parents’ minds, caused her to feel set apart from her tribe.

On top of this, she missed her church family. It had been two years since she had been to church, but she finally missed them. She had left because of questions she had about the character of God. These questions had proved large and vast. They would take time to answer. Sitting in church growing bitter would do no good, or so she believed.

Quietly she sat down at her black kitchen table, staring at the dress. All she could think about was the great longing in her heart. Since moving to North Dakota she had lost a friend, an uncle and now an aunt. Soon her husband would lose a grandfather. Her mother had somehow survived the loss of both her parents and three brothers, not to mention the aunt who helped raise her and the grandmother who was a mother to her. The young women questioned if she had the strength to be like her mother. Could she survive more loss? Did she even have a choice?

The long black dress on the floor seemed to grow and shift. It was a reminder of the trip her husband and she would take in two days. It was a reminder of another ending of a life. The names of her uncles, her friend and her aunt pounded in her head.

Endings had always proved problematic for the young woman. She loved potential and an end was the death of potential. In the past few months she had become more comfortable with endings, but the end of potential for a human life still caused her great trouble. She had yet to open the cards she received after her sweet grumpy uncle’s funeral. She couldn’t. Like many she sought to delay the end. This was a lie.

Truly, the only lie she tolerated. You can’t delay the end of a life. Maybe this was why she couldn’t bring herself to pick the dress up off of the floor. If she disturbed it, something could happen. If she moved it, she would have to acknowledge that something was happening.

This day was the day her distant aunt would be buried. The day before, the young woman had seen the grieving family. They had asked her to return tomorrow, but she knew she couldn’t. Being at the wake had made the names pounding in her head grow louder. She had to be there for her husband. Soon he would be the family grieving.

She felt inadequate. Her power had always been in words. They made things clearer and signaled so much in her life, but when death came to visit the young woman, words failed. The things she depended on so often. They failed her. They were useless and wrong and out of place. They were nothing. They are nothing.

I Ruin Things

Yesterday, I decided that I will most likely not be doing yoga in the future. While I had always known that this practice had come from another religion I had never really thought deeper into the implications of this fact. Something from within my 40 minute yoga session at home made me question this. So off to google I went. I asked google, “How do Hindu believers feel about western yoga practice?” and so began a regular ritual for me.

A question occurs to me or is asked in a form of media I’m enjoying. Then I ponder for a moment. Then I get more information. The depth of the question and its impact on other aspects of my life determines how far I dig into the research. Generally I click all of the links on the first page of the google results. It’s easier to find consensus this way. After gathering more information I dive down to the root of the problem which involves more thinking and researching, which sometimes leads to more thinking and researching. Research includes: google searches, library trips to pick up books, asking everyone I encounter their feelings about the topic and in some rare cases years of addressing the question deeper through all of these methods.

I have to get to the root and foundation of problems. Something in me has to get to the smallest part. I can’t help myself. This however means I ruin things.

Not necessarily for me, but most certainly for those who are close to me or who encounter me. Through the years I have tried to prevent this, realizing that not everyone wants to look at the foundation of things. Not everyone feels a need to know that they’re sun salutation is intended to greet Surya, the Hindu Sun God. And most people don’t want to address the implications of this or any other bit of information I may find.

I remember sharing with a mentor of mine during college that the Starbucks logo made me think of human trafficking. During my time at college, I had learned about the many kinds of human trafficking, including forced labor. Then later while eating at an amazing place, Fair Trade Café, in downtown Phoenix I learned about fair trade coffee. From then on, I associated things not fair trade with forced labor. This is arguable, but at the very least, things imported and not made fair trade are exploitative at best. Since Starbucks at the time wasn’t (and still isn’t 10 years later) 100% fair trade, the correlation made sense to me. See the pretty lady think of starving farmers in South America. My mentor didn’t really know how to respond. She was proud of me for caring about this issue within social justice, but also felt my correlation was a bit extreme.

My most recent stint of research, yoga practice, led to a heated debate about cultural appropriation that greatly upset a dear friend. Which is in part what inspired this need to look at my practice of intentional living and obsession with the foundation of things through this post.

