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.

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.

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.

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.

No Heroes or Villains

I awoke from a dream where I got to tell the person who hurt me everything she did wrong. It felt really good. She understood how she had wronged me and seemed somewhat apologetic as I walked away, vindicated and triumphant. It was a beautiful dream.

I have only been deeply hurt a few times in my life. Realizing that just now, I realize how lucky I am. I think there are a few reasons why this is true.

  1. I have learned recently through my shrink that as far as relationships go I only have three camps: stranger, acquaintance, and intimate. There is one more past those; but only one person has ever made it past intimate and that’s my husband.
  2. If someone upsets me I think through it deeply. Why did they do this? What did I do to contribute to the situation? And on and on and on.
  3. I can’t stand unresolved anything. If I have wronged someone or someone has wronged me I would rather it be addressed as quickly as possible.

All of this means that if someone upsets me I talk to them quickly depending on what camp they’re in. If they’re a stranger, I will generally go through the thinking process just a little and then it’s resolved, for me at least. If they’re in acquaintance camp, I may not care one way or the other if the relationship ends. That would suck but life is short and I don’t like having unresolved stuff in my life.

So, for something to deeply hurt me a person has to be in a position where I don’t feel comfortable confronting them directly or close enough that I don’t just cut them out of my life when they are unwilling or unable to change the behavior causing me hurt.

This describes the only two people who have ever deeply hurt me. The first is my mother. We are great now, but that took a lot of time and therapy.

The second person is also a woman who is old enough to be my mother. Although her behavior often lacked that level of maturity and I don’t think she has any love for me in her heart. Of late, I’ve been struggling to forgive her. Hence the dream. She essentially bullied me out of my job. That may give her too much credit, but she’s the reason I left.

With my mom it was easy to forgive. She begged for it. Although she could never really know how she hurt me at least she wanted to make things right.

With the other woman, I don’t think she cares. The dream was wonderful because I got what I wanted. In the dream, she understood how she had hurt me and felt bad.

I find myself wanting to paint her as evil. She was the villain in my story. And although my shrink is helping me to see that most likely her actions had very little to do with me and everything to do with her; that doesn’t stop me from wanting to slay the dragon or melt the witch.

We are programmed to desire justice. Of course when everyone sees themselves as the hero of the story things get complicated. Who’s justice?

It would be so much easier if the woman who hurt me was truly evil, but that is not the case. For her, she was the hero and I the dragon or more likely simply a peasant who became collateral damage.

A few days ago I watched this movie, Radio Rebel. It’s a Disney TV movie but was enjoyable. There was only one person who was painted with one note, the principle. She relished in the agony of her students and once defeated quickly leaves the story. Maybe this is because in order for there to be a hero we can’t feel for the villain.

So where does this leave me and my dream?

I guess I have to acknowledge that maybe for this situation there are no heroes or villains. Just people doing the best they can. She was doing the best she could and that just happened to be the worst for me.

Fighting Sweetness and Light

I just finished a Christmas time play. The play is short and lovely but not amazing. It plays on the human need for sweetness and light. As a young theatre artist living in a one theatre town I often find myself fighting against these things. Saying things like “nostalgia is just a place of ignorance or selective remembering”.

I am surrounded by people who limit all forms of art to entertainment. For me that is the bare minimum. If a piece of art regardless of the medium doesn’t provide some form of entertainment it hasn’t even begun to do its job. In my region however that is all an audience expects, to be entertained. They don’t expect or want to be moved or made to think and something really wrong has happened if they are made to feel. These for me are what art is meant to do. So I fight against farce. I fight against joy. I fight because I want for the people around me to understand that when art is at its best it can open up your world, it can change your life.

The thing about this play I just finished is it reminded me that sweetness and light and nostalgia aren’t bad. It’s ok to want to be comforted by something that doesn’t make you think. It’s ok to want to selectively remember for an hour. The play reminded me that sometimes great things can come out of work that does this. A movie comes to mind, Forest Gump.

This movie reminded people that although the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s were a rough time in US history it wasn’t all bad. I think the difference between this movie and much of what the audience in my region wants is that Forest Gump doesn’t forget the bad. Sgt. Dan is still bitter and angry and broken but he isn’t the star of the movie; he isn’t our focus. The writers of the movie however don’t shove him out of the frame. They don’t say you can only look at the good by forgetting the bad. Rather the writers and director of this movie make a choice to focus on the good while allowing the bad to still exist. What a hard thing to accomplish; but by doing so they strike a beautiful middle ground. They created a movie that is happy and joyful while still being real. This gives me hope.

Hope that maybe in my work at the theatre and my work in my writing I can find this middle ground. I can stop fighting joy. Maybe if I can find the middle ground then the audiences in my region can too. Here’s hoping.

Reformed Codependency

It is Thanksgiving. I feel like some sort of supernatural being just punched my gut and reached into my chest and ripped out my heart. Somehow I am not in the fetal position on the floor.

Things you should know: 1. My mother is a recovering alcoholic 2. I have spent almost the past decade trying to work through my feelings about this and gain a healthy relationship with her 3. Lots of therapy 4. We are in a good place 5. A really good place

Today I will celebrate Thanksgiving with my wonderful mom. About an hour ago I called her to see if she saved the giblets from the turkey. I need them to make gravy. She said she had and seemed really flustered on the phone. She asked me if I could come over early, I couldn’t. I still had a pie in the oven and cornbread that needed to go in. She sounded disappointed but politely said she had to go. I leapt into action, quickly giving instructions to my husband so I could head over and help my mom.

