Keening

I never really understood what this was – until this past week.

Of course, I’d heard of the practice: people crying, wailing, making all manner of sounds to vocalize their pain and grief. I understood that it often was a cultural practice at funerals. But that’s how I understood it: as some anthropological note about what other people do with their grief. It was academic, and wholly disconnected from my middle class American existence.

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I am a writer.

I’m WAAAY overdue on a #readingwritingresistance post, due to travel and life. It’s all outlined in my head; I just have to get it onto the screen.

But right now, I’m pausing to reflect on how much I love my blog. I came in here to quickly look for a couple of writing samples, and I got lost re-reading old posts. And you know what? I really like my writing!

I think my style is fun to read. I think I’m occasionally pretty insightful. I like seeing how my reflections on a topic evolve over time. I appreciate the markers of life events that my blog posts provide.

I enjoy the confirmation that I’ve been mulling over justice issues for years and years; that’s not a front, that’s really and truly me. And I confirmed something else after reading through all this: I am a writer. I’m not always a polished writer. I’m definitely not a consistent or disciplined writer. But I produce content, with some regularity, and at a decent level of quality.

I’ve been loath to claim that label. I’ve always felt that I wasn’t a “real” writer because I wasn’t doing it as often or in whatever way I thought a “real” writer should. I’ve done this multiple times with different labels over the years: always assuming that however I did things didn’t count because it didn’t look exactly the same as how others did it. Never recognizing that it is a way of being and engaging with the world – in this case, processing and communicating my thoughts through the written word – that are at the core of these identities, as much or more than a particular form of activity.

Perhaps this will be the year of finally getting over my BS lack of confidence and being willing to claim my skills and talents without reservation. I am a designer. I am an organizer. I am a leader.

And yes, indeed, I am a writer.

“Oh, no, not that old ugly boy again!”

Lookie what we have here – a bonus post! Part of my new healthier approach to life is choosing to write my feelings instead of eat them.

The above quote is courtesy of my youngest sister, who spoke those words when one of my high school boyfriends came to pick me up from the house. She was only four, but I was still mortified; at sixteen, you don’t always have the zen to laugh off the outrageous outbursts of young children.

I have more presence of mind now when it comes to kids, but not yet when it comes to men. Early on, I began substituting sex for love and hoping that it might magically yield love as a side effect; and despite that never working even once, I clung to that pattern until it went from being second nature to first nature. Lately, I’ve doubled down on the disappointment and started choosing as my romantic attachments men who aren’t even interested in the sex part. Maybe my real turn-on is emotional masochism.

Long ago, I chose a boy who set my loins on fire over a boy who loved me. I’ve never stopped regretting that decision: how I hurt that nice, sweet boy, and the good relationship I gave up in exchange for a really crappy one. My therapist says I keep re-enacting that choice, trying to make it work out so that being with someone who’s bad for me will end up bringing me the love I truly wanted. My relationship history is the living definition of insanity … ergo, all the therapy. (And seriously, even therapy discussions that aren’t about my love life end up coming back to my love life. It’s pathological.)

The last year has been a lot about trying to separate myself from these destructive attachments. I’ve slowly gotten better at stepping back before I fling myself over the cliff – but only just. And even as I learn how to stop attaching myself to bad relationships, I despair of ever finding one again that’s good. It feels like the best I can ask for is that I stop wanting romantic companionship at all.

That’s so depressing. I’m 40; I’m not dead. I have a treasure trove of love and passion inside me, and no small reserve of skill. I’d really like to share them with someone who will appreciate their full value. Why is that so darn hard?

***

(Sidebar: how is it that I’ve never created the category Love Life for this blog until right now? That makes no sense to me.)

My America

In my progress from slavery to the present, I only made it to about 1954 today. Sometimes, the weight of history is more than a day can bear.

I did a lot of reading for this week’s blog, but not in the usual sense: it was almost entirely composed of signage in the National Museum of African-American History and Culture. This was my first time visiting the museum since its opening last fall. It’s testament to the deep cultural void this museum has finally filled that its entry passes are snapped up almost as soon as they are released – the next batch of tickets, for dates starting in June 2017, won’t be available until the beginning of March. If museums were Broadway shows, it’s like trying to get a ticket to Hamilton.