It is never my intention to upset people with my observations and knowledge. Even if I say, “you don’t have to do this,” they still assume I’m judging them. Something about my conviction in what to do upsets and even intimidates others. I have to wonder if this is because ignorance is more comfortable. If you don’t know something you aren’t obligated to do anything about it, but the instant you know you have a choice. You can choose, knowing the implications of your action, to continue to take that action or you can choose change. Without intending to, I force people to face this.

While I understand the pain and tension caused by knowledge, I’m not certain that avoidance is the answer. As a person who uses avoidance most often as a coping strategy, I know that in the long term avoidance doesn’t work. Avoidance creates a void, a weird space with faux comfort. It’s not true comfort because it only exists without the thing you’re avoiding. In this way it’s kind of a lie.

This is the problem for me. I practice extreme transparency. As my husband says, nothing can be closed in our life. Not our doors or our windows. I don’t even like fences, literal or figurative. So to live a lie just doesn’t work.

All of these things about me combine to make me a ruiner of ignorance. After writing this post I better understand why this is the case and how it impacts others, but I don’t necessarily feel better. I don’t want to be a ruiner, but I suppose due to characteristics within the foundation that guides me this can’t be helped. I could change, but I kind of like the individual characteristics. I kind of like me.

Well if you happen to know me or seek to know me, I guess you’ve been warned.

If You’re Still Hurting

A time of pain from many months ago recently reminded me that it was still sore. I thought I was over it. I thought I was moving on and then a friend casually mentioned that a certain situation was of course difficult because I was still hurting. I didn’t correct her, just went about my way. Later that night, as I was crying her words rang true for me. I thought I had moved on, but it appears that is not the case.

I felt so disappointed in myself. I had done the journaling and the forgiveness meditations and lots of pacing and the avoiding. I had done all the things so why wasn’t I all better. My mother’s words of wisdom were especially helpful here. She said I wasn’t being fair to myself. “Time heals,” she said. I knew she was right and her words gave me a sense of permission. It’s ok to be still hurting, especially because I am doing the work and I am moving forward.

Later my brilliant writing partner, Anjulee shared something. She said that when she thinks about recovering after being hurt there are really two people who need to get over things. The first being your emotional side and the second your rational side. Then she said that it was the rational side that usually took longer. Of course the rational side would hold things up because forgiveness and atonement don’t always make rational sense. After speaking with her I realized that my rational side is represented by a second grade Eichelle. Children are the protectors of fairness and justice after all. I could see her so clearly sitting stubbornly not wanting to budge. “It’s not fair,” she says with a pout.

Then finally today during my morning journaling, I don’t know gave me wings. For the past several months, I have struggled with, I don’t know. It’s a space where I am not usually comfortable. I am a planner and a fixer and a doer. There is nothing to be done with I don’t know or so I thought. A main part of my lingering hurt was that I didn’t and still don’t know what is next for me.

My dream job stabbed me in the back and kicked me to the curb. If I am brutally honest, I’ve never had a dream job so that statement is not fully true. Also I left a bad situation, I wasn’t necessarily kicked out. And yes the job beat me thoroughly and caused me great pain, but through those wounds and bruises I have learned and I have grown.

As I wrote this morning my fear and discomfort of I don’t know turned. I realized that I don’t know is not a place with nothing to be done but the birth place where anything and everything can be done. The potential from this place is infinite. I love potential. The death of potential hurts worsts of all for me. So to discover that a place I have been fearful in and fearful of for many months is really a place of dreams was magic.

So now I sit happily on my red couch, no more with fear and discomfort but instead ready. Ready to start dreaming again and see what my most recent I don’t know becomes.

If you dear reader are hurting for whatever reason, I hope you’ll be fair to yourself. I hope you’ll be patient with your own rational second grader. And most of all I hope that you’ll dream big so that your I don’t know might blossom into something magical.

Finding Beauty in the Tundra

I live in a place. A hard, tough, cantankerous place that prides itself on its heartiness. The landscape can be unforgiving and the people are complicated. My mother jokingly calls it the tundra. For now this is the place where I create. Where I try to bring to life many somethings from nothings.

