I’ve decided to take part in the #AmplifyMelanatedVoices Challenge created by @blackandembodied and @jessicawilson.msrd. I won’t be blogging, posting on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook from now until June 7th in an attempt to #MuteTheWhiteNoise. Instead I’ll be listening to what Black people have to say. I’ll be watching and looking at art created by Black artists and activists. I’ll be reading Black authors. I’ll be looking inward and reflecting on what I’m learning, how my world views need changing, and how I can help elevate the Black Community. Please follow the hashtags and the original creators of this challenge on Instagram.
Below you will find links to articles about white fragility and anti-racism by Black authors, as well as Black activists to follow on Instagram. I hope you can find time to educate yourself on these topics and listen to the unheard voices in the Black Community. Please remember that Google is your friend. Don’t rely on the people below, or any of your Black friends, colleagues, or Black people in your community to educate you. They are too busy and it isn’t their job. White supremacy and racism work because white people do not take a stand against it. It is a problem that white people created, and it is one that we need to work to end. It is time to take a stand, even toward people you love and admire. Our silence is deafening to the Black Community.
Read, read, read! Read the books listed in the illustration above for starters, and follow the authors on social media or on their paid Patreon accounts. Please keep in mind that some of these books have become very popular in the last few weeks (which is great), but I have heard of price gauging online. This in no way benefits the authors. Whenever possible, order the title from your local independent bookstore who supports Black writers. It may take a couple of weeks to get the book, because some are on backorder, but it is worth it. The titles from the illustration above are:
Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi Have Black Lives Ever Mattered? by Mumia Abu-Jamal The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong America’s Original Sin by Jim Wallis The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge Good Talk by Mira Jacob Blindspot by Mahzarin R. Banaji & Anthony G. Greenwald Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? by Moustafa Bayoumi The Fire This Time by Jesmyn Ward White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown When They Call You A Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullors & Asha Bandele An African American and Latinx History of the United States by Paul Ortiz Citizen by Claudia Rankine An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz Mindful of Race by Ruth King Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson Tears We Cannot Stop by Michael Eric Dyson Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Tatum Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi This Book Is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewell & Aurélia Durand
In the meantime, here are some articles to get you started reading and thinking now:
I’m a shower shaver. Always have been. I remember learning to shave my legs in a tub of luke-warm water, after years of being tormented about my long, black leg hair by my sister, while my mother refused to let me near a razor. I was in fifth grade when I eventually stole my mom’s razor, sat in a tub for much longer than I should have and contemplated it. Then I just did it. My mom got mad. My sister laughed. I was bleeding from knee to ankle, but I was proud, so proud of my smooth legs. Now I wish I had never picked up a razor.
Shaving my legs, tweezing my eyebrows, waxing my mustache, Jesus, I’m so over all of it. I wish I was so body positive that I could stand proudly and say, Fuck you, World! While I flip the world the bird, and my mustache blows in the wind like Tom Selleck’s. But alas, I succumb to societal beauty standards, well some of them, like waxing, shaving, plucking, and zapping unwanted hair. Bleh.
The day we signed the papers on our current home my vision was clouded by the master bathroom. It’s beautiful. Small, but mighty. There’s only one small vanity and a toilet, but there is this wonderful shower! It is all glass, with stone floors (the bathroom itself has heated floors), and artful tile work throughout. It is floor to ceiling and has all the fancy accouterments that a shower should have. And it’s huge! It easily fits Jerimiah and me. Or Duke and Jackson and me, when we are in swimsuits trying to scrub mud from Duke’s legs while he attempts to run through the small opening that we leave in the door to let the smell of wet dog escape. It’s perfect.
But the first time I took a shower in it I realized there was nowhere for this shower-shaver to stick her legs when I shaved. It needed a bench. So I did what anyone would do, I hopped out of the shower, threw clothes on, ran to Homegoods, and bought a bamboo shower bench. Perfect. Except, well, today was the first time since I owned the bamboo bench the I actually sat on it to shave my legs.
Listen, I’m a creature of habit. Years and years of awkwardly standing in the tub, with my leg perched on the edge has made me think this is the only way. So the first time I shaved my legs with my bamboo bench in place, I just stuck my leg up on the bench and shaved standing up like usual. Then I kept doing it.
Don’t get me wrong, I use the bench. I sit on it regularly while the hot water from my raindrop faucet drips onto my head and I think about the world. I cry on my bamboo bench. A lot. Y’all know I’m a shower cryer, I don’t have time to defend that. I cried on that bamboo shower bench the first week we lived here because I missed Charlotte and I didn’t want to live in Georgia. I cried that summer when my son was sad that we didn’t have any friends yet. I cried when my friend called with bad news about her parents. I sat on the bamboo bench and cried when that student opened fire on the UNC Charlotte campus. When they couldn’t find that little boy with autism for days. I cried on that bamboo bench when I thought we were going to be transferred to New Orleans. I cried when my son cried when a friend was being bullied at school and he realized he needed to stick up for her. I cried when the spring tornadoes sprang up the Midwest, when we had to cancel our trip home because Covid-19 was here. I cried for Ahmaud Arbery, for my state, for our country, for this world.
