I Am Angry for Our Girls

There are very few boundaries in my life that I feel are unwavering. There are very few hills that I am willing to die on; very few places in my life where I put my foot down and say this is what I believe and this is what I will and/or will not do.

Thanks to therapy and medication, I am free to be flexible in my life. The rigidity of anxious, fearful living doesn’t define how I interact with other people and ideas. I’m not a steel-spined monolith, I am able to flex with the moment, with relationships, with the setting I am in. I think that’s healthy, and I’ve worked hard to be able to do that. I don’t want to be rigid, I want to be open to the waves and the wind of life, to how we are supposed to change, and honestly, do somersaults and backflips sometimes. It can be uncomfortable.

I guess I have found one of those places where I cannot waver; where it is not in me to be flexible. And if I am flexible in this place that I am about to tell you about, I will deeply regret it. I will be angry, and there will be deep pain and resentment.

The place where that is is with women. With being a marginalized person, with having an identity–a very clear identity–as a female in a world that has waged war against women since the beginning of time. In a world where women and men equally espouse ideas against people who are like me. I cannot stand for that because when I do I am standing against myself and that makes no sense. That causes inner distress at the deepest level of my being. I’ve learned about myself that I cannot be simultaneously working to be alive and to be happy and to be free and speaking against the very nature of who I am.

The difficult thing is that many women as well as men defend these ideas. They believe that women are inferior and men are superior. The stories the teenagers that I know tell me about the things girls say about and to one another , saying that they want to be with the guys instead of other girls, is because we are taught from birth that men are superior. That is the story in our DNA. It is here and it is always this lie that we are waking up and facing daily. We are constantly facing microaggressions, we are constantly being paid less, demeaned, undervalued, disregarded because we are different than men.

I can’t stand for it. I cannot stand next to someone who speaks against my kind. That is the same as eating a nutritious meal while taking drinks from a glass full of poison.

I find myself nearly foaming at the mouth when I speak of these things. Although there are academics and there are women and men who study, teach, and write books about the ways that we treat each other so poorly, but still our little girls are tuaght that their value from proximity to a man. There are grown women who cannot fathom that they are valuable without having a man in their life, without having the stamp of approval from a man.

And our men are just boys, they are just humans like we are. They are not licensed or able or wise enough to tell women if they have value or not. So why do we keep teaching our girls to ask them? Why are wives taught to ask their husbands if they are good enough when she was born perfect? Why are these lies still shaping the way our boys and girls interact with one another? Simply typing these words onto the page puts me in a state of complete outrage.

That’s it. That’s the boundary I can’t betray, the guard I cannot let down. A person who stands against women stands against me, and has no share in my life.

We are complicit in the damage of patriarchy every day, but we must wage the war for equality, for equal respect, for the truth of every being’s worthiness to permeate each corner of our society.

There is no other way for us to all be okay.

Let Sincere Whites…

Let sincere whites go teach nonviolence to white people!~Malcolm X

The history placed into my developing mind by adults, texts, and images, didn’t reflect reality. It heavily favored the white man, and overlooked the barbaric history of the land I live on. This is a common experience had by white and black children alike. Without going into a lengthy narrative, suffice it to say that I have been working to undo the false history with the accurate history, as painful as the truth is, for almost a decade.

As an experiential learner, and the student of a college with a predominantly African American student body, in a predominantly African American area, I took it upon myself to explore the area, attend church in the area, and create bonds with the people there, though at times it was uncomfortable.

Some of my most treasured relationships, and the safest people in my life, I met during that time of “exploration”. In fact, it became less an area and time of discomfort and exploration, and more an area and time of just, well, living life, among people who said it like it was, and didn’t put me or my differences down to boost their own egos.

For many reasons, those people became the people I preferred to be around, and their worldview and history began to infiltrate my own.

As a teen, I thought the best way to bring people together was to bring them in proximity with one another. I thought, if other white people saw what I had seen, and made connections like I had, they, too, would begin to dream of a unified, and equitable way forward.

Looking back, this was a huge mistake. I brought black children and friends into white settings that were uncomfortable for them at best, dangerous at worst. In the wake of the 2016 election, it became apparent that people who I believed would change for the better, were they simply exposed to people who I saw as being from “the other side of town”, actually changed for the worse, and saw those people (my friends included). as people from the “bad part of town”. That’s code for where black people live.

