The pattern of my strategy

I am delirious. I am so behind in sleep that I forget the last good sleep. I forget that feeling of submission. I disregard it. I put the music in my ears. I let the bass move my head, down to the strain in my shoulders. My triangle body. I want to be the only one awake. I want to be alone in the darkness. The moon calling me out of my room, onto the balcony, away from the softness of my bed. Where I know I should be. How I know I should be living. I want to be with someone in the light. I don’t want to miss out on the next laugh, the next joke, the next feeling of connectedness. My chest tightens at the feelings and I push the breath out against my cheeks. Opening my heart to the calmness of the night, sending the vibrations up to my brain. Sleep will find me.

It is hard to admit the things I give up on. It is hard to turn back to them, even though I am eager to find them again. To have them again. It is hard to admit how I have been feeling, all this time, before I could retrace my steps. It is hard to see how I move through the spaces instead of molding them to me. It is hard to write what I feel. It is hard to feel. It is hard to ask the universe for help, to ask to be seen, to ask to be heard and to listen when I am told. It is hard to live in that buttery space in my stomach. That yellow light that reaches out beyond me. It is hard to sit still in an uncomfortable space with only the plan to move. It is hard to wait to see how close the discomfort will come. It is hard to convince myself to sit in the open when I would rather be in my burrow. It is hard to know what will come to next. It is important to realize that I cannot always see the next move. That sometimes the patterns evade me. The patterns evade me especially when I deviate from the pattern of my life. Those things I do to keep myself safe. And then I bust out of my pattern and nothing seems to make much sense. I am back on the mountain without ropes or guard rails. Steps away from nothing, or maybe a different kind of eternity, depending on your view.

rabrab
Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Be notorious. 

Enable away

I work in higher ed. Today, I attended a faculty development conference, and what started out as a conversation about transformative practices in the classroom turned into a larger question, for me, about the purpose of higher ed.

This is human nature: we say one thing and do another. We take for granted our ability to separate the meaning from the acting, the thought from the process.

I sit around at work and wonder what the purpose of it all is. How anyone can understand that the meaning-making sense they need to gain to be successful adults will elude them way past the adult market. That they’ll be lucky if anyone can teach them these skills; that they’ll be lucky if they have the time to learn such skills. That they might find they are still participating in the world at a heavy throttle regardless if they own these skills.

I came home to my housemate exclaiming in his room, “Tired! Tired!” Then taking a moment to agree with my labeling of the conference as joke. “Yeah”

I asked him why he was so tired and he responded, “People.” I agreed, “People are exhausting.” And he clarified, “People are fucking exhausting.”

I haven’t really said much about him, unsure what I want to say, and cognizant of giving words to someone I spend so much time with. Six months ago, I lived alone. So alone I would go days without seeing or speaking to another human person. Now it is a matter of hours before I make eye contact with another presence.

He cleans up after himself in the kitchen, my housemate, when he’s not concocting recipes of arugula with black pepper spice and pieces of the pork sausage I cooked up. He is scatterbrained,  emptying out the recycling bin but leaving the receptacle out on the back patio. He is inclusive, inviting me out to the bars, pouring me half of his can of beer, offering a bite of whatever snack he has in the small bowl in his hand. He is particular, “Use your fucking turn signal.”

He is fun–mixing us habañero vodka cocktails at 1am, eating McDonald’s chicken nuggets off the couch, making inside roommate jokes and facial expressions. Setting a time to meet me in front of the TV for an hour or two of Netflix bingeing.

He is smart–simplifying complex ideas he reads about or hears on podcasts. Remembering minute details. Questioning the world around him while simultaneously seeming to be at peace with it for what it is.

He is an enabler.

I lie in my bed. The fan is on and clops its way around above my head. My window is open and the crickets chirp into my room. There is no rhythm. It is a constant chirp hum. The occasional car glides by, and I hear the traffic on the distant busier roads, slightly, if I perk up a little bit. The rumbles of whatever shifts happen now in the dark. The sheets of the bed are soft against the clean skin of my legs. Shaved and lotioned and ready for the dress I will wear tomorrow. I let my eyes close in between sentences to feel, to court the sleep coming on.

I don’t know if I’m really ready for anything. But I also don’t know how to define anything.

