Sunday, December 14, 2014

You're Right, Black Lives Do Matter...

A few days ago, I was in an online chat room arguing about “White Privilege” with a nincompoop. What he was saying was absurd-he changed his argument with each post, it was clear to me that he was basically a lemming who had given no real thought to what he actually believed, and that he was just parroting what media outlets had told him. 

Nincompoops generally irritate me for about five minutes, then I leave them in the dust and move on to the next relevant thing in my life.

But what has stuck with me for days from that discussion was the Black woman who posted (I am going to paraphrase because I can't find her original post to copy and paste, and I'm not sure if that's rude or unethical to do anyways without her permission) that “Being Black sucks and I am happy my daughter can pass for White. I hope her features and coloring don't change as she grows up [to look more “Black].”

Oh. My. God.

I just sat there and stared at the screen, absorbing her typed words. I can't get them out of my head, and I have gone back and forth over how I wanted to approach this issue, IF I even wanted to approach this issue, because it's such a loaded one, and I am continually told that I have no RIGHT to speak to these types of things, because I am White.

But since it's been cycling through my brain for three days now, and woke me up at 6:30 am on a Sunday, one of the only days of the week I can sleep as late as I want to, I'm going to go ahead and insist I do have the right to speak on this issue, and I hope that what I have to say about it can be taken with thoughtful consideration by persons of all colors who might stumble upon this entry.

Firstly, I have some questions.

Who taught this mother that the color of her skin was wrong? Was it a White person? Was it the media? Was it her own Black parents? Grandparents? Why is anyone teaching their kid that one color is “better” than another color? Why is anyone giving the message to their child that they should be ashamed of how they look? That their life will be hard, and disappointing, and dangerous, no matter how smart they are, or how hard they try? That they will never be good enough, or accepted, or appreciated, or respected, or valued, because they have a Black parent? Because that is the message this little girl is getting from her mother. And when one woman admits to such a thing, it makes me certain that there are more than just her who are perpetuating this horrible legacy.

It makes me certain that this type of thinking has been passed down through generations of families, and in fact, I have heard it from other Black parents...parents who teach their children that they must behave a certain way so as not to be arrested or abused by authorities for “walking while Black” or “driving while Black.” That little Black girls should straighten their hair so as to avoid their natural texture and curl. Pop stars who wear blonde wigs and blonde weaves, and get blue contacts. Black people who can “pass for White” and how this is a event that inspires jealousy amongst their darker skinned acquaintances.

Black parents, teachers, media darlings, and other role models who are teaching children, through their actions, their attitudes, their words, and their attentions that being Black is not ok...YOU are causing the problems with your kids! YOU are responsible for the little boys and girls who grow up and are lost, without an identity, unsure where they are supposed to fit in, how they are “supposed” to behave, who feel ashamed and angry that they are Black, victimized in a “White World" (as a point of fact, statisticians have shown approx. 70% of the world's population is not "White" and 30% is "White"...see here for the figures  ~~we do not live in a “White World” no matter how it may feel to people sometimes) and thus willing to turn to drugs, gangs, a life of crime, a lack of respect for authority, the disinterest in pursuing an education or any of the other social issues that statistics claim plague the Black community.

I say this because I know what happens when people are told they aren't good enough and won't amount to anything. They believe it. They believe it, and then they tell their kids the same horrible things, and their kids believe it, too. This defeatist cycle becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and lives are wasted.

ALL lives matter. ALL children have the potential to do great things. NO parent should be teaching their child to de-value themselves or others because of their skin color, or that their place in the world is lesser than any other.

This is not something that can be achieved by rallies, and protests. This is something that can only be achieved one family at a time. One parent at a time modeling self-worth, modeling what it means to belong to a community, modeling and teaching that you must first respect and value yourself before others will do so, because we teach people how to treat us.

These lessons are not skin-hue specific. This is the responsibility of every parent, every teacher, and while it should be the responsibility of every boob who pops up on our television screens, that will never happen, so yes, it makes the parent's job that much harder, but that's just the way it is.

White parents can spend all the energy in the world teaching their kids that they shouldn't judge a person's value or worth based on the color of their skin, but if Black kids are getting the message from their own parents that “Being White is better,” it's all for naught.

Your kids look to you to see how they should behave. Before they can talk, before you think they can even hear you or interpret your words, they are learning. They are learning how you feel about yourself, they are learning their own place in the world, they are learning their own value and self worth, and my God, you had better be teaching them that they are worth more than all the riches in the world and that they deserve a good life, and that their skin color is completely irrelevant to these facts.  