Since then, I’ve wised up. Assuming that other white folks had done (or would do) the work to be safe, non-triggering people to our black neighbors, was naïve of me. I was wrong. I own those mistakes, and I am grateful that, as far as I know, lasting psychological, emotional, and physical damage was never done to the black children whose parents entrusted them to me, or to the young adult friends that I brought around my white community.

The amazing thing is, not once, has a black friend cut me off, or argued with me, or been resentful toward me over these mistakes. No one is perfect, but people who make space for the shortcomings of their friends feel more perfect than those who don’t.

In the years since the election I have studied the black experience at great length, and done my best to stand as a faithful witness of, and supporter through, the unimaginable, deeply unjust and dehumanizing struggles that black folks face simply as a result of being alive in the USA. I have kept the white community out of my black friend’s lives, and recognized with humility, that no one ever asked me to combine the two, and great philosophers and intellectuals–not to mention people of color, and elders in my community–know more about integration than I do. I’m not saying integration isn’t the way forward. I think I am saying that I can’t integrate people’s hearts for them, and I had to learn that where the rubber meets the road.

As my osteopathic doctor (a true medicine woman), told me, “You can pray for their ears to be open, but you can’t make them hear.”

I learned this experientially (and undoubtedly will learn it many times to come), over many years, and through the revealing explosion that was the 2016 election results. By grace, the casualties of my mistakes were few.

The reassuring thing is that this lesson lines up with the words of the amazing black leader and Muslim minister–killed far too early in his powerful life–Malcolm X: Working separately, the sincere white people and sincere black people actually will be working together.

When I spend time nurturing friendships in an authentic manner with people, regardless of their race or socioeconomic status, if I am being true to my values, and to my calling of white allyship, I am right there in the fray. I don’t have to go to black communities to go to war. In fact, the war is within the hearts and minds of people like me. We are the temples in which racism is still worshipped. From within us, we need Jesus to rise and turn the tables. Black folks know they’re human, and deserve to be treated as such (sending blessings to any black brother or sister who doesn’t feel human…your life is sacred); we are the ones who must undo the dehumanizing infrastructure set up in our minds and housed inside our very DNA.

I guess what I am saying is, don’t take the battle to black people, and don’t take black people to battle. What is ours is ours, and integrating our minds and hearts is a long labor, that will lead to wholeness in our own communities, and freedom from the shadow of despair that white supremacy casts over everything and everyone that it touches.

Be sincere, be diligent in self-examination. Trace the impact of every dollar you spend. Elevate black voices. Take the time to learn. You will make mistakes, as I did, but there isn’t a formula to get it right, and don’t you dare ask a random off-the-street black person (or a black friend for that matter, odds are, if they don’t start the conversation, they don’t want to have it with you) to concoct that formula for you.

Look inward. Do the work. Listen. Humanize yourself to humanize others to make the world a softer, more equitable place.

We are on a journey, friends, and we are going somewhere better, together.

(S)He has told you, O (wo)man, what is good; and what does the LORD (Spirit) require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? ~ Micah 6:8 (The Bible)

All There Is

When my heart cracks open, and the only people I want to hold onto, to speak to, would destroy me with one careless word,

I have nothing left. The pain burns it all away, like flesh held over a candle.

I’m the one holding my hand there, watching the tiny flames lick my palm, begging for their attention, trying to restrain myself from throwing my body towards the heat.

It would desolate me to be inside the fire, yet it feels essential to my survival (and all I’ve ever wanted is to survive). It would be easier if

these people were no longer

on the planet. Easier, if, I never had to see them again, then I could survive and it would feel like survival, not like walking through a toxic blaze. When

I am oozing out, burned to ash by my own doing, there is nothing left. Nothing but

the smiles of my students, their affectionate greetings, their “Have a good day, Ms. Bush” as they leave my classroom. Nothing but

friends who answer the phone at midnight to hold me with their words as I writhe in pain, friends who always answer my messages, who never make me feel like the problem (the way the people I feel that I need do), who gather around the table with me once a week to laugh, drink, and eat. Nothing is left but

my gorgeous eyes, swollen and bright, staring back at me, reminding me that I’ve made it through much worse, that the best

is yet to come; that the people I feel enslaved to are wax, and the flame is meant for them, not for my flesh. It will eat away the residue of their impact on my psyche, until I feel as free as I actually am, always have been. There is nothing left but

gratitude. All that lasts is “thank you.” There is gratitude that the suffering ends, that the story never ends in ash, though the flames are relentless. For every time that the pain sounds, joy screams louder. I am here, and from the ash I always rise. I am grateful that the pain cannot destroy

me, that the hatred does not overcome me, that I am, and always will be, free, free as the sparks that fly up from the fire and evaporate into the smoky stratosphere.