Hysteria

Something is wrong. I’m awake too early, partially because my housemate is too loud in the morning, but partially because my brain becomes aware that my stomach is clenching, drenched in anxiety. I try to breathe through it, to return my body to a state of calm, to fall back into the soft edges of sleep. I know before I really commit to trying that I won’t return to that place of unawareness. I check my social media feeds for mindlessness, to calm my self down with distraction. I come across this article, and something clicks, something hums. I read and think. I open my mouth and let my jaw crack loose on each side. I can feel the tightness behind my ears from what must have been an all night clench.

I’m out of bed, knowing how shitty I feel when I let myself go into work looking like a slob. I wash my face and I comb my hair and I pull on clean clothes. I look less how I feel. This is a morning accomplished.

There is a fatigue behind my eyes that will follow me around all day until I can return to my bed tonight. The words on a plaque in my room jump out at me. Taunt me, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” What does that mean, Eleanor Roosevelt? Is it okay if it’s just speaking my mind in a meeting, or confronting my housemate about her morning noises, or pulling out too closely among the speeding traffic that is my morning commute. Is it just admitting to someone, anyone, again, how frustrated I am, for no apparent reason? Without justifiable cause?

“What’s a girl to do when a bunch of dudes have just told her, in front of an audience, that she’s wrong about what it’s like to be herself?”

I tell myself the stories of myself, trying to work out the curves in the bend, to follow the tangles. I find the words which so often elude me. The way to go when I so often don’t want to go at all. I’ve been telling friends, ‘I’m on edge.’ And I know it’s nothing to do with anything. I know it’s just my general frustration at the state of the world. With the state of the people. I know it’s that I don’t very much care for the people. I know that it’s going for drinks with my male housemate and trying not to decipher everything he says through the lens of the patriarchy. It’s letting my walls dent a bit when he lays himself out on my bed or adjusts the mirrors of my car or questions my answer to trivia. Can you not. When he talks about wanting kids and I realize that he’s had the time and space to not think about having kids until he’s ready to have kids. That this conversation is less familiar in his mouth. I know it’s my friend naming my experience which she has never experienced, another friend talking too much, giving her worries too much space when I have told her time and again those worries mean nothing to me. She needn’t worry. I know it’s my sister feeding me appetizers of our family drama only to withhold the main course. I know it’s watching and listening to my friends drown themselves in wine, wine, wine. Listening to their unvoiced, repressed anxieties about being a woman. Carrying the weight of the world, all the women I know. Watching them reach for whiteness and the maleness. Where is there to go from here? How do I not wake up tired and determined. Detached yet aware.

 

What’s your view

I know I’ve written about it before, but I can’t gush enough about my Boot Camp class. Two years ago, it seemed slightly beyond my reach. I was out of my element, and I wondered my first couple classes, if I would ever get through it. Now, I find myself looking forward to the hour of pushing, pulling, squatting, jumping and lifting. My friends want me to skip it for beers or conversation or meditation. What they don’t understand is that Boot Camp is all of those things and more for me. When my mind takes a backseat to my body. My mind settles in for the feature presentation of my body finding new limits. I feel myself…I feel my body reach that cusp from heat to sweat, from struggle to gain. I’m always amazed at what it can emit. And I carry it with me for the next few days, as my muscles re-settle into a new form. Expanding my edges and blurring my lines. In those moments with the weight in my hand or my feet rising and dropping to meet the floor, I fall into myself. It doesn’t matter what the person on the next mat is doing, what weight they’re using, what speed they’re moving. It doesn’t matter what waits for me at my desk, who will piss me off after work, all that matters is the sound of my own breath and the lack of tension in my face. The dripping from my scalp. The sheen on my arms. The wind in my face as I churn out another sprint. It’s weird to forget and then to remember that exercise…that strength is one of my vices.

 

Besides this, I’ve been deciphering the magic of  “Stranger Things”; I think I’ve got it. I think I’ve figured it out after reading the brief recap by The New Yorker. Pop culture is always how I’ve bonded with my parents. Media, especially, has always been safe, common ground. We’ve found a way to address our shared fears and anxieties and hopes through watching TV and movies and listening to music together. When my parents were too tired to talk to me or spend much time with me, then at least we could watch TV together or turn on the radio. “Stranger Things” references much of the TV and movies I experienced with my parents.