Instead of me just talking TO anyone reading this, I'd like to invite you to post a comment below if you've ever experienced someone from your own community making you feel ashamed of your own this issue something that occurs very rarely? Regularly? I am getting the impression that it's way more common than people realize or care to admit, but maybe that's not true. Please help by contributing to the discussion...when people can share their own experiences, we all understand an issue a little better. Thank you!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Sticky, Icky Internal Mess

   The other day at work, my manager and I discovered how to pull the back panel off one of the trash receptacles so we could empty it while standing behind the counter instead of going to the front side of the counter. This will (literally) save our bacon ~ (I overcooked bacon once because I forgot it was in the microwave because it takes soooooo looooong to empty all the stupid garbages and get them to the dumpster, which means we don't get a chance to empty them until they are overflowing and then it becomes an emergency because customers can't fit more of their trash into the receptacles and changing it from the back saves LOADS of time, hassle, etc.) 

   Anyways, complaining about my lousy job is not the point of this post, although I might do that post another time, featuring the Best of the Best of the stupid/heinous/grotesque/hilarious things that occur at that Place I Earn Money (For Now).

   I didn't have time to do much with our newfound discovery until today. I pulled the back panel off, emptied the bin liner, and when I reached down to pick up the stray coffee stirrers and sugar packet wrappers that had worked their way underneath, I stopped just in time before touching IT with my bare hand. Putting on a glove, I reached into the sludgy mess and grabbed a handful of gooey detritus. 

   At least a year's worth of coffee, creamer, and other assorted yuck had dribbled down under the shelf and began growing its own colony, with stirrer skyscrapers and highways of semi-molten Splenda packets. Hidden away, content in its secret revolting-ness, the mass grew, plotting for the night it would take over the store when the last light was shut off at closing time.

   Last night I had a bad dream. It brought up a lot of emotional sh*t for me, stuff that I've been trying to deal with for the past 5-6 months and haven't been doing so well at managing. 

   See, about 6 months ago, someone I trusted, someone I cared for very deeply, someone I thought would be in my life forever kissed me, then stabbed me in the gut. While smiling. I didn't feel the knife going in at first, just that flicker of recognition that something was wrong, so very, very, horribly wrong, when he stabbed me again. And then I knew what he was doing, but when something so out of the blue is happening to you, you can't think, you can't stop it, you can't even do anything to protect yourself. You just stare at him, mouth agape, and wonder what on earth is happening, what did you do wrong, why is this person you trusted doing this to you?

   I speak in metaphor, because thankfully I was not literally stabbed, but the betrayal feels the same as if I had been.

   Shock and horror and confusion, pain and bewilderment and desperate grasps at making sense of it all...but there is no sense to be had. Perhaps in some alternate universe, all has been revealed and the plot explained, but not in this one. I still don't understand the situation. Hardly a day goes by where I don't mourn the loss in some way. 

   Some days I recognize that the only way for someone to spew that much hatred upon another person is because they hate themselves and I can feel sorry for him. I pray for the opportunity that he would know exactly how much pain his actions caused me and to know that I forgive him anyways, so that he can reach a place of forgiveness for the people that have hurt him and created the type of person who would behave the way he did...and his wounds would heal, ending the vicious cycle.

   Other days...well, other days, I feel like that disgusting mass of convenient store coffee station offal. I mean, only someone who is trash, someone who is gross and horrid, someone you wouldn't even dream of touching without gloves on, someone who has a dark soul, putrid heart, only someone like that is treated so heinously, right? Because people who seem wonderful just don't treat decent people that badly, so that obviously that means I'm not decent. We get what we deserve in life. Karma. What goes around comes around.

   It's weird. When you talk with female victims of domestic violence, they almost always say the same things. They say that they were sure the first time was just a misunderstanding, that they pissed him off and any man would respond like that. They say it was their own fault, if they had just did what they knew they were supposed to, it never would have happened. They inherently claim responsibility for their abuser's despicable actions, because the idea that a man who says he loves you actually hates you as much as he hates himself is just too foreign of a concept. 

   We take people we trust at their word. When someone we love tells us we are bad people, we believe them. We want their approval, we want them to love us, and we do all sorts of things to try and achieve that goal. But here's the dirty little secret the panel is hiding...we'll never achieve that goal. We won't achieve it because perfection is impossible. They can't love us because they don't even know what love is. They despise us for loving them because they don't love themselves. They see us as weak for caring about them, pathetic for not standing up to them, standing up for ourselves. All abusers were once victims. They let crap build up behind the back panel until it got to the point where a vat of lye and a pressure washer couldn't even clean it properly.