Who knows, if she never showed up, what could’ve been
There goes the most shameless woman this town has ever seen
She had a marvelous time ruining everything.
~ T. Swift

To Parents, For the Children

I’m not licensed to speak to parents. I haven’t studied parenting or child development in an academic setting. I do not have a child, and I am not pregnant or planning to have a child.

I have been a child, though, and I know the child I was well. I know the environment she was raised in and the way it shaped her. I know parents, too. I know parents of White kids and Black kids and Hispanic kids (rich, poor, and everything in between). I know children whose parents I have never met. I listen to parents, but more often, I listen to kids, and I understand them. I have been understanding and listening to children of all ages, races, shapes, and sizes since I was a child, and that’s why I’m writing this.

The most important words that come out of our mouths during our lives are those that we say to children. Children are precious, malleable, hopeful, naive, sacred, unique, innocent, and delightful little hooligans. Children turn the most hardened grown ups into softies. Children make us laugh and smile wider than we have since we ourselves were in tiny bodies. Children are our future, and the imprint of the child inside of each of us still shapes who we are in the world.

Children want to see their parents living their dreams. They want their parents to take (healthy) risks, even if it comes at a cost for the entire family. Children don’t want their parents to stay in rotten marriages or toxic workplaces for their sake. Children don’t want parents who keep the peace; they want parents who are willing to fight for happiness and satisfaction, and who don’t shy away from disturbing the status quo in their pursuit of something better.

I hear adults who have realized that something is “off” in their lives worry about making a change because of how it will affect their kids. I hear people say that they don’t want their kid to have divorced parents because they know what it is like. People also say they don’t want their kids to have angry and argumentative married parents because they know what that is like. People look back on their own wounds when considering the actions they need to take in their lives. That’s the wrong direction, folks. The answer to today’s question comes from within. It comes from the heart and mind. It comes from careful evaluation (based on trial and error) of what your best looks like, what will enable you to thrive, and, as a result, give your best to your kids and the world.

Kids know when they’re the reason that you aren’t happy. That’s far too big of a burden to ask them to shoulder. Glennon Doyle, in her book Untamed, talks about parental love as a river. The river can get blocked, which keeps the love in the parent’s heart from actually reaching the child. A parent who stays in a relationship, job, situation where they aren’t happy, fulfilled, or satisfied, is allowing that situation to clog up their river. The child is downstream, not worried about having the perfect family, not wanting their dad to have a flashy job, or their mom to be the thinnest, just wanting to receive the river’s flow. The child just wonders what they did wrong when the water doesn’t make it to them.

Kids can overcome anything, they just need their adults to stay in relationship with them as they work through things. Big changes upset their little apple carts, but with parental TLC they can regain their footing, and by doing so gain valuable skills for life (which we know will trash that apple cart more than once during their lives). When kids are protected from upsetting changes, they’re sheltered from the reality of life. Kids don’t need that from their parents. They need parents to teach them to be strong and resilient warriors who are able to bounce back when life’s changes and trials knock them down.

Parents who step out and face their challenges, fight their demons, and pursue their dreams, set powerful examples for the children who witness them. Parents who clear their riverbed make way for love to roll through like a tidal wave.

Let the love roll, Parents. The kid in you wants to ride the wave, and your kid(s) is there to receive it.

The Way I Was Taught

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, Dr. MLK Jr says. A similar truth, I say, is that justice anywhere is a threat to injustice everywhere.

