This story resonates so much with me in so many ways. It speaks to the campaign of hatred people have waged in the name of “freedom.”
I’m not “mixed” not directly anyway, but my skin has always betrayed an “other” quality that kept me on the fringes and gave me a glimpse of the privilege my Caucasian brothers and sisters share.
Because I was interesting and exotic I got glimpses of what people say and how they behave when there aren’t any Niggers around. White friends, and I had a lot of white friends, would reach a level of comfort with me that transcended being a “cool Black kid” and often would speak to me or around me in a way that, ironically, showed that for an instant they didn’t see my “race.”
No, not every experience Shaun and I had lined up in a row, but some of the things I read him recall hearing make me cringe and take me back to a time when my identity was the most important, and confusing aspect of who I was. Unfortunately, in Trump’s America, I feel that way again. About being Black, about being Liberal, about being me. No one should ever feel that way but it is nice to know that I am not alone.
Life sometimes sucks. People die way too early and sometimes you are just way too chicken shit to be there to hold the door on the way out. Days like this make you want to grow a pair and suck it up and face your shit. And mourn…
I’m not sure what mojo I’ve been working but the site has seen a lot more traffic lately. Blame Putin and his army of Russian bots, or the accidental cross posting of something I might have said in a exhausted haze but something has made the site visits jump off the charts in the last few weeks.
Whatever it is, and whoever you are who are visiting…
As the year closes and a new one begins several feelings wash over me.
I feel a continuing sense of change, personalty, professionally and in the world around me. I feel that what came apart last year could use some mending this coming year, and when was left unfinished or unsaid, needs completion and vocalizing.
As has been the pattern of my life I am starting anew, leaving behind what was and moving towards something else, I’ve shed yet another skin and left behind a part of myself in the process.
I think in order to reconcile the world around you, you have to reconcile the warring factions within yourself. In order to understand the external chaos, you have to address the internal. You have to let some of the voices you’ve forcibly ignored to be heard. As someone with deeply held beliefs I have had those beliefs challenged constantly by those I choose to surround myself with. Beliefs and opinions not only about the world but about myself as well, the picture I paint of myself and my actions doesn’t always match that of what the outside world sees and I’m realizing that however ugly that picture is, it has some validity.
In the past year I have done things I never would have told myself I’d have done, made choices both bold and cowardly that I never saw myself making and became a shade of myself I never considered using from the box of crayons I used to color my actions. I’ve learned hard truths about choosing one thing over something else and myself over other people, I’ve learned that at times when I’ve felt so sure of something that there existed equally a terrible fear of being wrong. Mostly what I’ve learned is that when you choose yourself, sometimes, there is a terrible price to pay.
I’ve also learned that when you allow other’s view of you to become integrated with your own it not only invites in doubt, but that doubt brings along perspective. It’s a fine line that separates the two, but one does not come without the other. I now know that when you allow yourself to see yourself as others see you it makes plain what needs to change.
When I started off this year I was knee deep in sorting out my life. Determining where I wanted to be and with whom, sorting through who and what I wanted in my life. I was confused, bewildered and estranged from myself and poorly choosing my way through a series of friendships that would eventually take me to where I am now. I felt confident about nothing except that I needed to change.
We were also beginning a turbulent section of American history, facing down the expectations of a presidency that both elevated the office and stripped the country of its facade of post racialism. We allowed our petty hatreds to divide us and create a false dichotomy of left and right that had nothing to do with classical liberalism or conservatism, and pit rural versus rural with neither really knowing how the other lived. We silenced the voices that could have spoken across those lines and increased the volume of those that would, for their own best interest, push us further apart. We laughed uncomfortably at what we all knew to be true:
So, what now? Where to go and what to do?
Firstly, for me I have to take care of my own house first, clean around my gutters and put a fresh coat of paint on the walls. Houseclean my brain and look for the blemishes that reflect the neglectful portions of my psyche, patch the holes and soothe the edges and realize that the process may be a lonely one but cannot be done alone.
Then and only then can I take on the rest.
Happy New Year!
Edited on 8/11 for comma exploitation and a sentence of clarification.
Geekly (and confessional) Stuff Ahead: You Have Been Forewarned!
For the past few years (5 maybe 6?) I’ve attended the local fandom convention.
