Monday, January 27, 2020

Yesterday's Grief, today

There are days when I have no idea how I will stop crying, because grief is an abyss from which I've never returned. Then I turn the shower off, get dressed and smile for my children, because they need me, and I have to keep going.

There are days when it feels almost normal.  I smile, I laugh, I try to be in the moments of my life and be genuine, which can be a range of emotions, with this underlying distance.   I have hollowed into myself again, an extroverted introvert who got confused for a moment, but retreat is my normal.  

Grief brings me inward.  I keep expressing a need to connect, but the synapses are not firing on how and when.  It takes all of my energy and focus to make it through every day.  I don't make it through the evenings.  I am irritated and fatigued, every night.   My family sees the worst in me, and I want to change this.  Time is too limited to be upset all the time.  

I miss so many people.  I will find a way to be there again, with the people I love.  The Blind Pig always reminds me of the people I cherish in my home, and it was nice to have a late night pop-out to celebrate with Nickie P, Bianca, Rhett, Harlin, Leanne, Jessie, but many folks were missing.  

This is a common theme lately -- I am trying to be present and with my kids, with my family, with my friends, but too many people are missing to be fully in the joy.  There is a semi-translucent partition between me and true happiness.  

I know that I will figure this out, but the process of grief is so debilitating.  I hate that everyone has to feel and know this at some point in their lives.  That so many feel it all at once on days like today.  I hate that my children know a faded version of their mom, and want to be the version that felt complete.  Faith doesn't give me much comfort on some days.  I can think about seeing someone in the next life, but it doesn't feel less far away.

Most of all, there is no time limit, shape or way that this should look.  I try to love everyone I can, everyday, because my time, too, is not promised on this earth.  

RIP kobe bryant and gianna bryant. As I write, I hate that another mom and wife is feeling the gutting pain of grief that I am clawing to get away from.  I hate that this happens all over the world, everyday, to good people, without reason.  Life can be so vibrant and beautiful, and yet so terrible and unfair.   

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Unsent drafts

I draft things and never press send.  When I was younger and published zines, everything about my life was on a page for others to read.  I used to get in trouble with friends and family for oversharing and telling too much, so poetry became my way to say it without saying it.  I am built for sharing, oversharing, talking and listening.  I am trying to listen more; to understand and empathize has become like breathing, it is just part of daily practice. But can I hear and not attempt to solve?  Can I just sit with the heavy knowledge and be there for thinking through, or lashing out?

My unsent emails are books in and of themselves.  All the things I almost said.  So many things I'm glad I didn't.  This is a purgatory that I hope is never discovered after my demise.  Journals are fair game -- all saints have a past and I have never claimed to be a woman of god, but goddess, did I live zealously.

The state of the world has me shedding tears before putting on happy faces for my daughter's 5th birthday.  What hell our children are inheriting.  How can we stop the fires from burning, both literal and figurative?  How can we oust the fascists from all of their powerful positions globally?  Why is the change in decade feeling like a change in century, to the lessons of history we apparently did not learn, even though we tell ourselves to never forget.

As Greta Thunberg says, I don't want hope.  I am struggling to find it anyway in a new year of terrible omens, death, destruction and more endless war.  My kids and I will be on the streets and I will work to add my United Playaz course back to the elective options for 2nd semester.  We have got to mobilize, now.

Monday, September 30, 2019

the pink life

i don't know what to do with my hands.  a few times in the past few weeks, i have been away from my children with languid hours for resting, relaxing and remembering who i am.  the truth is, i have no idea how to do that anymore.  resting is alien territory, and as i navigate REALLY AND TRULY doing self-care, and digging deeply into the accountability of that work, i am trying to investigate why. 

resting means: i lay on the couch while he brings them to school.
resting means: i still got up early to lay out their clothes, help them get dressed and ready.
resting means: there is so much laundry to do, i'll do some today.
resting means: no!  you're supposed to lay down and rest.
resting means: he makes me a beautiful, healthy breakfast.
resting means: i do the laundry anyway.
resting means: i answer work emails.
resting means: i cry with gratitude that my boss will not target me in response to this absence.
resting means: i load the dishwasher.
resting means: i answer more work emails.
resting means: "i should..." for eternity

when i am with others, i am able to remember glimpses of who i was before.  at nicole and shawn's wedding, reminiscing with eli, with jos at the beach, with gail on walton ave, at ali's kitchen table.  but alone, i clearly have forgotten what to do with my time. 

renequa reminded me this morning that we must write.  so i am on the couch, still in my pajamas at 2:35pm, writing a blog entry and trying to figure out how to rest.  why i don't rest.  and why, when given the time and space to do so, i distract myself from the healing properties of actually resting.

having young kids, rest is an exquisite luxury, one that i haven't had in years.  but as my kids grow into their own hurricane force winds, i do occasionally have some time to think about who i am and how i want to grow.  i am turning 40 this year, and there is much i still want to accomplish in this short time on earth.