   When I woke up this morning, I laid in bed for a long time, thinking about the dream I had. It was kind of simple...just me and my abuser hanging out, watching TV, having fun together. Then he turned and looked at me and smiled with that quirky side grin he had...and started saying all the things at once he'd ever said to hurt me, to manipulate me, to make me feel like dirt. 

   Maybe this doesn't sound so bad to you, but to anyone reading this who's ever been emotionally abused, degraded by someone they cared about, made to feel small and useless and know that can be so much worse than getting punched. Those words echo in your brain forever. They never go away. You'll be in a perfectly happy moment and something innocuous triggers a memory, and you are right back there again, stab marks appearing on your skin, your blood seeping out, wounds that refuse to heal and re-open again and again. Each time it happens, you hope it's the last time, because each time it happens, you never know if you'll be able to convince yourself the voice you hear is lying to you.

   Today I wasn't able to convince myself. All I could think was how to best drive the new person in my life away. You see, I might have the chance to be really happy with him. I might have the chance to spend the rest of my life really happy, with him, making every dream I've ever had come true, so obviously I need to ruin it, throw it away, get rid of him, because inevitably, he'll find out that I am garbage, and it'll just be so much better for everyone if we stop this right now.

    I got pissy with him for no apparent reason and he was obviously upset and a part of me didn't care. No, worse than not caring, I was happy to hurt him. Happy to shut him out, to act like I was cold and uncaring, I got a little rush and thought, “See how you like it!” Then it hit me...Who on earth was I talking to? Who was I trying to hurt and get “back” at? This guy who has never done a single thing with ill intent towards me? This guy who has been amazing, and for some bizarre reason seems to really want me, and care about me? Or...Him?

   I didn't want to open the can of worms with my guy about the other guy. I wasn't ready to bare my underbelly and make myself vulnerable. I've been shutting my guy out of my past thinking it was protecting our future, but it turns out to only be ruining our present.

    One of the things He used to do was try and make me feel crazy for having legitimate feelings and emotions. He'd act like my inner thoughts were insane and I was an idiot for having them, much less telling Him about them.

    So telling my guy anything about anything emotionally intimate is a challenge for me...I don't want to seem weak. Or crazy. So being all logical and therapist-y is my default mode...but then we never get past the surface with anything, and that's no way to have a serious relationship, so I let a little bit spill out. He was still listening so I spilled out a little bit more. I gave him this analogy about cars and accidents and how even though he was a different car, I was still afraid it'd crash like the old car did.
He said that was a good analogy. (I like it when people like my analogies; I use a lot of them.)

   And then I had to go to work, thus halting the conversation, which was super crappy timing.

   I guess there is no one, single point to this post. Normally I have a specific destination in mind when I sit down and write these things, but this one is different. The story isn't over yet, the lesson isn't fully realized.

    I don't yet really know yet if my guy is going to end up thinking I'm a sludgy, repulsive mess. I'd like to be able to say I'm perfectly healed because I've had a few epiphanies and a break through or two and about to trot off into the sunset, but I missed tonight's while I was writing this post and who knows what tomorrow's holds? 

    I do know that I've wanted to write about this stuff for months and tonight is the first time I've felt up to it, felt that it felt right to do so (lotsa feelings being felt up in here, yo). I do know my guy didn't make me feel poorly or embarassed, shameful or weird, crazy or blaming it on me PMS'ing for sharing what I did with him.

    I also know that by keeping quiet, by blaming myself, or running away from the opportunity to be happy...that would mean I really was a victim. A person can be victimized without staying a victim, I think. I don't want to hold onto that role any longer than absolutely necessary. Maybe letting some of it out is the only way I'm going to get over it. Drain the poison. Skim the dross. Purge the bilge. Analogies. Told you.

   Maya Angelou died today, the day I write this post. I've never read a thing by her until today...and this poem is what I stumbled upon first. While she was writing it for Black Americans, the words speak to me nonetheless. They are words of victory, of hope, of allowing ourselves to revel in the glory of our human-ness, our insinkable spirit, and our freedom from those or that which try to enslave us or bring us down to their level of hate and hurt...It seemed appropriate to share. 

And Still I Rise

You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you? 

Why are you beset with gloom? 

'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,

With the certainty of tides,

Just like hopes springing high,

Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken? 

Bowed head and lowered eyes? 

Shoulders falling down like teardrops.

Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you? 

Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines

Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,

You may cut me with your eyes,

You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you? 

Does it come as a surprise

That I dance like I've got diamonds

At the meeting of my thighs? 