In the car on the way over I was happy, everything was going to be fine. If I am honest as I charged into my mom’s apartment I felt like a superhero, “Here to save the day”.

I helped some, then my mom’s friend Lori arrived. I turned to my mom and said, “She’s early.” I didn’t understand. Then I realized, my mom had asked her to show up early to help. Her friend not me was the true hero.

I could tell my mom felt bad, she didn’t want to hurt me. As quickly and politely as I could I grabbed what I needed and said goodbye.

This doesn’t make any sense. She used someone else instead of me. I should be shooting through the moon with joy. I have been trying to get to this point for a little under half my life span. And here is the moment. We are no longer connected in the deathly way we have been for most of my life. But I feel sad and my heart hurts.

I imagine the way I feel is most similar to how most parents feel when their children leave the nest.

For most of my life, starting at about 13, I have been the parent in the relationship. I have been responsible. I have thought ahead. I have planned. I have cleaned up messes. This is not how things should have been but it is how they were.

Today for the first time, I received the clearest sign that this time is over. From this day forward I am free. It is as though an invisible thread tangling my mother and me has broken.

Yet, I feel sad. She doesn’t need me anymore. We are no longer linked in the spiral toward oblivion. We now walk on separate paths. It is the end of a journey.

Can We Just Be More Openhearted?

This past week as my news feed was filled with people talking about the Starbucks red cup controversy I rolled my eyes and avoided Facebook. I am sick of being a punching bag.

Fair warning, I am Christian who is about to vent a little and talk a lot about the idea of identity bashing. So if you don’t care to hear those opinions please move on. I don’t care to be your punching bag.

When I say I am a punching bag I mean that it feels like currently it is just fine to Christian bash. To say that Christians just need to change their beliefs or their way of life or insinuate that they are dumb or stupid or out of touch with reality or hateful or…I could go on but I’ll stop there. I am not saying that those words don’t apply to some who are also Christian. What I am saying is I’m sick of people using wide and vast generalizations and assuming that I as a Christian should just know that it doesn’t apply to me or that I shouldn’t take it so personally.

Any identity is personal. If you identify as a ginger and you are proud of that and happy with that and happy with that part of yourself it is personal. When someone says something not nice about all gingers it is difficult not to take it personally. Does that mean you should get really defensive and yell a lot? No. It also doesn’t mean people should take away your voice just because they don’t want their views challenged. Continue reading

You Are Not Allowed to Tell Me How to Feel

I am awake. I just had a nightmare about weird zombie government experiments. Sitting in bed trying to slow my heart rate I run through my day. It was a good day. Great time at work, finished a first draft with my writing partner, skyped with my dad. Why was I having this nightmare? The walk.

Last night, my husband and I took a walk. My dad told me about the father of my step-brothers. This man recently had to have part of his foot removed because of diabetes. I have been meaning to take better care of my body. So, hearing this story motivated me to take a late evening walk with my husband.

It was a good walk. You could see the stars and no one else was really out because we live in a community of mostly families and it was late. Most of these families were probably putting their kids to sleep. As we were finishing our loop a big truck drove by and when it was right next to us it honked its horn.

This sent both my husband and I into panic mode. Get home. Get home. We both sped up our pace and walked as quickly as we could. My husband reassured me that the truck wasn’t turning around and that it was ok. I felt a little better, but we both kept walking quickly.

Before I continue you should know that I am a non-white person and my husband is a white person.

Luckily for my husband and me the car didn’t turn around. This did however change our conversation. I mentioned that the other day I was walking to our car and noticed that our downstairs neighbor had a confederate flag blanket in their window. This blanket had not been in the window before that day. When I saw it I quickened my pace and tried not to think of it. After the honking thing, though, I told my husband.

Was this why they had never really warmed to us? Friends of theirs just moved into the apartment below us. What are their feelings toward an inter-racial couple? If I am being truly honest I mainly worry about their feelings toward me. In the eyes of people who hate, I am the problem; my husband would be fine if he wasn’t married to me, he’s white.

As we continued to walk, my husband mentioned an article in response to statements made by Rush Limbaugh in September about Ohio State University’s new policy regarding consent before having sex. He didn’t remember where he had read this article, but he liked what the person who wrote it had to say in response to Limbaugh’s comments. This person simply stated that you are not allowed to tell other people how to feel.

This instantly rang true with me, not relating to my identity as a woman but to my identity as a person of color. I told my husband that it would be nice if when I got into a conversation with a white person about race they just realized this simple fact from the article. Even if they truly do believe that racism is a construct and I just overreact to things, it would be nice if before making it about them and their own insecurities they could acknowledge something about me and my experience.

It would be really nice if they could acknowledge that for me every day I wake up; I am being judged by the world. That although the driver of that truck may not have been concerned with me, a person of color, holding my husband’s hand, for about a block and a half I was scared.

I was so scared that my subconscious tried to work it out with a dream about horrible zombie government experiments. If you have stuck with me this far I thank you.

After having a scary dream and waking up to realize that there is something scarier in real life, there is little you can do. I chose in this moment to try to help others understand what I feel sometimes. Even if it is just in my and my husband’s heads; we feel it. We felt it on the dark street corner when that car honked. We feel it when people look at us just a little bit strangely.

It would be nice if just once rather than tell us to feel differently people would first acknowledge that we feel those things. While this does happen on occasion it is too rarely.