With the recent surge in attention towards violence perpetrated against Black citizens of the United States (arguably, the largest Civil Rights movement of history), I return to studying Black liberation literature, a study I regret ever neglecting (how many people died while I didn’t trouble myself to undo my White Supremacist education). I read bell hooks, Patrisse Khan-Cullors & Asha Bandela, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Austin Channing Brown, and Layla Saad’s Me and White Supremacy waits on my shelf, as well as more bell hooks. I remember, as I read, how life-changing Malcolm X, Cornel West, W.E.B. Dubois were for me the first time I woke up from The Dream. The Dream is how Ta-Nehesi Coates labels the American empire, the racist mirage, the white-washed delusion that American citizens live in (Between the World and Me).

This conversation isn’t about me, but as I read his book, I reflect on the fact that I am one of them. I am one of those deluded American citizens. In The Dream, I was born at the top of the food chain, in the Capitol rather than in the districts (thank you, Hunger Games). Coates writes at length about this racist system, his words are eloquent, and he leaves no stone unturned in regards to the racist machine of my people, my country. I don’t have words to add to his about race. Read his books, they speak for themselves. Coates, whose prose overcomes me with sadness and gratitude (for the revelation of Truth) all at a time, speaks for my heart, even as he speaks from his own perspective (very different than mine), to his son.

I do, however, have reflections about my own experiences of classism and racism, that I share as a practice of introspection, stirred up in me by the works of literature in my hands.

As I grow up, there are “bad” parts of Little Rock. There are places where–spoken or unspoken–my people agree not to visit. There are places my people agree not to shop. There are communities my socialization intentionally blinds me to. During that time of my life, the adults imply that people there are not fully people. A man sleeping by a garbage can is invisible, and thus, less-than-human. People who drive cars that break down on the interstate (more broadly, people who ever need help) are unorganized, use their money frivolously, they’re the problem, they don’t work hard enough. They’re not human. They should have behaved differently to avoid those situations like we (humans) did.

As a child, I assume that in those grocery stores, people yammer like Ewoks, or they sneeze without covering their noses, or do some other heinous thing that makes them less human, less like me. My childish mind struggles to make sense of what I am taught, because my heart balks against the fault of logic in this curriculum of hierarchy. I need to witness them being less human than me in order to believe that they are. To me, it looks like a man with dark skin getting off his motorcycle at the gas station. Why, then, does my father lock the car doors when he sees him?

In college, separate from my family,financial circumstances force me to pursue housing in the “bad” areas of town. By this time I’ve had friends who call those areas home. I’ve driven through them, and I’ve noticed the differences, but I don’t see anything less human about an overturned garbage can, dented mail box, liquor store down the street, or broken-in windows. Looks to me like the people who live there are busy. Looks like they’re doing the best that they can.

I visit the grocery stores in the parts of town that I was socialized to ignore, to consider a blight on our city. I find people working hard. I find extremely helpful Sonic employees. I find adults working twice as hard as I’ve ever worked for half the pay check. There are friendly Kroger greeters, there are busy business owners, there are strung out homeless folks camping by dumpsters. There are people. Flesh and blood, fully human people.

I see it. It doesn’t match up. Then I read Ta-Nehesi Coates’ book; I read his vivid and thorough explanation of The Dream, I imagine him reading the words out loud to me, about me: “I saw mastery communicated to theirs [White children of White parents]”. I was socialized to be a master, but mastery never made any damn sense. The lie of superiority is handed to me, upon my arrival, along with the case for Black dehumanization. I am expected not to question it, to blindly accept belief in my superiority as a part of my White identity.

I am not made for it, though. God made me, and God made all humans. And humans are equally human. No one was made less than. Children are born knowing this, but the history hidden in our cells denies it. White mastery over Black bodies is woven into our bones, it is the foundation of the empire that my people built for themselves. And it is laced with our own destruction. The illusion of mastery destroys us, because it denies the humanity of others, which is connected to our own. Destroying Black bodies is destroying the sacred, communal vessel that humans–regardless of what they look like– share as spiritual beings.

I realize all of this because I am reading literature by Black Abolitionists. Their words of Truth and justice in my mind naturally destroy The Dream within me. They save me. Their voices give me the chance to undo the mirage of mastery that stole me away from Truth, that occupied my mind with lies at such a young age. The injustice in my mind doesn’t stand a chance before the justice of their words (gracious bearers of horrendous truths).

