The line 

I am not my siblings’ keeper. It took me 29 years, but I finally feel free of that burden. They have jobs and partners and dependents and bills and obligations and stories of their own. I feel light and free and much more whole than I have in a long time. Feeling like, whatever I thought I had to work for before is fixed and complete and done. That ship has sailed. I can be here and I can be a support, but I am not a foundation brick. I can wiggle and shift and move without the whole structure falling through. I am a sideline, not a patch of grass on the main playing field. We will be okay. We are grown and will keep growing. Not all the stories you’re told about others and before others and in the midst of others are truly how those stories were lived. Not always how they were meant to be originally told. We each have a perception and I forget how easily that can be shaped and molded. The forest for the tree and all that shit. 

This might not sound very revealing or freeing or deep. But I was raised to hold them on my back. I was raised to keep them in line, to keep them safe and smart and happy. I worked as much as I could as a full-time student and a part-time teenager to pay my bills so that they would have more. I limited my portions at dinner. I skipped second helpings. I came home after school or after my second job to help them with their homework or pick up their birthday cakes or drive them to wherever they needed to be. I wasn’t as pleasant or as open as I should have been, but I was reliable and strong and vocal about my love for them. I never wasted a second because I didn’t want them to doubt the lengths that I would go for them. I drive south and they defer to me. Suddenly, I am making decisions for the group and cooking a 3 course meal and feeling that mama bear big sister lion rage well up in my chest. This is what’s best for you and you will do it. So much of their burden has shaped my life and my personality and my perception of their/our experiences. To step beyond that burden and to turn and look at them as something separate from me, something powerful and capable and different…I am giddy and almost delirious in response. Just the realization of my particular conditioning and how deep that seeded in my blood. It’s all relative when you’re relatives. I am a learner and I soaked up my teachings. Now I have to unlearn them. Now I have to see us grow. Apart but on the same tree. 

Validation

I bought a book. I rarely buy books, as I prefer to get them for free from the library, as books bought means books on shelves means less space means more stuff means I drown a little more in nothing that matters.

Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates speaks to me as I’ve been speaking to myself…

“As for now, it must be said that the process of washing the disparate tribes white, the elevation of the belief in being white, was not achieved through wine tastings and ice cream socials, but rather through the pillaging of life, liberty, labor and land; through the flaying of backs; the chaining of limbs; the strangling of dissidents; the destruction of families; the rape of mothers; the sale of children; and various other acts meant, first and foremost, to deny you and me the right to secure and govern our own bodies.”

“America believes itself exceptional, the greatest and noblest nation ever to exist, a lone champion standing between the white city of democracy and the terrorists, despots, barbarians, and other enemies of civilization. One cannot, at once, claim to be superhuman and then plead mortal error. I propose to take our countrymen’s claims of American exceptionalism seriously, which is to say I propose subjecting our country to an exceptional moral standard.” (8)

There’s more and more and more. I read Coates and I want to write. I want to write, but always, always feel the need to cite. Still doubting after 29 years that my experience is not enough. That I need something else to put the words to it. That someone else’s words are somehow better, stronger, clearer than mine. That maybe what I think isn’t quite right–is it quite right? And so I go around looking for validation. And I find it, but what then do I lose? And so I try to write. I don’t write about missing you, or thinking of you. I don’t write about my day, as Hillary Clinton’s voice booms up the stairs and around the house. As someone, everyone, claims this is the best country on earth, that other people will be destroyed, that winning is winning is easy and simple.

I think about a lot of things, and I don’t always have the words for them, and I do wonder a lot if the things are right, but I tend to walk around with a strong sense of, yes, yes they’re right. But I also recognize that the questioning is healthy. Time-consuming but healthy.

 

What are potato chips

I was going to write something about vocation and calling and purpose. I was going to write about tears I’ve seen shed, jobs I’ve seen left, conversations I’ve had, that feeling of the weight coming off your shoulders as you realize it’s safe to say, “what is life. what are potato chips.”
Why is this happening to so many intelligent, hard-working twenty somethings that I know? We are like driver-less bumper cars spinning around the floor. Bumping and back-sliding and forgetting…we can stop at any time.

I don’t know where we’re going. I don’t know what we want.

I was going to write about emotions. How if I were a dude, people might say, “well, he has a big dick.” I was going to write about the uselessness of anger. I was going to write about the worthlessness of words at times. When regardless of the words I say, you will hear what you want to hear. It doesn’t matter, I’ll speak or I won’t. You’ve painted your picture of me, and like the Mona Lisa, only I know what my smile was intended for. Who I’m trying to be.
And I haven’t been writing because all I’ve been doing is questioning, questioning, re-naming. I’ve been trying to give my thoughts space. Seeing if they will plant or blow away. Seeing if they are me or not me. Realizing, it doesn’t matter if they are or if they aren’t. I’ll find out soon enough. I’ll know when I know. I write anyway.

The audacity of hope. I carry it around with me, because I know I will use it. I know I can use it. I know there’s a lifeline when I reach for it.

All that P

I am fascinated, becomingly increasingly consumed with my fascination for, white privilege. What a time to be alive as it falls out of our ears and onto the ground. White people everywhere, outraged and scrambling. Shouting with hands clasped, “I would very much like to be excluded from this narrative!!!!!!”

Swifty and Kimye:

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2016/07/tay-kanye/491693/

Melania:

https://www.buzzfeed.com/alanwhite/better-to-fail-in-originality-than-succeed-in-imitation?bffbmain&utm_term=.roMbRQWdb#.mgomLd6am

Steve King:

Dear Steve King: Here are some things not invented by white people

Tutorials circulating educating white people about reverse racism. And not a peep that I’ve seen calling out for enhanced, increased, improved veterans’ benefits. Veterans’ Rights in response to the recent shootings in Baton Rouge and Dallas. You know why? You know why.