For me, this continual birth and rebirth is only possible through a diet of awe inspiring beauty.

The town I live in has only one community theatre and no professional theatre companies. There are no art museums. So my regular ways of taking in beauty are limited. I have adjusted my expectations and try very hard to enjoy what the community does have to offer. A dance company that does performances 3 times a year, many art galleries, a symphony with 10 performances throughout the year, many touring shows that come and go and of course the offerings of the university, technical and community college.

My first years here however I depended on the art I enjoyed on vacation to feed me. One amazing night at the theatre kept me feed for a year and a half. That was until on my trip to Washington DC I realized I had been starving.

Since then I have tried desperately to seek out beauty: Online resources, traveling to other cities only a few hours away, anything to keep from starving.

Over the holidays, I was lucky enough to visit The Getty Museum in Los Angeles. A vast and wide sense of awe and joy filled me as I walked from one amazing painting to the next. Exquisite beauty was free and there for me. It was easy and enjoyable. I instantly felt renewed and full.

Coming back to the tundra is always filled with some sadness. Returning after experiencing a week of bliss and joy and beauty in LA and San Diego that sadness was larger and more present than before.

I think this is because here in the tundra beauty doesn’t reveal herself to you so easily. She is much more coy on the plains. She whispers and taunts you and tests you. She demands to be sought after.

It is this game of hide and seek that I find so exhausting. I don’t want to play, but then again maybe beauty on the tundra is trying to teach me something.

My experience in California was heightened. I didn’t take for granted any of my experiences at the various art museums or on the beaches. Not for one second was I distracted by my phone or any random thought. I was fully present.

I have to wonder if beauty always wants to be sought after. If the chase, the seeking makes the finding more enjoyable. Also beauty could just be a jerk and/or I’m not hearty enough for her. For now I’ll chose the more romantic notion.

If beauty wants to sought after I will seek her. And since I will be searching I will be that much more likely to find and see the beauty within this tundra of mine.

My Ugly

The concept of a persons’ “ugly” was introduced to me by my Dad. He is a wise, hard, loving man. The idea of a persons’ “ugly” is simple: every person has a part of them that is unpleasing, dark, bad or “ugly”. Another way of thinking about it is everyone has sin or a stain on them.

I have been aware of my personal ugly for some time or at least I thought I fully understood it. I can be selfish, close-minded, and uncaring. Also my mouth gets me into trouble more often than I’d care to admit. To top all of this off I can be fearlessly prideful and arrogant. I do all I can to keep these parts of myself at bay. I know that my ugly can cause hurt and pain for myself and others.

For the most part I have been able to keep my ugly contained, but recently I caused hurt and irrevocable harm. I am ashamed, but know there is nothing to fix and nothing to do.

I have lost a friend. It hurts to admit this. I don’t know if she will ever read this, but I want to put it out into the universe that I love her. I must thank her. She gave me so much through our friendship. I thought she was going to be a new part of my friend family, but that is not to be. I have been found wanting.

I want her to know that I wish her only good things and hope that through respecting her desire for space from me I can atone for my errors.

Gritting my teeth I write this now and share my shame in hopes that you can learn from it.

Over the past few months I have seen so much hate and anguish brewing. I myself have felt it. I have wanted to sever ties with family and preach my righteous speeches.

I was so caught up with me and I put myself ahead of my friend. I put my needs before hers. I killed our friendship because I was impatient and hurt. I did that. Now she’s gone from my life. I bumped into her at an event and the walls were so clearly up. I am a stranger to her. I did that.

My country, the United States, is going through an existential crisis. A civil war of ideas is brewing for the identity of my country. At stake is the heart of the US and the casualties this time will most likely be not only freedom and financial security but more severely family bonds and relationships.

Social media has given us the gift of deeper understandings of people in our life. We now know that our work colleague is obsessed with bowling and Dancing with the Stars. We know that our college friends are getting new jobs, having babies and taking adventures abroad. We also know that our grandma’s racism has leapt from the thanksgiving table to our news feed. We are learning that our good friend is pro-choice. All of this knowledge causes a clear tension. A tension which the new American President has put a prism up to. He has caused the tension to grow, refracting to all corners of the country.