The first year it was a revelation, the kids and the smattering of adults, formed a community of people gathered primarily because of a love for Anime, Sci Fi, Horror and Video Games and secondarily because we were all misfits. All consigned to a bin that contained every aspect of what we found appealing, a bin that was often, in wider circles was left on the curb, rejected by even the garbage man.
Those first years were strange and beautiful, full of unexpected camaraderie and kid-in-a-candy-store glee. One year an impromptu dance party in front of the sword vendor broke out, and I witnessed one of those rare moments of perfect chaos. As Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” played through a boom box the vendor set up a crowd of cosplayers, mashing together various weird and wonderful takes on genres, gyrated, stumbled and displayed many different levels of dexterity, and no one stood in judgment.
There was an unabashed sense of joy in that, dancing like no one was watching, and that entire weekend was that, joyful. It was the apex of that experience.
In the last few years, some moments came close, seeing George Takei, watching Nana Visitor and Michael Dorn banter on about DS9, listening to Dorn talk about flying with the Blue Angels…but nothing as sublime as an impromptu outbreak of dance. That moment expressed the joy of being surrounded by a bunch of weirdos where I felt I belonged.
In subsequent years the Con has gotten bigger, expanded beyond the confines of the convention center, tried various configurations and scheduling arrangements and failed or succeeded at all. But it just isn’t the same anymore.
Perhaps I’ve just grown out of it, or maybe my life circumstances have changed enough to warrant feeling a bit too old for the proceedings. Maybe it changed, or maybe as many relationships do, we’ve grown apart. Maybe we just need some distance, a break perhaps.
I love the idea of being surrounded by people who may have only one voluntary thing in common, but that thing is so compelling that it ties them together as no involuntary thing can. I love that because we are all geeks of some sort, we find ourselves, regardless of age or any other factor, able to dress like someone or something that doesn’t exist. I love that people who would otherwise be feeling very much alone, get to feel a part of a group of people who often feel the same.
This year lacked something though; it lacked my attention. I was elsewhere for a large part of the Con, I didn’t want to be fully there, and that translated to me not being fully present. I was lost in some internal drama that was largely of my making.
Which leads me to the next thought.
I am not the best communicator in my personal life. I have realized that in many of my closest relationships I retreat into a state of CYA (cover your ass). It stems from a few things that I’ve been born into but it comes from a distinct place of fear. Fear of missing out, fear of making people angry with me, fear of abandonment and fear of being unlovable. All of these swirl and combine with all the bad stuff I’ve let myself become to make for a terrible mix sometimes.
I wait until the last-minute to avoid the confrontation I bring on myself. I have a hard time being honest about being frank with myself and therefore others, and I sometimes confuse the right thing with the best thing to do in any given situation. Sometimes I know what exactly none of that means.
I’m trying to be honest now. Honesty isn’t just telling the truth of the moment but telling the truth period. Not trying to play one off another and not trying to be everyone’s friend, not lying about my foreknowledge of things and then hoping they’ll not work out as shittily as I know they will.
My enjoyment of my life, the Con, my loved ones and myself are at stake. Honestly, I don’t know what else to do but try.
Edited on 8/8 for glaringly obvious typos.
Have we just become a bunch of approval seeking heroin rats? Are we so wrapped up in other people’s lives that we forget to have our own? Why are we so able to share the intimate details of our lives with relative strangers on Social Media yet can barely look each other in the eye on the street.
We are so focused on getting our opinions across and our relationships “approved” that sometimes we forget the reasons we have relationships and beliefs in the first place. I love the people in my life, and I love to share them with my wider circle of friends but not at the expense of my relationships with them. I’d much rather have a relationship than the appearance of one.
Through trial and loads of error, I’ve learned that there are some pretty standard principals for governing yourself, and your image, online. I try my best to adhere to them as closely as life and occasional emotional upheavals, allow. Use what you find useful, discard what you don’t.
Love and Relationships:
If you want to share a happy moment, please do so, you shouldn’t have to worry about who’s watching, but if your “sharing” is covering up a flaw in your relationship, or worse, causing one, promptly stop. I have someone in my life currently whom I adore, no pictures of us exist online together. Not to say that they never will, but for the moment we are not on social media as a couple. This is a mutual choice. It is one that not only protects our relationship, but also our relationships with the rest of the world as individuals. Friends who know us as a couple see the hints, others just see us as people.