But today, for the first time in a year, I sat on that bamboo bench and I shaved my legs. I let the water fall on me. I didn’t cry. I just sat and shaved. I wondered about all the times I should have done this before. All the times I let my own stubbornness stop me from doing things. My own stubbornness, my own ignorance, my own self-doubt. I thought about shower-shavers. I thought about women who wish they had clean water. I thought about women who refuse to shave their legs and under arms. I thought about little girls with no mother to teach her how to do it. I thought about the good I have learned by others, but society, by my environment, and my world. And then I thought about the bad. But I didn’t cry, I just shaved my legs.
On Friday I woke up, looked at the news and knew exactly what most of my friends and family would be talking about on social media: Riots. Looting. How violence was sweeping our nation in the wake of the murder or George Floyd. My first thought was, great, here we go again. Then I thought, wait, Can I help in some way? Can I try to open a dialogue with my white family and friends about why this is happening? I’ve been trying for the last year to understand the structural racism that our country was founded on. The same structural racism that our country began with–kill the Native Americans, move them to reservations, and take their land–and kept up with like an unspoken mantra for decades. The same structural racism that made Black people a fraction of a person. That made a rich country on the backs of minorities. The same structural racism that allows us to be okay with children dying in cages at the border, today. The same that makes “Not all cops are bad” as the only proper response to the killing of George Floyd. What I know and what other white (and some Black) people don’t yet realize is that our country was founded on these idea. Keep the minorities down. And as long as we don’t talk about it, just do it, all will be well.
So I got the bright idea to let myself be on Facebook all day long. Now y’all know I have been limiting my access to Facebook to 15 minutes a day for about eight months now, and it has done wonders for my mental health. I mean I would spend all day on there. I would work with the Facebook tab open. I would compulsively check my phone all day to see if someone “liked” or commented on something. That’s how I got my news, my recipes, my pictures of cute dogs and babies. But alas, I learned you can get all those from other places, and that the less time I spend on social media the better I feel. Now I know this is not the case for some of you. We know what social media is at its worst, but at its best it can do amazing things. It’s just that I am programmed to focus on the bad stuff, so it doesn’t work for me like it might others, and that’s okay. But yesterday I asked Jerimiah (the keeper of my Facebook time) to give me access all day. He put in the password, handed me the phone, then asked if that was a good idea. Of course, I almost screamed, I’m doing good today!
What I ended up doing was getting sucked right back into the “bad.” I got sucked back into sharing my opinion on other people’s pages, who quite frankly, were not as “woke” as me? Yeah, let’s say that. White fragility is real, y’all. I’ve been reading about it, but I wasn’t sure until I read something that a Black activist wrote a few weeks ago and suddenly I was offended. All, Well how could she say that about me? How could she clump me in with those white people? She doesn’t know me, look I’m different, I have experience with this, I blah, blah, blah… Then I was like, Oh shit, I just highlighted her point exactly.
White people, especially women, get so upset when you share truth with them, so offended, that they lash out. Not all, but most. Count me as one of them. One of them who is working on not being that way. How dare we suggest white women are just more of the same? Well, how do you think it makes Black people feel when you use stereotypes on them? When our culture, our society, has taught these stereotypes. Jesus, more than half of my white friends and family aren’t even friends with a Black person. They don’t even know Black people. Or they haven’t lived in a predominantly Black community. So they only know these stereotypes and these ideas about Black culture from what they have been taught by society.
Then there were the Not All Cops Are Bad people. No one that I know, or have talked to recently has claimed all cops are bad. Matter fact, I know several people in Law Enforcement. And the people I know and am related to would probably, I’d like to think at least, stick up for people like George Floyd. But who can say. Atlanta’s Police Chief Erika Sheilds said it best, she said, “As law enforcement officers, we tend to put ourselves in the shoes of the police officer who is detaining. We have been there. We get that space. We need to stop seeing it that way. We need to step back and see the whole situation. Some people just should not police, and those people should be swiftly seen for who they are and removed.” Yeah, that’s part of the whole point. That’s why we need mental health checks, and psych evaluations on people before they become police officers. Better training, oversight committees formed by the people of the city, the very people the police are policing.