Now choices must be made. Will we dive more fully to our respective corners? Will we abandon those who think differently than us?

It is not fair to ask someone to leave 10% of them self at the door. It is not fair to ask someone to be a little less them self. But what do you do when that 10% of them is in direct opposition to 10% of you?

I failed this question. My friend needed space, but I needed to have everything resolved. I needed to know where the boundaries were. I was selfish and pushed my needs ahead of hers.

There is nothing wrong with what she needed and what I needed, but I was wrong to put my needs above hers.

I think the easy path, to stay within the bubble of people who are just like you and think just like you will make us a weaker people. To abandon relationships over ideological differences is easy. This is why interfaith marriages and coalitions confound most people and inspire all. It is the more difficult path.

I remember reading a book by Desmond Tutu and he talked about lions laying with lambs. My teacher at the time further explained that this is not achieved by the lion being less lion or the lamb being less lamb. She explained that the goal was for the community as a whole to find a way of existing so that lion and lamb might lay together while fully being themselves.

I am not saying that this would be easy to accomplish, but I think working toward this ideal is better than cutting people out of your life.

People must come first. Relationships must be valued over ideas.

I live in a state where almost everyone who could, voted for the new American President. People I admire and respect, people who I have to see every day, people who claim to care about me. I wanted to cut these people out of my life. I wanted to shame them. Then I lost my friend. I felt the cut of losing a relationship. I am worse off now without her in my life.

So from this place of hurt and shame I encourage you to take the hard path. Life is short, too short for regret. Maybe you need time to settle your anger or hurt or whatever you may be feeling. Space and time can help give a clearer perspective. Don’t wait too long, because some choices cannot be undone and some damage cannot be repaired.

When you’re ready I encourage that you listen. Remember that everyone has ugly in them. Remember your ugly and allow it to humble you so that you can truly listen. Maybe the person whose ideas and ideals are different than yours has something to teach you and you have something to teach them. You’ll never know though, if you refuse to try.

La La La

A Review

The magic surrounding La La Land has kept me floating since I saw the film. I wanted to see an afternoon movie for weeks but something always got in the way, my afternoon date canceled and Loving was not showing at the movie theatre. All of these things had to be in place for La La Land to come into my world and transport me.

The film itself has the very simple plot that IMDB so accurately lays out, “A jazz pianist falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles.” The simplicity of the plot only adds to the magic of Damien Chazelle, the writer and director for La La Land. He is a master magician in this film. I could spend many words talking about the seamless way music and dance are used or how the cinematography creates romance and nostalgia, but you should see this film for different reasons.

So many of my friends are recovering after the election, but still have a cloud hanging over them. If you didn’t look twice you wouldn’t see it, but it’s there. This tinge of sadness marking every daily action and interaction.

The greatest things about this film are that it achieves a sense of remembering and dreaming and creates hope. The film is almost a dream. The main characters are both shooting for the stars and dealing with the choice all people face. Do you keep believing or turn to “growing up”?

In my experience, someone telling you to “grow up” is really someone telling you to give up. You see a future bright and shiny and they see disappointment and unrealistic aspirations. In the film, the magic is in the tension between romance and reality. This film is able to be honest and show struggle without ever losing its sense of heart-warming whimsy.

When the film ends you are at the same moment sad and hopeful. Chazelle is able to capture the moment when a symphony reaches the peak of a crescendo and can give no more with breaking. He captures the moment when the wave is at its peaks just before it descends back into the ocean. He captures this moment and then leaves you with the reality of life and the hope of life.

This is why you should see this film.

If you happen to be like one of my friends with a heart still recovering and a cloud painting your life with sadness, I think this film might help lift you. It might serve as a reminder that when faced with a choice between reality and hope you don’t have to choose.

If you’re just a person walking through life you should see this film because of its beauty.

There should always be room for beauty.

Even Though

I have been writing this post for weeks in my mind. A follow-up to a vulnerable declaration of fear and self-hatred. I have started many other post since my last. Happy put together posts about revelations that have found me the past few weeks. I will post them at another time.