The ones from whom my people took everything pave the way for my full humanity.

Thank you. Thank you, Abolitionists. Thank you, Black thinkers. Black mothers, fathers, grannies, children. Thank you for surviving. Thank you for overcoming. Thank you for not burning my people to the ground like we deserve.  Thank you for setting me free. Thank you for living, for trying to live, and for trying to save your children, despite the oppression. You are mighty oaks, you are relentless, you will live to see a more just world. Thank you for writing. Thank you for your struggle. May you be blessed, may you be free.

 

Let the light in
Keep it shining
Let it break into the darkness
All the love dares us to see
We’ll all be free ~William Matthews

The Light After the Candle is Extinguished

The relationship that I left four months (plus about a week) ago, and events that happened since have truly helped me identify how my values play out in my life. I had read books and taken a quiz about core values, and I thought I was familiar with my own. The first major romantic relationship I had, the difficulties within it, and the subsequent fallout, all helped me see more tangibly the importance of my values, and how they manifest in my life. I also learned oh-so-much about love (but I know for certain there is infinitesimally more that I do not know about it).

The relationship lasted three and a half years in total, and we tried hard to build a life together for one and a half years of that. At least I speak for myself when I say that we tried hard; I like to assume the best, that he tried hard also. Life can jam-pack lessons into short periods of time. That year and a half was a whirlwind of new challenges, ones that I wasn’t ready to face.

The cohabitation hit like a bolt of lightning, and we tried to weld two lives into one with great fervor and hope, but it didn’t work. I can’t say why. Why couldn’t we establish a nourishing home base for both of us? Why couldn’t we find a healthy way to communicate our needs and priorities? Why did our relationship become strained and stuffy and reductive?

Those are treasure chests of information that I can’t yet unlock and absorb. I trust that time will give me the key, and the grace I need to receive the truth. I can, however, now say that I learned some things about myself, big and small.

I learned that I need a place to go to sleep alone at least a few nights out of the week, and I need that not to be taken personally by my partner. I need to know that my boundaries will be respected, and I need to respect the boundaries of my partner, and question my own motives thoroughly when I am inclined to do otherwise.

I learned that a person who triggers me cannot be my confidant, and that I cannot have a partner whose friends are racist. I cannot live with someone who does not practically and theoretically support the flourishing of all human beings, just as they are.

Looking back on the relationship, what irked and depleted me within it, I can identify needs that I have within intimate partnerships. I see now that I need a partner who can listen to and trust the things that I say–even when they have no frame of reference for the depths of my emotional labyrinth. I need this partner to choose me over my family. I need them to be loyal to what we are trying to build together, just as I need them to be wildly independent and committed to building their own selfhood (as I always must be too). I need sexual freedom, and I’d like a partner who knows and respects their needs as well, however out-of-the-box they may be.

Most importantly, I have learned that there are values that shape the practical decisions of my life, regarding which I am not willing to compromise. I have learned that I will create and sustain a life of purpose–because I am incomplete if I do not. I recognize now that the strongest force in me is my undying desire to make the world a better place for all–through those whose lives I can touch. I will choose to love people who are different than me, I will share my resources, my home, my self, and my heart with them, because I see that we aren’t that different, and I know how life can wear on you when others don’t rise up out of their own pain to offer you support.

Through this relationship I learned that love can overcome anything, but when the love is lost, little things become insurmountable. Over the past two years I learned the truth that you can choose a certain someone, really want them, love them with every cell in your bones, long for a life with them from the depths of your soul, and there is still no guarantee that it will work out.

My naivety had me convinced that if I chose someone, and put my all into the relationship, there would be success: a bright future together. I overestimated the power of my choice. I didn’t know that I could choose, I could want, I could pour out my soul, and the candle could go out anyway. I learned that my choice has no bearing on someone else’s. I learned that as powerful as I am, I don’t have power over anyone else, and at the end of the day, I don’t want that power anyway.

I couldn’t manifest what wasn’t meant to be. There can be love, and then that love can be gone. I remember the moment the candle’s wick was cold. Or maybe it was the moment that I realized there just wasn’t a candle anymore. I was standing in our kitchen, and suddenly I lived with a stranger. I looked inward and saw that I had become a stranger to myself. The relationship had led me away from my values, and in that compromise, my selfhood was banished from my own life.