Movies have been especially important to my relationship with my father. A man of few words, he prefers to share what he loves with those he loves. And I was always surprised that I actually liked the movies he shared with me, as much if not more so than some of the books mom lent me. Quality movies are always something we can go back to. The plots don’t change. The jokes are still funny. Despite time and distance and space, the movies remained as a place we could bond, as something we could share. Especially horror and sci-fi movies. As movies with their own rules, these movies seem to stand the test of time. Ever creepy; ever scary; ever bad-dream inducing; ever relief-laughing.

“Stranger Things” touches so much of that we shared: Close Encounters (my dad’s favorite alien movie); E.T. (my mom had such a soft spot for the alien and Drew Barrymore); Poltergeist (my mom was too grossed-out to watch it with her eyes open, but I was convinced our new house was built on a Native American burial plot); Stand by Me (how I imagined my dad’s childhood); It (how I knew I would die–in the shower with a clown coming up the drain); Nightmare on Elm Street (first scary movie I ever watched next to my cousins while my dad and uncles drank outside); Halloween (first movie I watched home alone even though mom told me explicitly not to); Alien (arguably my favorite movie to watch with dad and most often quoted); Predator (that noise my siblings and I would make in the hallway at night).

And there’s more. But there’s something else, too. As The New Yorker article explains, “Stranger Things” pulls us into “the residue of Reagan-era anxiety about the nuclear family.” Which was my life, literally, right at the end of the 80s. We were the dissolved. Joyce Byers is my single, frazzled, working mother. We are the only family in town with divorced parents. We are the kids who come home to an empty farmhouse. Latchkey kids, the phrase people use nowadays. We often felt like we only had each other; we often felt like the weirdo kids. We knew adults who were bad people. I didn’t come of age until the 90s, but living in that small, midwest town, time passes more slowly there than other places. So the 80s–that particular economic and cultural mindset–seemed to stretch out, to reach beyond like the Upside Down, and even though Reagan’s term ended in 89, it haunted us well into the early 90s. We were born into that mindset, and then grew up in that shadow. Maybe because we didn’t fit into it –we were marked in some way. We carried that Reagan-era stigma. I came of age in that aftermath. That’s how “Stranger Things” wins me. Those people portrayed, those characters, are real. I saw them; I knew them; they were us trying to hold everything together.

Talk at me, says the counselor

I want to tell you a story I’ve never told anyone before.

I warm up slow and I burn out slow. I am slow, cautious, withdrawn. I keep myself to myself. After telling me his confusion over some of the #BLM events, my gym instructor asked me how living with people was going, “well, it also helps if you actually like people.” Fine then. It’s not as if I don’t like people, I just know people. I know you.

Ta-nehisi Coates, “The writer…must be wary of every Dream and every nation, even his own nation. Perhaps his own nation more than any other, precisely because it is his own.”

And so I am wary of you. I am wary of you coming and going, because you ruin my quiet. Because I have washed my feet already, and you are constantly asking me to walk across the dirt. Because I am alone before you and after you, and what you forget is that during you, I can close my eyes and look away and be alone again. It is not this.

We are not united.

More than a week ago, I walked 5 miles, and then I came to a dog beach because dogs are better than most people. You are alone together.

My boots made the ground sound hollow. The soft wooded pines and the rock cliffs and the puffy clouds just beyond the green, green trees made me smile fully, with my whole face. I kept that to myself you see, because there are so many times when I do not need you to be there. There is so much I don’t want you to see.

Between the world and me sits my ignorance, my doubt, my anxieties. Between the world and me, I try not to disappear.

You say the strangest things to me, yet I’m the strange one for not pretending to be normal.

I don’t care 

I saw you on Facebook today. I clicked through. I guess you moved to California. I guess you are living where you never thought you’d live. I guess you are happy. I am sitting with my housemate, drinking beers, talking furniture, and kicking off the weekend, but thinking of you…I went from joyous to dark. Dark gray and sad. It’s been a year? Since we last spoke. I think of letting you go. I wonder what your life is like now. You seem happy, but you always seemed happy, even when I got a glimpse of your unhappy.