Politics, Loss and Assorted Other Opinions:
I’ve contemplated leaving, Facebook, in particular, sometimes, usually when the loud opinions of a few people drown out he animal videos, kitten pictures and real life cries for help from people I care about that need answering.
When someone loses someone they love, or a national event requires a collective sense of empathy that platform is a wonderful way to feel cared for and a bit less lonely, it’s no substitute for real arms and real tears, but it is a comfort.
When we suffer depression or a disease, this format is a perfect place to feel less alone in that, but it isn’t a replacement for a real ear or a real shoulder.
When the needs of a few people to be the center of attention crowd out the compassion (in my feed it’s not usually my friends, but THIER friends who do this), I seriously think of cutting the cord. Life is too short, don’t worry about other people’s happiness unless you intend on sharing it. And if you plan on sharing, do so with an understanding of the potential consequences, try to be gentle. People will be looking from the outside in, exes and friends who disagree with you. Unless you are passive aggressively trying to sever those connections, be understanding of how they feel or make it explicit that there will be something following that might hurt or offend. In other words, try to play as fair as you can.
Reactions to all of the Above:
Life is also too short to worry about people’s petty hatred. Sometimes the most reasonable argument can seem like a torch to a powder keg, or the slightest mention of a new relationship can be (of course) painful, but that is the cost of keeping oneself out on social media.
Don’t let anyone else’s fears and anger get you down and don’t believe that every single smiling face doesn’t have its share of pain.
Ultimately we present the face we want the world to see, in my case I’m living the vast majority of my life offline now. Life isn’t perfect, but it is damn good.
Many years ago I was in a car with my uncle and aunt, my uncle has this way of awkwardly pressing down and letting up on the gas and it was silently annoying everyone in the car. Atypical of Black families in the 80’s, we were on our way north to go skiing. My uncle, a corporate lawyer for an insurance company, made decent money but always lived modestly. His skis were used, as were the poles and all the other accoutrements, not because he was afraid of making an investment in something that he may or may not be sticking with but simply because he was thrifty.
The not so gentle rocking of the accelerator notwithstanding, it was exciting to be going and doing this thing that even some of my more solidly middle class white friends had yet to do. It was a small coup to have an accomplished member of the family, who spoke eloquently about politics and culture be my entre into this very white world.
And then there was my aunt. We had a history of getting along and then not, of sparring over petty things and being able to have many of the same conversations in the same animated and intelligent fashion. Auntie was an enigma in many ways. A hypochondriacally, mercurial woman who in many ways always felt like she needed to play a perpetual game of catch up with the world. She’s both infuriating and gentle, poised and clumsy and sometimes all of the above. She is also dying.
As suddenly as some things seem to come on, this one truly seemed sudden.
Other family members were with her as she went in for her initial surgery, an unrelated thyroid procedure, and said she’d been so happy and full of life afterwards even with the cancer diagnosis. That was short lived.
I visited her last night after my mother called me and said she wasn’t doing well. I found her lying on her side almost motionless and only able to respond by opening her eyes slightly and making short barely distinguishable vocalizations. My son and I sat with her for a few minutes, trying to say what we could, the last few I love you’s and thank you’s she’d likely ever hear from us, and then we left.
Regret is a feeling I’m familiar with. I feel the same regret I did when my grandmother passed away when I was in college. Regret that I hadn’t been more attentive, more THERE, more aware. Regret that I had my head so far up my own ass that I couldn’t see that there isn’t always another holiday or another barbeque or another…. Regret that I didn’t make that swing by that I promised for weeks and weeks….
There is never enough time. And that knowledge can drive us to do things that seem stupid and impulsive but at the same time also lead us to other things, better and more fulfilling ones. Ignoring what is directly in front of you should never be one of those choices. It takes a moment to redirect your route, leave a few minutes early or simply call, not doing so leaves the door open to regret.
The time between our ski trips and now feels like an eternity, and in a way it is, but now, with regret in the middle, the time between last week and today feels like forever as well.
In some cases, Time flies only if you let it go.
Yeah, this one really sucks.