This is not a happy put together post. I am not happy and put together in this moment. I am trying to ride the tornado that is the words being typed by me right now.

My husband and I have decided to stay in the country we were born to. I wanted to feel happy about this. I am working my way toward happy about this. Another post will dive into that.

This post is not about the choice itself but more so a plea to the many who stand saying that anyone still upset by the results of November 8th should get over it or look at it from a new perspective. Should find the positive in the situation. I beg you to close your mouth and open your ears and your eyes.

We all have blinders. I have them. I am pro-choice and pro-traditional marriage. I have blinders to women who are contemplating abortion. I don’t know their stories or their names. I have blinders that prevent me from seeing the true struggle of the LGBTQIA+ community. The election results have had massive effects on so many. Many many negative effects. These people have a right to fear just as you have a right to tell them that they’re being crazy. You can tell me that, but it doesn’t change my reality. It doesn’t change the fact that I am almost certain I just had a panic attack. Your thoughts don’t change how I feel.

 

I went to see Rogue One with my husband and friends. I didn’t want to see it but wanted to make my husband happy. He loves Star Wars.

I am about to be a buzzkill. If you don’t want my truth please stop reading now.

I watched. I saw. I cried. I held back sobs. I saw…I saw…

Aleppo

Vietnam

Afghanistan

WWII

I saw Aleppo. I saw Aleppo. I saw Aleppo.

With every advance of the rebels there was a quick and painful sacrifice. As the audience around me seemed to be enjoying an entertaining film I tried not to wail. I tried not to sob. Half-way through I just wanted it to stop. I needed for it to stop, but I didn’t want to ruin it for my husband. So I stayed seated. I stayed and watched.

I feel crazy. How can I be the only one who sees that those Rebels are us? I know I’m not crazy because after the election so many found hope in this idea. Maybe it’s that for me from the beginning of Donald being a serious candidate, I have seen the worst case scenario.

I could die. Before you tell me I’m crazy talk to the young lady who may lose her arm because she believed in the cause of the NoDAPL movement. Then look back in history, go back 30 years, think about the AIDS epidemic. Think about the many gay men who died because of prejudice. Go back another 50 years and look at the lynching post cards.

Even before Donald was elected these thoughts of the worst case scenario raced through my head. Would my husband and I have to flee? Where would we be safe? People thought I was crazy. Then Donald was elected. A fear came true. I know I need to stop letting confirmation bias skew my thinking. But when I try to say, “Yeah, I’m just being paranoid,” a new video of people saying “Hail Trump” while proudly doing a Nazi Salute pops up.

So I sat and watched and kept seeing my friends on screen. Amazing people who I know will fight. Seeing myself. Knowing that while I hope good and justice will prevail there will be sacrifice. There always is.

While yes, horrible things have always happened and will continue to happen, I woke up to a new world order on November 9th. Things are not ok.

 

When the film finished I quickly gathered my things and made a b-line to the car. Aleppo, Aleppo, Aleppo. People are dying. We, a global community, are watching people say their last words via twitter. We are helpless. Fuck us, they are helpless and we watch.

I was able to make it to the car but could no longer hold back my fears or the sobs. Things are not ok. Yesterday my husband and I had to leave a restaurant because the table next to us was making overtly racist comments continuously. Not about us but they just kept going on about Native Americans and the current President of the US.

The tears came and then a wave of fear. It can go so bad from here. It can go so bad from here.

Nowhere felt safe. There’s the corner where my husband and I were honked at. Here’s our apartment. There’s the gay couple who will most likely become a target. There’s the deaf woman who will most likely become invisible. There’s our next door neighbors who proclaim Christ and most likely voted for a hatemonger.

I headed to the bedroom closet. In the dark, I tried to gain control of my breathing. My husband frantically tried to calm me down. He tried to say it was going to be ok. He tried to say that I would always be safe. Then he started to cry. He knew. He knew that if we would have said anything to the table at the restaurant he wouldn’t have been able to protect us. Three against one, not good odds.