If you think about it, being a LEO is just a smaller version of a politician. They are there to serve the community, to keep people safe. It wasn’t until the Civil Rights era when police officers were tasked with spraying SILENT protestors with hoses and pelting them with rubber bullets, that suddenly police (some of them) began to see themselves as the keeper of “right” and “wrong.” We gave power to them that must be restored. Do they have a dangerous job? Absolutely. Do they get shot at in the line of service? Do they die for no reason? Yes. Yes. What does it stem from, do you think? Structural racism? Lack of mental health care for people who need it? Yes. And yes. I’ve met, had actual conversions with LEOs who truly believe they are God. Who put on the uniform and become someone else. I once knew a cop in Leavenworth, a young guy, new to the force, who was married with a baby at home. He liked to use his badge to fuck with young people, young men especially. Why? He liked to have sex with guys, but he couldn’t tell his family he was gay, so he’d use his badge to prey on young men. Should he have been policing? Uhh, no. But did people think this stand-up, married, dad was doing what he was doing? Uhh, no.
Just because someone has a badge doesn’t make them inherently good. You should hear the stories I have heard about male police officers and how they have random sex and affairs with women. Take advantage of women. Rape women in custody. Cheat on their spouses, and think it’s okay because they are “the law” and besides, don’t women always says shit like, “I love a man in uniform…” Le sigh. That sort of power can go to someone’s head. I’ve seen it happen with my own eyes. And those people should not be policing. I also think many law enforcement officers have witnessed their colleagues say and do things to Black people that is offensive, violent, etc, and have stayed silent. No one wants to piss off a co-worker. No one wants to piss off people they have to see day in and day out. But when you do you are aiding the problem. I know this is hard for people with loved ones who are LEOs to hear. I know it is hard for the “Thin Blue Line” people to hear. But it doesn’t make it less true. Think on it.
Then there are the protesters. I had a couple of people reach out, which I always prefer, and ask why I condone rioting and looting. I don’t. They just assumed that I do because I called bullshit on structural racism. I reminded people that the anger and hatred that fueled the Boston Tea Party and the rioting and looting there is now taught in school as “Patriotism.” I reminded people that last month white men walked into their state capital with Ak-47s and demanded to be able to eat at TGIFridays without a mask, and our president called them “Good people who are just angry.” Then I reminded them that if a group of people protesting at a #BLM rally turn to looting (which by the way is not the intent of the #BlackLivesMatter movement), they are “thugs” and it is “violence” not “patriotism.” Why do you think that is? I have a hunch.
Jerimiah and I sat in awe last night as we watched instigators tear down Atlanta. It was shameful to see. Damn it, Jerimiah sighed. Because he knows, like I do and a lot of us, that now people will only see this protest, this peaceful, non-violent, planned protest, as a “riot.” And I get the anger from people who say, “I don’t condone this.” Most people don’t. Most of the protesters were long gone, and their were more than enough people telling CNN reporters, as they stood outside CNN and watched the agitators break the glass windows to their office, that they do not condone this. That isn’t what it was supposed to be about.
The thing that got me was the amount of white people they were interviewing, who were A. Not from Atlanta and B. Just there to start some shit. White people busting out windows, white people screaming at the cops, white people burning the flag, which by the way, doesn’t bother me. You can hate me all you want, but I don’t give two shits about the burning of a piece of cloth. Would I do it? Probably not. Not unless I thought I had a good enough reason, like my son was killed by cops then my president didn’t give a shit, or you know, something like that. But the newscaster was all, “This is hard to watch” as two white people burned an American flag, and Jerimiah and I looked at each other and were like, This? This is hard to watch? This is the part that is hard to watch? Now we see how infuriating it must be to silently protest and be told you’re doing it wrong. You can’t kneel. You can’t burn a piece of cloth. You can’t stand with your hands up. You can’t form a chain and peacefully walk from one part of the city and then back again. You can’t call out white supremacy.
I know too many people who have watched the KKK burn down a Black church and sigh and go, “Well, what can you do?” then to sit and listen to them bitch about a Target on fire. (Eye roll). But it doesn’t matter how people protest, it’s wrong in the eyes of the US government. Unless, as mentioned before, you are a white male protesting with automatic weapons on the steps of your state capital, then you cool. Otherwise, no. No kneeling in silent protest. No walking across bridges. No burning the flag in protest. No standing in the street with your hands raised. No chanting, “I can’t breathe.” You get what I’m slinging.
I was actually really happy with the way Atlanta handled it all on Friday. And I was really happy with the protest itself. We did not go because we don’t feel comfortable going to fucking Wingstop to pick up chicken wings right now, so you won’t find me at any political rallies, but I was happy that people let their feelings out. That pastors spoke. That healing happened. But it was negated by the chaos that followed. So now we have two choices: We can either focus on the rioting, or the problem and solution. Too many of y’all wanna focus on the rioting and I get why. It’s easier. It is a cut and dry situation. They burned a cop car. That is wrong. And easy to fix. And a pretty agreeable stance. Burning cop cars is bad. Killing and imprisoning Black men, hmm, that’s harder for some of you to work out.
