Mayday

On Mother’s Day and other things I’m generally frustrated about…

  1. A party at the house. Planned by my housemate, a man I admire. People I don’t know. People I don’t know if I want to know. People who smell good and look nice and use funny words. I bought flowers and drank champagne and cut cheese and arranged meats and wiped down surfaces. The house looked shiny and warm, buttery. The wood surfaces gleaming and inviting. I felt like home. I didn’t mind who came in, because it’s mine and they can enter but that doesn’t grant access. Too many people, too much time. I sat quietly and laughed at jokes. I sat outside on the porch by myself. I felt how I always feel. I wanted the last couple with their daughter to leave. The party ended at 8p. They were still sitting on my couches at 8:30p. I snuck away to a steamy shower. I started to feel invaded.
  2. College graduation and a reminder that college’s most valuable lesson was that I still had more to learn, and more people to meet. My desire to engage in critical conversation was fed and nourished by college, the first place out of anywhere and perhaps the most out of anywhere. I feel frustrated at a campus that limits my ability to engage in critlife. Because Midwest nice. Because love. Because people think to be in love is to be all-accepting. That is not my love.
  3. To be a woman on Mother’s Day, when so much of my life is spent mothering people. My students, my friends, my coworkers, my siblings, my parents. To feel like your fate has been decided. And not to want what maybe you truly want. Do I want to be a mother? When my whole life has been preparation for motherhood? The girl child running around my house last night. I did not speak to her. I barely looked at her. There was a boy child who needed constant attention. People find my avoidance of children cold and somehow telling. I think the U.S. coddling of children, the way we prioritize children, is disgusting. Is troubling. Is unhealthy and damaging. When I was a child, I wanted to be a peer to the adults in my life. I did not want to be treated differently or excluded from adult life. I now treat children the same way I treat adults. From a healthy distance.
  4. I want a sober attitude. I want a balanced mindset. I want new challenges to inspire me to try new solutions, rather than tempting me to throw myself on the floor. I show up to work because that is all that is expected of me. That is easy. I can accomplish that, at least. I can get here and be physically present, at least.

To wit

I want to wander and dream, and I’m tired of feeling punished for that desire. I’m tired of feeling constricted. Constrained. Is it a real punishment or only a feeling I have internalized? I don’t want a life you find in a catalog, in a magazine. I won’t pose myself in tasteful frames with artful filters in the trendiest fashions with the cutest smile. My bed sheets are clean, but wrinkled. My dresser is good quality but covered in a thin layer of dust. I comb my hair but let it swirl around my face. All this to say, what? I fight, I resist in my very own way. It’s important to me, although subtle. This is my rejection of values in a world I will not uphold.

Some days, everything hurts. I spend the weekend napping, swallowing ibuprofen, cleaning and listening and absorbing, trying to distance myself from the ache in my chest. Anything that feels good. I know there are days of surprise inspiration. Days of surprise hope. Days that turn that sinking feeling upside down. Days that feel like soaring.

Is it PTSD? Is it historical trauma? Is it nothing, other than an obsessive mind and a negative veil?

I take a break. A break from thinking about how I think. I read thirty pages and four chapters of a novel. A gift for my housemate I am trying to consume before I pass it onto her. I walk down the hall. I run my hand along the painted wall. All of this. And none of this.

Whiteys

The Heart of Whiteness: Ijeoma Oluo Interviews Rachel Dolezal, the White Woman Who Identifies as Black

I’ve been seeking out Oluo for a while now. I appreciate her journalism. 

I have been shaped by whiteness and yet lived outside of it. I don’t have the words for my experience. I may never have words for my experience. It has broken me in some ways. Some words will never come to me because of whiteness. I have a word for misogyny, and I have fellows in feminism, but when it comes to whiteness…I often feel alone and lonely. Unsure of where to put my hands or feet. Perplexed by the performances and the pleasure. The ignorance and the isolation.