The cold draft of that insight freckled my skin with goose pimples, and I sat down in a kitchen chair so I could think, and make plans to become reacquainted with myself, no matter the cost.

When I realized that the flame was blown out, I knew that more was lost than just a candle (my naivety, for one), but I also knew that some lights cannot be extinguished. Some lights burn low and steady, an unquenchable blaze, ready to fuel the life you are meant to live.

 

Love In & All Around Us

 

I sit and feel the rage — mine, and that which doesn’t belong to me –. the pain of

violence–words and actions–and I notice the yellow sunlight throw itself

against the leaves; complete trust in its’ trajectory.

 

My heart is big enough to swallow the world with every surgical mask, homeless man, and seething crowd in it. Like the feathers of a duck swallow the eggs

beneath her.

 

A duck with a red beak and brown feathers warms that nest of eggs and watches me

warily like she did last spring when

someone else walked by her sacred workplace and the crises on our lips

were not yet anticipated.

 

Crises bubble up, toxic tar ignored past expiration, a message

as blatant as nature’s rhythms:

we are dying

nature keeps living, keeps

 

thrumming her steady bass note:

love woven into the calloused bark,

cutting currents–like whiplashes–down the trunk, telling

us the story of ourselves.

a list of healing things

I’m healing myself, again. It might be

the hundredth time, I’m not sure. Anyway,

I’m keeping a list of what works:

(it’s an odd list, I’ll admit)

 

eating three meals a day–seated, not standing, with good manners and frequent pauses–

using colorful Sharpies to fill blank pages with swirls and triangles

squishy yoga poses that feel so good I want to take a picture of myself in them and send it to someone

water, remembering to drink it (and not just right before bed when it will keep me up all night on trips to the bathroom)

ignoring calls I don’t want to take (actually making the calls I need to, too)

writing letters to people I like and putting stickers on the outside of the envelope

knowing deep down (in my bones) that I am doing what I can to make the world a better place (and thus not feeling compelled to blast my opinion socially on the social medias about the latest injustice committed in the world. The peace that comes as a result of action: that’s enough to allow my silence.)

sex. The kind of sex that doesn’t mean I belong to someone. Actually, they taught me that if I had sex without handing a man the legally binding deed to my belonging (a document drawn up by the father at any woman’s birth, they said), I would be immediately dismembered. I would be irreversibly damaged. Barbarously maimed. Beamed up, Scotty. Something along those lines, they said, is what would have happened, they said, had I have had sex without a husband. They said, with a no-husband, it would have been horrendous, horribly. Suffice it to say that somehow sex is on the list of things that are healing me. (They couldn’t have been more wrong, could they?)

books, quiet indulgent hours with my nose close to the page

walks first thing in the morning to awaken my legs

telling trustworthy friends what I need to tell them, and staying quiet about the things I’m not yet ready to share

practicing the art of to listen to (another person)

listening, also, to the bluejays and insistent sparrows

baths

taking my medicine and talking to my therapist

meditating with my legs hung over the big black cushion that I bought several years ago, which was a time slightly after the time that I last healed myself.

 

I had Forgotten

Life is cyclical in many ways. I experience something, move to the heart of it, through it, and continue on until I return to the same or a similar experience. I face something and it brings so many torturous feelings over me that I look away. When I encounter that something again I am able to stave off the looking away for longer this time. Something small angers me. The next time that something small arises, I am able to notice my anger and have more agency over my response. I experience a beautiful setting, feeling, relationship, and then I forget. I experience it again, and I remember. I forget, I experience, I remember. I forget, I remember. Forget. Remember.