I’m finding myself again in a particular state of consternation over other’s expectations of me. Everyone seems to have an idea as to what I should be doing and how I should be doing it. People who don’t seem to realize that I’ve done and continue to do my level best to fulfill my obligations to them keep demanding more, so much so that this stone is about out of blood.
I’m looking down the road to a potentially major life change that will affect all my relationships going forward. When I mentioned this potential to a certain parental figure I got a disinterested sigh and a couple of self-serving questions about relocation, then there was a call telling me to do something that I’d been doing more of anyway. Yeah, I couldn’t be vaguer.
So in the past two weeks, I’ve received calls, text messages and email imploring me to take up some forgotten task or fulfill some unfinished obligation or to chide me for some life choice that someone else close to me does not agree with. It seems to have spread to my work life as well, as one of my coworkers had the nerve to, without irony (she’s a talker), tell me that leaving early one day “fucks the rest of us.” Unironically because she does about as much talking as she does work, more likely more of the former than the latter, every single shift she’s on. She also has no idea who I am or how much I work. Assuming your small window into a relative stranger’s world shows you the entire picture is a sin punishable by a hearty “fuck you!”
So yeah, this is a bitching post, so let us get right to the bitching, shall we?
I’m wholly sick and fucking tired of everyone asking still more of me than I already give. Whether it be assuming small financial obligations out of the kindness of my heart or giving my attention to someone else instead of them, I’m done with being motivated by the expectations of others. So many people in my life live in their own little bubbles, surrounded by the comforts I’ve provided and have grown entitled because of them. They feel entitled to be rude to me, demand attention of me, and request of me things that I have no capacity to give at the moment, all while ignoring the things I’ve asked of them.
The very worst part of this is that all but one person in my life (two actually, but he’s always been appreciative of me) at the moment does not regularly say thank you for what I do continue to provide unless prompted to do so, unsurprisingly, she is the person who gets the majority of my limited free time and attention. She is also the given or implied reason why the rest of them are so damn unappreciative.
Let me say this, I’ve learned about myself one thing. If you offer me appreciation for what I do, I will return in kind. If you continually complain about what I’m NOT doing, it won’t end well. I’ve lost my tolerance for others putting their needs above mine and now my needs come first, unequivocally. I’m not looking for my ass to be kissed, but when I’ve done any of the things I’ve alluded to above, don’t take that shit for granted. It’s a sure way to get told to go to hell when you need something from me and fail to ask in a way that does not indicate you have a total lack of self-awareness.
At some point in everyone’s life, they realize that a turning of priorities may be in order. They fumble over what that means and sometimes actually come across something that works to better their outlook, enhance who they are and create joy in their lives in the most simple way. It could be a person, a job, a new point of view or any combination but when they do come they change who we are.
Reviewing one’s life you can see catalytic patterns. Times when one event leads, directly or indirectly, to another, and that to yet another still. Yes, there are choices in-between that move those patterns forward in the direction hindsight reveals, but there are often direct lines from a to b that reveal themselves as time goes on.
Hence the title.
When I wake up throughout the day, in the examination mode of memory and contemplation, I see these paths like routes on a map. There are arteries behind me that vanish, paths not taken, roads left behind never to be visited again, ahead there are splits that lead to other splits, that lead to still others. Not quite the infinite paths we like to believe there are, but as infinite as our little brains can handle. Infinite enough to know that even if we chart a course, the wind or a landslide will deviate us at least once. As our past disappears into memory and the present is lived in every moment, we only have so much say, only so many fucks to give.
I’m choosing mine wisely, with intention, giving attention to the things that I choose first and then allowing the rest to intrude when I will it. It’s the only semblance of control we have, and even if it is an illusion, I’ll take it.
For now, here are some general thoughts:
There is more than one way to love, live and leave.
I am not your world unless I say I am. And even if I do, not always, and not forever if you don’t hold up your end of the bargain.
I may love you, but I don’t owe you shit.
I choose what’s important to me, I’m not even slightly sorry If you can’t handle that.
Do not assume that you are at the top of my priority list unless I explicitly say so.
Do not EVER take me for granted.
Finally: Don’t be so fucking vain, this song is only partially about you, whoever you are.
We are all responsible for ourselves and each other. We are our brothers and sisters keepers.