the "i should"s are what interrupt my rest, because those are usually domestic tasks.  in our household, we share domestic tasks much more equitably than in many heterosexual relationships, but there is the mental load that many women take on, where i am in a perpetual hell of managing dr's appts, calendars, soccer practices, prescription refills, cleaning, organizing, folding and sorting of our lives.  thank goodness we have no social lives.

as i'm writing this, the dishwasher is sloshing in the background, the laundry is in the dryer and i am poised to write back to my son in his Friday notebook, which i neglected to do last night.  i have just sent an email volunteering to be room parent, because i need more things to do with my hands.  sigh.

stay tuned for more episodes which expose the frailty of my commitment to rest.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

August Greene

I have not written much this year.  There are novellas bursting at the seams, but I can't let them out yet.  We need to be in a new nest, soon.  The tensions at home are fever-pitch, often.  I am trying to create balance in a place where grief, memories and the present are oil and water.  I am struggling to function, and closing down fast.  But this is my family, these are the people I love.  I cannot choose between them and will fight to maintain a strong bond with everyone, but I will take some space and breathe.  I need to grieve from the traumas of the past 18 months, too. 

I throw myself into my work, because it's where I feel the most confident of my abilities.  I am not feeling like a good daughter, wife or parent, but I'm trying to be reflective and strive to do better.  I am trying to be good to myself and prioritize my own mental health.  I am trying to build a life of truth, love and community, and I am riddled with conflict that I cannot resolve.   If I am a good restorative practitioner, shouldn't I be able to make peace happen?  I have learned that both participants must be willing, and they are not.  I need to make peace with the open wound, until a circle can actually be healing. 

August has been described as the longest Sunday ever for teachers in the U.S. (and some teachers in the South are already back to school).  The winds of change appear in the form of cooler mornings and contemplation, which gives way to reading, planning and concocting the approach to draw students into my (ww)web this fall.   I read an article about cooling temps in August and although every change is a sign of a shifting climate on which we need to take action TODAY, I welcome the relief from the heat.  I am trying not to run away into planning like I tend to do every year, and really intentionally spend moments with my children, provide experiences, support their souls as I get inspired for my new year of work.  I relish August like I relish Sunday night leisure during the school year. 

We have more than enough and I hope to spend August moving into a new home for our family, donating things that we no longer need to people who need them and teaching Nas and Sali about the value of service to your community.  I am working on my physical health, mental health and slowing down so that I can move forward and find a better chapter ahead.  There is a lot of damage to repair, but healing myself must come first.

(soundtrack, August Greene Tiny Desk, Lizzo, 21 Savage, Lion King: The Gift)

Sunday, May 19, 2019

love is...

With my middle school students, I attempted to watch Red Table Talk with the Curry family, when Ayesha Curry so famously spoke last month about wanting to receive more attention.  She got dragged on social media for seeing extramarital attention despite lots of love from her man, and I was trying to bring it up to teach a lesson about listening to statements in context and not paying attention to soundbites to make a decision about someone or something (read: politics).  We've also been having issues with students using social media to expose each other and tell all of their business, so I'm always trying to teach lessons about viral mentality, and how we search for negative ways to gain attention and start drama.

My students weren't really engaged in the discussion, but one of the most profound things I learned from that episode is that all womyn experience phases within their marriages or long-term partnerships with someone.  Today is our 7th wedding anniversary, and so I am marinating on the idea that your priorities change.  At first you are love and committed to one another.  Then, you bring forth life and are committing to raising your children.  People always tell us to spend time on and with each other, and for the most part, this is advice we have ignored.  Mulay and I are both very private people in many ways, and crave being alone.  So, when we have time away from kids, we often spend it in a solitary way, and that's okay, too.

We will make it through this phase, because we prefer to spend lots of time together as the four of us.  While there must be a balance of some just-adult time thrown in, I hope we learn to build that in our new life here by supporting our friends' music, art and business adventures. I hope we get to have friends again someday soon, as we have lost what we love, which is to entertain and invite people over.  I hope our new home will be a place of community and joy.  I need joy with my whole soul right now.

I used to famously say that I was never getting married or having kids, because I couldn't imagine giving up myself to those things, and I have given up whole sections of who I am to be a mother and a wife.  I have learned how to carve out small spaces for myself, but all the self-care in the world cannot heal what has broken in me.  I try to take it gracefully as a blessing to have company, to have beings who love me with all they have and will hopefully keep me company throughout my life.

The idea that we must compromise our selfishness to give to other people what they need everyday is not one that Americans adjust to very well.  We are taught to center ourselves in this society, and it's something I've always found problematic.  I hope that we get to experience daily life outside America one day, so that my children can see and my husband can remember the beauty of life without constant bombardment with advertisements and shaming: "buy the product that will change your life!"

Love is difficult.  It is beautiful, it holds you in rapture, it is warm and comforting, but it is also struggle and tears against yourself and not seeing eye to eye.  It is struggling NOT to grow and having your partner tell you that you should.  It is challenging one another's bad habits.  It is learning how and when to speak with each other, and how to retreat if the other person isn't ready to talk.  It is giving space when you want to talk.  It is holding space for them, and them holding space for you.  It is still choosing them every single day.  