Nothing really that spells it out nicely: the evil comes from within. You are the problem. Stop acting like you’re not the problem.

White girl magic

I only have white friends. This hasn’t always been the case. A few years ago, I had friends of many flavors. In fact, I’ve had lots of different kinds of lady friends. I’ve had Irish lady friends, African American lady friends, Filipino American lady friends, Mexican American lady friends, Iranian American lady friends, Honduran lady friends, Canadian lady friends. Palestinian-Russian American lady friends. Guatemalan American lady friends. I’ve had mixed lady friends with names and ancestry and skin colors all jumbled up.

But right now, I only have white friends. And they have, what I like to call, white girl magic. I first came across white girl magic as a child in white rural midwest. It wasn’t so strong then. They were still learning their tricks, but the early signs were detectable in the way the girls would raise their hands in class; run to the coach at practice; walk down the hall of my high school. And it died for a little while, because I hung around other types of ladies to balance out the white girl magic, but it’s back. It’s here again. It flutters about like pixie dust and I sneeze in reaction.

What do I mean by white girl magic?

I would argue that it’s similar to white male privilege. It’s this notion that white girls have that they get what they want. They get what they want because they can make a case for it, and so of course, why wouldn’t they get what they want? And if you’re not getting what you want, it’s because you’re not making a case for yourself. You’re not trying hard enough or arguing rationally enough or talking loudly enough or standing up straight enough. Put your hand on your hip a little higher, there, there you go. It’s an attitude, so it’s hard to describe, but it’s that sentiment of, “I deserve it.”

Whenever one of my white lady friends complains about something not going the way she expected, I tell her to, “work your white girl magic.” Make it happen. It’s this almost relentless determination, maybe it’s cushioned with I’m sorrys or Is this okay or I don’t know, I’m not sure. It usually is.

Someone told me once that the best way to succeed professionally is to trick people into thinking that whatever idea you bring to the table is actually their idea. Make your good ideas into their ideas and you will succeed. This is white girl magic. Make someone feel like they’re doing you the favor, not the other way around, and you’ve nailed it. You’ve got it.

It’s cunning and it’s capable. It’s their wild card.

 

Don’t reach, grasp

I’ve been thinking a lot about “reaching for.” The term was originally introduced to me by the newest episode of Politically Re-Active (I laugh; I cry; I learn).

Listen now:

https://player.megaphone.fm/FL4294306103

Pastor Michael McBride describes a crucial point I hadn’t considered before– that we’re all reaching for whiteness, for this ideal. That whites aren’t really white–they’re Polish or Russian or German or Irish, and if you go back through US history, you can see as each of these cultures is brought into Whiteness. How the invitation to whiteness has been extended to Irish peoples, Jewish peoples, and most recently, Latino peoples. McBride said something that kind of blew my mind, which was that we need a new, different ideal. That we’ll never get anywhere in our racial journeys unless we all stop reaching for Whiteness. And this made me think of the model minority and internalized racism and these similar notions, and then some neurons in my mind exploded like baby brain fireworks.

Ooooohhhhhhhh

And then I was reading a review of a book I’m dying to read, but which of course is unavailable at ANY of my local libraries, Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner?

And I felt like, “shit, yes!” As a woman, I also have to stop reaching for maleness, reaching for a success that has been defined and structured by a man, who have completely different societal (socially constructed societal) roles, expectations, knowledge and abilities. That was strangely freeing and inspiring. That made my uterus like tremble and release and relax a little bit.

Whatever I want is whatever I want. It doesn’t have to be like this.

Spike me

“When the heart makes contact
I’m there to see it through.”

When I was in 8th grade I ran track. Well, I ran track other years, but 8th grade was an especially good year in my personal running history. When my body still felt small and lithe. After 8th grade, my bones filled out and the running was less than. I couldn’t seem to find it anymore.

When I was in 8th grade I ran track. We had an important meet, pretty important, in the spectrum of meets. I forget where. I ran a relay with 3 other girls in my class. They seemed prettier, more popular, more comfortable with boys, but when we ran it all felt the same. In our relay I was 2nd leg. I remember waiting for her, the blonde. She ran so hard and kicked her legs so far that her shins would disappear from view. Like she was running with quads and knees only, although I know that’s not possible. I waited for her, waiting for my turn to skip across the track. Waiting in my lane. Red dust on my spikes. It was damp. Puddles lined the track on the outside.

I saw her coming. She mouthed the go. I started the shuffle. Forward, forward. She was red, out of breath. The sprinter, meant to give us a good lead. We were in second. The first girl swished past me, her partner lunging forward with the baton. I waited. Then it was in my hand and I felt so responsible. I sped. I am not the sprinter; I am the distance. I remember coming up on the girl with short hair. She seems far ahead of me. She seems a little too fast. I think, you know, I’m cool with second. This is good. This is fine. But in that moment I catch my stride, and I feel it as my legs pump. I’m faster than she is. And with that I watch her out of my periphery as I pass her by. As my legs easily out pace hers. As I slide around that corner and I see my coach and I see my hand-off, beckoning for me, faster, faster. I lose the lead a bit as I hand off, clumsily. It doesn’t matter. I had done enough. The next leg, she was the fastest of us anyway, put there strategically to maintain any lead we earned. We win. And I slide off the track with my relay-mates, reaching briefly for my tear-away sweats, splashing mud on whatever opponents were still hanging out, waiting for their classmates to finish.

It was brief, but that moment of settling and then passing her, I can still see it so vividly. Like it just happened to me. Like it’s still happening.