Ya

Me and Jack are hanging out. Sitting on the stoop. Jack is bigger than I imagined. He is quiet but needy. Sitting close to me with his bone, put-off because I do not pet him.  I feel so visible here, my anonymity gone the second I crossed the border between central and southern Illinois. The stench of wet dirt greeted me. The sight of a shredded deer carcass spread across the interstate with streaks of blood confirmed the little mileage I had left.

It’s dark here. Darker than anywhere. There aren’t nearby cities with streetlights to light up the distant horizon. Civilization is thin here. Silent. That shrouded feeling wells up in my chest. Seeps out the corners of my skull.

I sit with Jack the dog now. We watch the neighbors push mow and ride mow their lawn. I saw my nephew earlier. His skin is tauter, his bones larger. He points and uses words and pushes his little body to its physical limit.

I pull into my sister’s darkened driveway. She greets me in her scrubs. It is late. We are tired. She walks me through the new house. I try to keep my notions at bay. I keep my mind quiet. Trying to shake out the night’s drive from my hips and my shoulders. My sister tells me a story. She had our nephew in her upstairs bedroom. It was night. It was storming. She has an old chair that came with her old house pushed back in the corner. It is yellow and floral. Our nephew pointed at the chair, “who’s that?” Without a word, she carried him down the stairs. Later, upon hearing the story, her boyfriend burns the sage my mom gifted them. Walking around the house expressionless, determined.

I sleep deeply, undisturbed in the downstairs bedroom. I am relieved to wake up and realize this in the morning when the light is coming in. “Everything is better in the daylight.”

In the morning, I open all the curtains. I tug up all the windows. April here is not like April in Wisconsin. There are flowers and trees with leaves. I will be hot later in my loose t-shirt and jeans. I will be comfortable in the morning drinking my coffee in the grass in just my shorts, barefoot. I grill French toast for breakfast. My sister makes us a pot of coffee. I try to refit here.

In the afternoon, I sit on the arm of my brother’s couch. My nephew points at me from the arms of my sister, “who’s that?” Our eyes light up and we laugh. “Just like that,” she says. But I am real, dimensional.

I sit here with Jack now. The neighbors don’t acknowledge us. There, a vestige of Midwest home I recognize. I will eat cafeteria food later with my sister. She will tell me stories of the woman she works with, who I partied with in my very late teens. I will find very fond memories of this woman folded up in my brain, someone I didn’t even realize was hiding out back there. But my thoughts have never mattered here.

Uti and frui

I sat in on a colleague’s class today, and I felt nervous at first. How much stands between me and my last undergraduate course. But as it began I was swept away. Caught up in the discussion questions and the contextual text. Taking notes not on pedagogy, as I was invited to do, but content and thoughts and relevance. College was–mostly–processing alone. And partying out of obligation. I’ve spent the last few days trying to pin it down, why in all places I didn’t come out of feeling so alone, even in the office hours of my professors. What it was, ultimately, that separated me from them. Time and assumptions are all I can come up with. The fucking privilege of an education, I thought, as I looked around the room at all the students. Some of them engaged, some of them in other places. Why do we do that? Do we start college too young or too late? This kind of education. I wanted it so badly. I still want it. Still would rather be sitting in a classroom than anywhere else. A circle of thought. Still am the most frustrated when I feel like I am not learning. When I feel under stimulated. When I feel brain energy has been wasted = think of what else I could be learning. I have to feel pushed. In anything. In everything. My challenge is dealing with a lack of challenge…

The class discussed Augustine. My colleague beginning the session with a quote from the only christmas movie I quote, It’s a Wonderful Life: “No man is a failure who has friends.” Why that line has always resonated with me…but it hooked me into the discussion.

You are choosing a life of love
But you are also chosen
Grouping up to become one
“How did it feel to be chosen?” I want to start asking my students.