Out of the huts of history's shame 
I rise

Up from a past that's rooted in pain 
I rise

I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,

Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear 
I rise

Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
 I rise

Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,

I am the dream and the hope of the slave.

I rise
 I rise 
I rise.
Maya Angelou

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Life Update, Because There Have Been No Blog Posts In A Million Years :D

    When I was little, I wanted to be Indiana Jones. Learning that the vast majority of archaeologists don't travel around the globe with a bullwhip, rescuing damsels in distress and saving mankind was a huge disappointment, so I decided to be an actress. In quick succession, I believe I added acrobat, princess, world-famous artist, author, rockstar - not a musician, mind you; years of being forced to play the flute and piano taught me that I hated playing instruments almost as much as mucking the horse stalls and putting in hay on a 95 degree August day - and several other unlikely pursuits to my list of dream careers.
     I'm now 33 and I can't be any more certain of what I want to be when I grow up than when I was 7, but I do know that being able to create art and educating other people fulfills something in me in a way that nothing else seems to be able to do. I spent almost twelve years in the field of Addiction Treatment, and while I realized early on it was not a lifelong position for me, it allowed me to develop the personal skills and tools needed to enhance my emotional health and well-being. It instilled in me the importance of being a guide for others who are struggling with their own issues. The mind fascinates me, and the power we have to nurture and heal ourselves and others with alternative therapies was proven over and over during my time in that field.
    As an adult learner returning to college, I watched many young students flail and flop their way through their first year, many not finding their way back for a second. That was me the first time around, when I was 18 and attending a four year college away from home. My experiences there were what led me to understand and empathize with the hundreds of clients I worked with in Addiction's Treatment, and I don't regret those lessons and gifts, but it certainly drove home the fact that I was not ready to be a serious student as a teenager. I had to experience some hard knocks before being capable of taking the opportunity to earn a college degree seriously.
    Art Therapy is an area I've considered on and off for awhile. I'd always talked myself out of it, as the idea of returning to school and committing to years of study to become certified seemed out of reach, financially as well as the time required to achieve that goal. So, like many people, I stayed in a job I didn't particularly care for, because it paid the bills and because forging a new path just seemed too exhausting.
    In 2012, my position was made redundant, and I was laid off for the second time in 2 years. Terrified, and yet somehow free and unfettered, I made a plan: Write the novel I'd always said I was going to, lose the weight I needed to lose, have an adventure, meet a great guy, and get my derrière back to college.
     I'm gonna brag for a sec, and there's nothing humble about it! I worked REALLY HARD to get where I am, here in 2014, and somehow, miraculously, astonishingly, gratefully, I've accomplished all of the things I set out to do, and then some.  I'm the same size I was in high school, which is awesome. I took a trip that really needed to be taken and while it was incredibly difficult and emotionally disastrous, I came out the better for it, and boy, was it ever an adventure! I did write a novel...I honestly don't know if I'll ever bother to get it published, but I'm not sure that's even the point anyways. I've met an incredible guy and he is almost certainly magical (and very, very human, which makes him all the more special). I've made so much art the past two years, I can't even count it all. SHAMELESS PLUG: I got invited to do a Plein Air painting event in June and then my work will be auctioned off and I am SO FRIGGIN' EXCITED/TERRIFIED about this upcoming event!                                           
Finally, I've completed my Associate's Degree!  I don't want to stop now. To paraphrase Newton, an object in motion tends to stay in motion, and I'm an object in motion. The school I'll be attending next will allow me to tailor a degree, presumably with a focus in the Arts and Psychology, that would allow me to continue working towards my ultimate goal of becoming an Art Therapist.
     Will that truly be where I end up a few years from now? I don't know. Perhaps it sounds a little hokey, but I've discovered a formula that works for me: If I simply keep putting one foot in front of the other, God gets me where I need to be. I don't need to know where I am going to be headed in the right direction. It used to frighten me, and I always thought I should listen to people who insisted I needed to make a plan and stick with it, but the reality is, life throws curve balls. Setting a goal and then being flexible about what comes along in the meantime is a lot like a high-wire act. I'm happier living this way. Perhaps I've become an acrobat after all?
    The bottom line is a degree will never be a waste if I am learning things I feel passionate about. The human mind, how it works, the value of art and creative expression...these are things I feel passionate about and pursuing next. 
 To some of you who may or may not be reading this...Thank you for the past 2 years. You were part of my life in a variety of ways, all of which were extremely important. Things don't always make sense, and I wish some things were different, but things are how they are and I'm not going to let a single one of those things tear me apart. If I had a theme song, I'd insert it here. Love, Peace, and Success to us all <3