This was the worst. He shouldn’t have to feel that way. He shouldn’t have to feel like he can’t protect his wife. We have only been married for 3 years. He should have to know that truth yet. It’s too early.

 

Eventually I was able to gain control of my breathing and the wave of terror released me. I will be ok. I will wake up tomorrow and clean my house and do Christmas cards and love my husband as deeply as I can. I will focus my attention on trying to be part of the solution. I will read books about creativity. I will go get checked out by the doctor to make sure my lungs are ok. I will think about my many projects. I will buy comics. I will swim at the Y. I will do all of these things.

 

I will do all of these things and keep doing all of these things and stay in this damned country that breaks my heart and makes me feel shame. I will. I will. I will.

Even though

I wish I was White

Three days of the new world after the US election…

Day 1

In the early hours of November 9th  my priority was consoling my friends and family. I wasn’t shocked. A deep fear came true. My paranoia had ensured that we had some semblance of a plan. Failing to console those I love, sleep found me around 3 am.

Waking up very late, my Facebook feed found me. The rush of pleas for action from my liberal white friends were too much. My bedroom closet held me as I tried to prevent the sobs from finding their way out of me. I had work to do. I had to go to work.

I was able to get my husband to work and myself. At 3am we were leaning toward leaving the country. This had been the plan. My husband thought I was crazy at 3am but before I left him at work he mentioned that Malta would be a good choice. I told him that I felt myself wanting to fix it, the country. Not for me but for my mija yet to be named by our pregnant friend. Who will protect her? I wondered. I promised him I wouldn’t act on anything.

The world felt different. Every white person was now a threat. Hyper vigilance flooded me with anxiety. Paranoia fueled the hyper vigilance. All white people are now a threat. I live in a place where 216,133 people voted for Donald. We only have 570,955 eligible voters. Over half of the people here voted for Donald.

For work, I had to do some shopping. I found myself not making eye contact. A white man in a suit came up behind me in a coffee shop and I jumped away. What would happen now if he tried to hurt me?

Is this how white people have felt all the time? Fearing that people of color might hurt them. Assuming that people of color are always a threat until proven otherwise. It was exhausting.

A flower shop I visit often was my only respite. I knew I was safe there. The owner came and gave me a hug and then gave me flowers before I left. But…

I had to go back out. To prevent from hyperventilating I came up with a way to difuse the fear. “They’re robots. They are all robots. Cops are robots with only one gun and I can see it. I can see the gun so it’s ok. They look like droids from Star Wars. Those droids are harmless. They’re robots. They’re robots. They’re robots. They’re robots…”

All day, if I didn’t know you and you were white you were a robot. My own racism moved from passive to active.

I left work early because I could. I couldn’t keep the sobs back anymore. At home and knowing I was safe I released the sobs.

After work, my husband and I headed to a friends. I needed to play with my mijo. It was a nice night. I received an apology for being called crazy for having thought through what we would do if this happened. That was nice.

There was a moment. My pregnant friend was truly terrified. She is pregnant and moving somewhere where she couldn’t get the right care for her children was not an option. But…

My mija is going to have beautiful olive skin. She is going to look closer in skin tone to me than to her mother. My friend knows and understands what this could mean for my mija. I could see the fear and uncertainty in my friend’s eyes.

Coming home the deep sadness found me again. I asked my husband what he needed. Should we stay and fight or go? He was on the fence and we agreed to take our time to make this decision. Then he asked me what I needed. What did I want? What did I desire?

I could have lied, but I just said, “I wish I was white.”

Day 2

After a day of trying to avoid eye contact and feeling like I was traveling back in time. A time when raping women was done by gentlemen regularly. A time when you could lynch a black person for having the wrong look on their face. I wanted to try to be me. Loud, bright, radiant, vibrant me.

Driving to work, I turned up my music and sang and danced. Work was quick, my last day at the job. I received many thank you’s and compliments.

My boss, a large emotional joyful strong man said he was proud of me. I love him and his hug was a huge comfort.

Then off to work with kids at an after school program. It was rough but ok.