Friday, January 25, 2019

anonymity in plain sight

I love having a blog that no one reads.  I have been blogging for over 20 years now, since 1998, when I moved to New York and solidified zines as my preferred mode of contact, but it was right as the internet was becoming a preferred mode of contact for everyone else in the world.  I'm talking diaryland and livejournal, and a geocities website for my zine, arrowed, that probably never got more than 200 views, ever.

There is something about the anonymity of the internet, much like that of living in NYC that is public performance, but also just a small cog in a machine.  I appreciate that I could still go look at archives of my writing, even though it's been 20 years and I have no desire to actually see how terrible and dramatic my writing was/still is.

I have been writing for a few months now about missing people, and tomorrow I will have the chance to see a few of my favorites, for the first time in forever.  It's so hard that I have friends who are so close in proximity and I can't get it together enough to make plans.  Or I make plans and flake on them.  I feel terrible about this, but I'm having such a hard time being able to manage my rest and self-care, mothering two rambunctious, smart and sassy kids, working a demanding job with my students, elbows deep in grief and transitions back to my original home, from my adult home.  I cannot find the space for being in public yet, because I don't have positive or nice things to say, it's been a shitty year, this year is probably going to be shitty, too, and I just don't have the energy for small talk, even with my favorite people.

I am doing a campaign with my peer mediators at work that is about mental health awareness, and it's made me all too aware of how I am not okay.  I repeat this like mantra "you are not okay, but you're worth it" to myself, because like my mantra to my children, I need to recognize and be grateful for just where I am.  When one is at a low in life, it is important to slow down, show gratitude and tuck in.  I am hiding from the storm a bit, but I'm also living right in the middle of it and watching life whirl around me.  I am not in control, I am not in control and I don't need to be the master of my surroundings, just need to slow down enough to hear my breath, hear my heartbeat and focus on the beauty of its existence.

The political climate will never stop being pathetic fallacy for this terrible, until we impeach this nationalistic dictator cartoon character.  His buffoonery masks how lethal he is.  Holding American lives hostage, in the balance, for a structure built to separate and divide.  We already broke the walls down, and will have to tear them down again, but white supremacists don't learn from history and keep wanting their story to be the persistent tale of victors.  But the people have always been the source and root of power, and they still are.  We are awakening.  We are taking seats in positions of power, building businesses, owning our visions, divesting from capitalism, learning how to make and grow and be without that which they are selling us.

I miss being lolo, but I'm still her.  Just a little quieter, three shades lighter in the course of living.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Bah Humbug.

It will be no surprise to anyone who has been with me this year that I am hardcore avoiding and dreading the holidays.  The past week has been another deluge of tears, not because my dad liked the holidays or his birthday at all - he was the biggest Scrooge in the state of Michigan, if not the whole Midwest.  But he was easy to shop for -- we bought him sweats, new loafers, a new Gary (his cooler) if his had broken throughout the year, and beer.  We asked what he wanted for his birthday and it was "to be left alone to watch sports".  And Charlie now rests on his chair, and we put on football even if no one is in the room and watching, and I open a beer and put it on the table without drinking it.  Instead of pouring a little out for him, I make his chair an altar.

I don't know how we will be okay, or when, but I know that it has to happen, because this dark year in mourning is not sustainable.  I miss too much about the world.  There is pathetic fallacy in the political climate right now, as we cage and tear gas children at our southern border, and fundraise to build a wall instead of feed or clothe our people who need it this winter, as we further fall into the sundowning empire of racism and white supremacy.  I just want this system of oppression to breathe its final breath and collapse already.

I want to create new traditions, to hold space for the loved ones I miss, but find paths around and through the loss to find reasons to celebrate.  This year it is about maintaining peace and not finding joy, but I want to relearn joy in the years ahead.  We made a list of things to do while we're on break:  sledding, going to the movies, bowling, watching football, playing soccer, indoor playground on Wagner Rd, coloring, reading, ice skating, hot chocolate, going to a hockey game, making cookies, walking by the river.

We are also struggling with raising bicultural kids and whether to and how to celebrate a holiday that is literally surrounding us (in my mom's house) with kids when we don't want to instill capitalist values into them.  I want the holidays to be a time of family, good friends and service to others, not "what am I getting?", but in times of grief, I've found myself shopping more this year, and feeling guilty about our usual rule of "one gift per child" that has worked so well in the past.   I will not go into debt to pay for extravagant presents that my kids will abandon in precisely one week, and I want them to feel the joy of helping, giving and being with people in love and with food in our bellies.  That is enough.

My own to-do list includes:  cleaning the house, spending time with friends and family, going to the gym at least twice a week, sleeping in, reading, writing, adulting necessities, date night with the hubby, fun activities with the babies.

I return to writing, I return to making lists, to help me think and process when therapy is not a financial reality right now.  When socialization is something I can't handle most days.  I will continue withdrawing for winter, but I am trying to get out and give hugs to people who fuel me. Be patient.  I am not okay, but I'm trying to figure out how to hold this grief and not drop my life in the process.