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For Colored Girls / When the World is So F*d Up That You Seriously Can’t Figure Out What to Do with Yourself

First off, THANK YOU to all of you who are following my blog during this experiment. It gives me a particular sense of joy to know that such wonderful people will be reading what I write. And the accountability is working – I didn’t want to get to tomorrow morning and have any of you ask me when my first RWR blog post was going to show up.

For those of you who haven’t been connected to me on Facebook: I finally reached that moment where the utility of the platform for sharing and discussing ideas was far outweighed by its soul-crushing, hope-devouring effects. One of my friends shared an article about the Trump campaign’s use of big data that made me feel like I needed to delete all my posts and take a shower. I want to still engage with people about how we live together in this world; I need to still engage with people if I’m going to survive this period we’ve entered into. But I was swimming in a miasma of toxicity, and I was putting back into that environment what I was absorbing from it. I want to bring joy and hope as well as righteous anger to my social media life. And while I’m so glad that the Lord was able to use the things I posted on Facebook to speak to people, I need to find a different way to go about this.

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What we see

My sister and brother in law have a Subaru Outback. I wasn’t particularly familiar with that make and model of car when they got it. In fact, it kind of surprised me, because the advent of minivans and SUVs had led me to believe that the station wagon – along with my childhood – had largely disappeared sometime in the mid-90s. But there it was, a very handy vehicle; and when my mother’s car was totaled in a horrifying multi-car accident, I found myself driving the Subaru quite a bit.

That’s when a funny thing happened. All of a sudden, I kept seeing other Outbacks on the road. They were everywhere, in every kind of color. I started recognizing different styles, and I started to be able to distinguish between older and newer models. Apparently, these cars had been all around me the whole time; I’d just never noticed them.

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Be ye transformed

​Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:2 NIV

Additional election reflection: I just had an insight into why this election result, while disgusting me in the extreme, is neither all that surprising nor traumatizing. Many people on my feed are writing about feeling like this isn’t their country, like they can’t believe they live in a nation this racist/xenophobic/misogynistic, like they don’t know how to live in a nation where this is true, etc. Those reactions sounded oddly familiar, and it occurred to me that I already had that moment for myself and my nation: two years ago, after Mike Brown was murdered in Ferguson. I said these exact things in a sobbing phone conversation with my mother, as I sat in my front yard in Somerville trying to figure out how I could continue getting up and going to work and living life like the world hadn’t just exploded.

My pro-tips:

  1. It’s OK to be devastated. I was barely functional at work for the latter half of August 2014, trying to deal with the trauma. Don’t try to act like nothing has happened. Breathe, grieve, and give yourself some grace.
  2. Let yourself be angry, but not forever, and not so that it toxifies you. I’ve spent the better part of the last two years in a seething rage. It’s not that I was wrong to be angry; but it was an impotent rage that I had a hard time channeling into productive outlets. I wish I had spent more time processing my emotions through relational and spiritual spaces that allowed me to express what I was feeling, but then begin to heal and refocus on my purpose. Try to find (or create) those spaces for yourself. SOCIAL MEDIA IS NOT YOUR FRIEND IN THIS REGARD!
  3. Let it change your life. Ferguson was the moment that changed everything for me. Within four months, I quit my job and moved from the place I thought I’d live forever to an area of the country I swore I wouldn’t return to unless a family member was dying. I spent 16 months away from full-time, 9-to-5 work, and instead spent most of that period caring for family members. (NOTE: none of those family members were dying, although both my parents gave us some good scares that I’ll thank them not to repeat!! 😛 ❤) That transition was EVERYTHING: it reoriented my priorities and opened up opportunities I could never have conceived, let alone planned for. The vision I had for my future and life’s work is becoming a reality that I’m walking in daily because of that move. Paradoxically, despite the election, today was an absolutely magnificent day for me because I am in the midst of this moment where so many amazing things are blooming for me that I can barely keep track of them all. That trauma was a real trauma – but it was also the doorway to blessings beyond measure.

There is no more business as usual. But the thing is, there never was. Live into that reality, because that’s where all the amazing shit becomes possible.