My dad called to check on me. Before the election we had a conversation. He believes that I am overreacting. One of the many people who think/thought I am crazy. “Now you know where you live,” he said. It was hard to hear him. I felt broken. He was trying to reason with me and my emotional brain couldn’t hear the words.

Quick dinner with my hubby then off to play board games at another program with kids. I submitted an application to a leadership program. I so deeply desire to not lose momentum. I want to keep growing for as long as I am able and still breathing. Then a late night movie with my hubby and friends.

On the walk in, I was trying to get my husband to explain to me how it is to be white. Is it possible that being a white person means that you can’t see the world the way I do? Can’t see that there exist many America’s depending on who you are? At the concessions counter, I tried to engage the cashier in conversation. I was trying to still be me, a person who cares about people. My voice was too soft for her to hear. She didn’t hear me.

We made it just in time for the previews and found our seats. The people behind us kept placing their feet on our seats. The first time that my seat was kicked I tried to rationalize. Maybe it was a kid, maybe it was a person who had really long legs, maybe…maybe…maybe.

When no apology came I tried really hard to just stay in the movie. When the second kick came I decided to move seats. I told myself that it didn’t matter who this person was. When the movie was over though, I had to know. I looked up to see an adult female with dark hair.

She and the man with her had put their feet on and kicked my and my husband’s seats throughout the movie. Maybe it was purely an accident. Maybe they were just grumpy. Maybe…maybe…maybe…

When they left the question I asked was, “Did they see me?” On the walk to the car, my husband said that he didn’t want to say anything because he wondered if the seat kicking had to do with the color of my skin. He was afraid of what might have happened if we said anything and didn’t want the trouble.

As we walked up the stairs to our apartment I apologized. My husband is white and if I could just be white too maybe we wouldn’t be having these problems.

I wish I was White.

Day 3

Deep sadness found me again. I didn’t want to do anything. This was the first day of a chosen time of unemployment. It was supposed to be a joyous day but I didn’t feel joy. It was my freedom day.

I wrote a little while my husband slept. Then I tried to laugh with my snoozy husband. I asked him what he wanted to do today. He said he wanted for me to enjoy my Freedom Day. He got up and headed into the living room.

My writing partner and I touched base. We had been doing this almost constantly since election night. She had found the most profound sense of strength while I was still swimming in deep sadness. She shared with me images of Kamala Harris; a woman who had inspired my writing partner. We agreed to meet later in the day to talk about the future of our writing. We agreed that we were both different people now and that this was a new world.

My husband cooked breakfast while I watched TV. Then we enjoyed Hamilton’s America. It felt good to feel something other than sadness. I felt jealous and inspired, but I couldn’t write. I choose comfort instead. My husband and I cuddled and napped until the afternoon.

When we finally woke up my husband headed to the living room. I drew myself a bath and then met with my writing partner. We talked about who we are now. We talked about planning our next moves. We talked about a desire to take an aggressive stance toward our writing. There was work to do and we we’re going to do it.

Coming out of the meeting I noticed an email response from a friend. There was a group of Lutherans meeting about race relations. She had invited me. Feeling super vulnerable I wanted to know what I was walking into. In her email, she stated frankly that she didn’t know if this meeting would be a safe space for me.

I talked to my husband. He instantly said he would come with me. I didn’t want to put him in danger. I want to protect him and all the people I love and now my skin more than ever puts them at risk. I needed him to know that if we stayed this was the new reality. From here on out we would be at risk. Not like when we lived in the city. In the city, we were rarely ever truly alone or isolated. If a person wanted to harm us there was the chance of someone helping. Here, where we are now that is not the case. You can go on a walk in a neighborhood and not see another human the entire time. Then he said, “You would not be putting me at risk. The hate and racism of the other people would.”

No decisions were made. We headed to dinner and planned on a movie after. We talked about a novel we are in the beginning stages of writing together. During dinner I was still on edge a bit. Everyone around us was white. My new paradigm meant they were all a potential threat, but I had my new shoes and looked great. I felt like me and that kept the fear at bay.

We came home deciding to save the movie for tomorrow and build a fort. Instead we headed to bed and fell quickly to sleep.