I don’t know how you do it, and I don’t want to know. Right? Isn’t that why I avoided your texts, ignored your calls, wrote you a heartbroken letter, stood my ground when you begged me to give in? Isn’t that why I said no? I did the thing no one else would do. I pissed off you and your whole family. It was worth it, I think, maybe. I feel sad because I’d never had to say goodbye to someone for the reasons I said goodbye to you. You were the first time I put those principles before people. You were the first time I had to say I love you so I hurt you. I love you so I say goodbye. I had to stand my ground for a reason I’ve rarely had to pull. Had to make it permanent. I had to say, what you’re doing isn’t right, what you’re saying isn’t enough. I thought maybe you would come around. Maybe you would say…I love your love. I knew my love paled in comparison to the love you thought you were working towards. I knew it wasn’t enough. I knew it didn’t count, not really.

It hurt then and it hurts now.

And then later I put in his CD. The one he made me when we thought I might have to get an abortion. The one he made as a preemptive goodbye. A preview of our departure. A ‘I’m here now, but I won’t always be.’ It sits in my car as a memory of another time when love wasn’t enough. Or maybe I have it wrong. Love was enough. But love for another ultimately overshadowed the love between us. The ideal of love broke the back of the actualized love. You, like him, held out for the bedtime story love because some things always sound better in pretend. It’s about time. Isn’t it? What we feel and what we know and when it actually comes to be. Maybe it’s always there, it just becomes about when we finally choose to acknowledge it.

You can’t tell me

Generally, I walk around feeling like myself. But I remember the first time I realized there might be something wrong with me. Something wrong with my body and the places it had been. I remember the first time I felt like, maybe I wasn’t completely safe in my skin, in the world as a person. I was 8 years old. I was in the cafeteria line (school was not a joyful place for me) making small talk with friends. Joe Mason, my cousin and the child most often in lines next to me (what would we do without alpha order?), made a joke about wetbacks. A lazy, lazy wetback joke. A few things happened all in my mind at once. First, do I laugh? Second, I know a wetback is a bad word for a Mexican person. Third, well, I’ve been told I am a Mexican person>a mixed person specifically, with Mexican blood. Fourth, I know this means that my parents and my parents’ parents and my parents’ parents’ parents are definitely Mexican and would definitely never laugh at a wetback joke.

As a result, my 8 year old self furrowed her brow. Joe Mason laughed his way onto another boring topic of conversation. I felt something cave-in inside of me. MORALES that pride. That name, felt dirty to me. I suddenly felt like…maybe this isn’t okay? Maybe it’s not okay to have this name and be this way or look this way or know those words in Spanish? Maybe….

But to realize too, that in another way, that I was not perceived from the outside as I felt on the inside. To realize that I would pass through spaces, moments just like this, for the rest of my life. Where someone would say something offensive to me, my people, and be surprised or not notice, or not want to notice when I didn’t laugh, when instead my internal dialogue resulted in a furrowed brow and a slight frown.

I had to learn quickly that the response to my, “that’s offensive” comment would be the offender then telling me I wasn’t Mexican enough to count. I wasn’t Mexican enough to be offended. I wasn’t Mexican enough for them to respect Mexicans. “But you’re white” was their conclusion. Their final word. Their ruling.

I learned later in adulthood that certain Mexicans would feel the same way, would hold the same opinion. That my Mexican wasn’t enough to lay any claim to their safe spaces. That I was more invader than comrade. That I didn’t count.

No one was around to guide me through this. I didn’t know it was a thing to guide through. I didn’t know how I felt or what to feel or why regardless, I always felt wrong. I didn’t know why others’ reading should be regarded as more valid than my own claim to my own lived experience and identity. And I knew too, that if I could ask my parents or my ancestors they would tell me, you are doing everything right. That somehow I did still count, despite every one else’s arguments.

I’ve learned to tread carefully. I’ve learned to choose my words carefully. I’ve learned that it’s best to assume you’re not safe, and be relieved, rather than to assume you are safe, and to feel violated. It’s better to expect the worst from people than the best. I’ve learned there are people who get it and there are people who won’t. I’ve learned the words for what has been done to me, said to me, looked at me. I’ve found a way to be despite the pigeonholes I’ve been shoved into. I’ve learned to see the similarities in the people who are different from me. I’ve learned there are people who will claim to be like me, but who in fact are something different. That’s okay. Because I’ve also learned to really, really appreciate the people who are like me. Who like me.