Quarantine–the word that’s shaping daily existence around the world right now–is reminding me of what I have forgotten. Ten years ago I knew the importance of being outdoors, be it blazingly hot, or bone-chillingly cold. I knew that I had to keep moving, no matter what. I knew how important it was to pay close attention to the books I read from start to finish. I knew that my friends were the most important people alive, I knew that I needed them and their hugs to survive. I couldn’t have explained to you why those were all important, nor how I knew. But I remember The Knowing, and I acted on that Knowing; it shaped how I spent my time. Five years ago, The Knowing was so strong that I spent entire weekends on the untamed riverside property between Arkansas and Oklahoma. The wildness of that space nurtured places in my soul that I had never before been aware of. During that time I safeguarded my solitude like a nun under a vow of silence. I held my beloved friends and the memories we shared closer to my heart than even the blood that surges there. I allowed myself hours–even days–with my cell phone turned off and that, in turn, allowed my mind and spirit to unwind. That time was an unfurling. I couldn’t have explained to you why those things benefited me, nor why in that moment I was able to prioritize them so (a fair dollop of privilege, yes, singleness, and no children, also), other than because I was tired of the way I had been in the world up until then. Other than I knew I had to find a different way to be in the world or my life would become toxic.

My life would become toxic. My life had become toxic again. This time, I didn’t have the privilege of time to spend away from the world. This time, I had bills and a husband and a salaried position, and a sense of importance in the world that existed side-by-side with a fear of being irrelevant and getting left behind professionally. Just a few weeks ago, those were the barriers between myself and all that I had forgotten. The responsibilities and fears stood between myself and The Knowing. Until the barrier fell. Until a literal government mandate took what I held to so tightly and made it more than irrelevant–made it off-limits. Until the barrier fell, I had forgotten. Actually, until the barrier fell, and I fought the new way of being for a week–give or take a few days. I fought it because I had traveled far from The Knowing. I fought it because the forgetfulness had overcome the memory of the way my soul unfurls when it gets what it needs.

I am remembering now the nourishment that leaves hold for my spirit: their veins and vibrancy carrying a story that speaks past my mind into my psyche. Leaves that wave under the sun, blinking and winking at whoever is or is not beneath them. Leaves that float downward without struggle, and ride the stream’s current wherever it takes them. Leaves that are green like the grass under my feet, ever regenerative and pure.

I am remembering now the essential nature of every human touch. Be it a hug, the brush of an elbow or the touch of your hand to someone else’s when they loan you a pen or a piece of gum. Be it love-making, hair-brushing, or the gentle holding between your hands the impressionable, expressive face of a little one.

It is coming back to me how close I feel to myself and everyone else when I spend those quiet, solitary hours, allowing my hands to release their desperate hold on the false security of busyness and control. I am unfurling again because life’s cycle led me back to this place where the barrier between myself and The Knowing has fallen against my volition.

I am given no choice but to remember, and the memory is sweet. Didn’t an author once say “every bitter thing is sweet”? Well, they were right.

I had forgotten, until I remembered.

 

 

 

Questions Knocking

April starts tomorrow. We’re looking towards it with a sense of foreboding. We feel our questions bubbling up inside of us like we’re a soda can and we’ve been shaken.

We fear we might explode. We feel that every outlet and every coping mechanism that we’ve counted on for years has been taken from us and we understand why, cognitively, but we are asking ourselves: can I be okay without it all?

What if April is an exact replica of the past 17 days? What if we’re stuck here, the virus worsens, I lose my job, or I get evicted because I already lost my job and unemployment is alarmingly high?

What if the economy takes decades to recover? What if my kids don’t return to school for the rest of the academic year? What if I can’t hug my friends until summer?

The questions swell within us, they press in behind every thought and interaction we have with ourselves and each other.

The questions are in us. But they are not us.

Uncertainty is at the door and it is ringing the damn doorbell. We decide on a daily basis whether to open the door or not, and honestly, it’s exhausting either way. We ask ourselves: will I open the door without a bra, without washing my face, without good manners? Or will I put actual clothes on, take a shower, and show up to the door to guard my home from the thoughts that won’t stop knocking?

Damned if I know.

It feels like the walls are closing in on us but the entire universe may actually be opening up within us. We start to notice our little salvations: the cat wedging herself between the blinds and the window. The cherry blossoms winking against the clouded sky. Kisses in the morning and sticky kid hands helping with household tasks. Inner restlessness abating as we sleep through the night for the first time in a long time.

Perhaps we aren’t the questions. Perhaps we’re the bright spring green of leaves where droplets perch regally after a rain. Perhaps we’re the mystery of the sun’s rise and set.

We may just be every breath of stubborn, hopeful resistance that floods our lungs. We are: no matter what is on the other side of that door and no matter how I choose to face it, we can make it through.

The questions are rising in us. But they aren’t us.