 

+ + +

 

Now it is day 4. I still wish I was white. I don’t want to have to fight. I don’t want to have to live through history. So many have said over the past few days that we are stronger. We being people who have been marginalized, killed, oppressed and other wise beat down. Surviving that makes us stronger. Having something to fight for makes us more powerful.

All I want though is to be safe and be me. I love people and believe in them. As my faith in God grew I went from saying “I believe in the good in people” to “I believe in the God in people”. Adam’s creation story tells us that God breathed life into him which means that each of us has a little bit of that inside. Now that my faith is in a wonky space I think it’s both. I believe in the God and good in people.

This means that I don’t want to walk around life feeling that everyone I don’t know is a threat even if that’s true. I’m sure on some levels it is. You never know what a person is capable of and I choose not to limit the potential of anyone.

Moving forward I don’t know what my husband and I will choose, to stay or to go. I know which way we’re leaning but I don’t want to commit that to the written word until we’ve decided. I don’t know many things about the days to come. I don’t know who I am now.

I wish I had wise words to sum up this post, but I don’t. I guess I wanted it out in the world to serve as a view into one person’s experience. This is what it has been like for me. Hopefully that’s useful to someone.

Loving Grandpa Trump

A few week’s ago a thought ran through my head. What if Donald Trump were my grandfather? Not right now, but in the future after he became president and most likely began the second American civil war and started a holocaust.

A cartoon version of different conversations between me and Grandpa Trump flooded my mind. Adoring him at age 6, beginning to question him at 10, starting to hate him at 13, running away at age 15 unable to accept the reality of who my grandfather was.

Being a biracial human, I know that my grandparents were only forced to truly look at their own racism when it was too close to home. My Papa, who I love with everything I have, shared with me recently that he was horribly racist toward white people in his youth and child rearing years. Growing up a black man in a segregated small town in east Texas I can understand why. He said it was only later in life and through his faith in God that he realized this was wrong. “It’s wrong to hate,” he said.

Knowing this I want for Donald to have a beautiful biracial grand-daughter. I want for him to face the reality of his words and consequences of his actions.

More and more I see that all bullies are scared, insecure humans trying to hurt you before you can hurt them or seeking to fill a void within themselves through the pain and suffering of others. It would be great if Donald were just evil. Then I wouldn’t feel disgusted with myself and guilty when part of me, a part that I have tried to get rid of, wishes for a lone sniper bullet to find him.

The truth as always is more complicated and nuanced. Donald is a man. A man who didn’t create the rampant racism within our country. Who didn’t fill the air with hatred toward the other. Or make it acceptable for men to objectify and violate women. While he is profiting greatly off of these things, he didn’t create them. We the American people did.

We refused to get uncomfortable. Refused to call out our friends and family when they said something offensive or morally wrong. Refused to stand up for countless victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. Refused to sit at the table and have the hard conversations. Instead, we happily only listen to people who agree with our worldview. We yell and demean anyone who dare think differently than us.

So, what now?

I’m scared. I’m afraid that I might have to leave the country to prevent becoming a statistic in a history book many years from now. I’m horrified for my nieces and nephews.

But…I don’t think hating Donald is going to fix anything. And even if he died peacefully in his sleep tomorrow we would still be a country where being a non-white human means a different existence. And where having breasts and a vagina means violence or the threat of violence is just part of your life.

Regardless of what happens 13 days from now, I hope that we as a country can start looking in the mirror and start being uncomfortable. I hope that we can choose peace and love, because I’m not certain hate is going to win the minds of Donald Trump supporters. Maybe if we can speak to them in love and ask them to imagine how their world might change if they had a child or grandchild who looked like a Trayvon Martin or a Daisy Coleman things might change.

I’d happily be adopted by any Donald Trump supporter willing to hear me and comfort me in this time of great uncertainty and fear. If that’s what it takes for my fellow Americans to see me as someone worth listening to, I’m game.

And maybe if those of us opposed to Donald being our president could adopt the people in our lives supporting him as our parents or grandparents or sisters or brothers we can find a way to an America where everyone is truly free and safe and can pursue peace and happiness.

Maybe…

That’s what I’m hoping for.