And I was struck by one young man’s comment that people “can go away,” so we give them our heaviest word, our strongest attempt at living: love

To leave–to end the choice–to choose not to be chosen. To fall out of the pool. To choose your self or new others over former beloveds… but ultimately creating a chain of people. All of them are one–are one group–through my connection = my chain. And what if there were mutual respect because we are all links of the same chain? What if you cut someone out of the chain? Then? My spiritual development has been so shaped by my community. This is the first one that has given me words for my experience. I have filled.

Here is some sap for your cup

I’ve been thinking a lot, a lot, a lot…

Alot-vs-a-lot1-600x450

about wounds and pain and discomfort. bell hooks visited my campus and I found the conversations I attended somehow circling back to a point related to: these are my wounds, and this is how I’ve worked through them, and this is how I’m working to help others overcome, yet first nurture these same wounds…

I found myself sitting behind the two white men who have threatened my existence here the very most. They didn’t raise their hands when the speaker asked for sexists in the room, and for the first time I found myself wondering, what are your wounds?

What’s your gap? When the body says, No; when you feel the floor of your chest fall away, when grief hits, how are you working through it? Are you finding your grief, catching it with the light? Shining it high and low until it’s nailed in the center of that beam, then holding it, nailing it down to name it, making sense of it, and then letting it go. Setting the monster free for greener pastures? The spaces we exist in are complex, and the borders we build to keep ourselves safe have to respond with complexity. It’s the only way to build up your immunity to new grief. It’s the only way to make a guard rail out of your scabs.

Protect your spirit from the violence of the world.

Stop waiting for a hero, for a mother to pick you up and dust you off and kiss your scars.

AreYouMyMother5

Life is not about heroics. Life is hard work.

Sometimes you’re just going to feel bad. I don’t know what else to tell you. Think of it as a privilege–the some times–because that means there is enough joy in your life that it isn’t bad all the time. That you can feel the ebb and flow of it. Deconstruct yourself: Question what pushes you up and what pulls you down. Chart it. Plot out your rollercoaster. Recognize yourself, then. Find the meaning in the chaos. Be something. Separate the wheat from the chaff. Become. Or rather, maybe for you it is: Remember. Yo recuerdo

inspired by: bell hooks, George Yancy, Bettina Love, and Mama Dee

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S-Town = listening to another clueless white man describe life to me. The privilege of being unsure of what the world is all about, and then feeling accomplished to think you’ve discovered something. An important piece of a puzzle you thought you had already finished.  An invasive, weak, earnest, sad story chase. A spoken ogle. A misplaced admiration. A published misstep.

This is how we got here. Isn’t it something to have it all documented for future research ?

Additional thoughts: I take issue with how anyone from a non rural area defines “rural”; how they place themselves there. Here’s me in “rural [insert state].” What are you trying to say about yourself; why are you distancing yourself and your readers, listeners, receivers from that place. What are you saying about that place with your use of “rural.” Rural runs in my blood, runs through the old world recipes I grew up on: the beef in the freezer, the pie crusts, and the salmon patties, and the iced teas. Rural structures my understanding of clothes on the line, candles in the drawer, cars in the yard.

Rural isolates you. It’s long, quiet, humid summer days. It is dark, quiet, nondescript winters. Rural is space not just from your neighbors, but from the rest of the world. And you can make of your space what you want, which is probably the most alien to the rest of the world. That you have the autonomy and the audacity to not go with the flow, but to create your own rules and your own lives, without the approval of anyone else. That is rural.

And of course John loved his life. Of course John could recognize the privilege his life afforded him. I think that was evident in the very first listen. I didn’t need six more episodes, his death, his secrets, or his suicide note to clarify that for me. What kind of love filled his heart all along, even if it wasn’t enough to sustain him. Even if it wasn’t enough for him to keep going through the motions. You don’t need to make this point. You don’t need to other him or his world to bring us back, to reconcile, to form a new truth, a new view. It was in plain sight all along.