The last thing I saw before I turned off the television was Dr. Bernice King. She came to the press conference Mayor Bottoms held in Atlanta. Mayor Bottoms was a mother up there. “Go home,” she said. “If you love this city, go home.” Of course as I said, many of the instigators were not from Atlanta, so no, they do not love this city. Most of Atlanta was already at home, worrying about how the city would look in the morning. Then T.I. spoke, then Killer Mike, then Dr. Bernice King. She reminded people that what you miss when you use her father’s words, “A riot is the language of the unheard…” is the part about the “unheard” and as long as there is rioting, you will continue to be “unheard.” And she’s right. But, we are taught, in this white supremacy world that we live in, to accept that the murder of an unarmed Black man in daylight by a police officer as “non-violence” but looting a Target as “violence.” And until we can all get on the same page about what the “problem” is, no one will be heard. On thing is for sure about watching angry people light cop cars on fire in the middle of downtown Atlanta, we have a problem in this country, and you can’t ignore it any longer.
Listen, I shared the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. quote the other day on Insta and FB. The one that said, “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” And a lot of people “Loved” and “Liked” it. Then when the protestors took to the street, y’all lost your voice. Got upset if someone put you in your place. Let your white fragility show. So which is it? Are you ready to speak up for all people. Black people being killed by cops. Brown people held in cages. Learn how to deal with it, learn how to combat it, learn how to better yourselves, or not? I know it is hard. I know it is hard to look at your overtly racist family member and say, “Stop. That is is not okay.” But if you don’t do it, who will?
I don’t know if I helped on Friday. I know I made my day a mess. My nerves were shot, and I just slipped into the hot tub with a glass of wine to forget it all. Isn’t that nice that I can do that? And I know I made mistakes. I know I reacted strongly to people, or didn’t truly understand what they were trying to say, all because I didn’t let it sink in. And I always welcome anyone to message me. To tell me how my words made them feel, even if it is anger. But I won’t tolerate passive-aggressive remarks, or blanket statements aimed at me. Like when the teacher yells at the whole class because they are mad at one student. Call me out on it, I don’t mind. You’ll feel better, and maybe I will have learned to see things from a different point of view. Or maybe I’ll realize you are a crazy person and unfriend you, who knows! And remember, that street goes both ways, y’all. You’ll never offend me if you need to unfriend me for your mental health. I will only respect you more.
Stay safe and sane, y’all.
Now if you have read to the bottom, thanks! And if you really want to educate yourself, and you really want to try to do better then do what I have been doing for months. Read books about how to be anti-racist. Follow accounts that teach you how to help the Black Community. I’m leaving some suggestions below.
The Conscious Kid on Instagram
Rep. John Lewis
Rachel Elizabeth Cargle
Dr. Bernice King/The King Center
Brittany Packnett Cunningham
The hashtags: #BlackLivesMatter #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd #IRunWithAhmaud #JusticeForBreonnaTaylor
The Goodnights are going on vacation! Woohoo, us! If you have been around awhile you might know we are travelers. Nothing soothes our wandering souls like a good road trip out West, or a quick flight to NYC to get some pizza and see a show. But this Covid-19 has put a real damper on traveling plans. As it sits we have five airline flights to anywhere in the US, but we are a little too risk-averse to fly right now, and well, all the places we love to visit are/were hotbeds for the Coronavirus, all except one: Table Rock Lake.
We lived on Table Rock Lake for five years in our early twenties. It was the place I first learned to swim (I was terrified most of my life to swim), it was the place we got married, got pregnant with Jackson. It’s a big lake, surrounded by small towns on the Arkansas/Missouri line, and it just so happens that my MIL owns a place right on the water. We try to get down there every summer, and for awhile it looked like we wouldn’t be able to pull it off this year, then well, we decided to try. So, I guess what I mean to say is the Goodnights are tentatively going on vacation! We are planning, but we won’t know for sure until we hit the road the day we are slated to leave. Wish us luck that things don’t change too drastically as of June 30th.
In preparation we invited the regular crew down to hang with us, including my best friend Rachel and her daughter Madi. Rachel and Madi and the rest of their family have been quarantining like us for the last 80 days or so, and are happy to continue to do so until they meet us at the lake. But because we are coming from DeKalb County, Georgia (a hotbed for the virus) and going to Southern Missouri, with family from Kansas (both places with low incidence rates of the virus) we are preparing by getting tested before we leave. The idea of even possibly putting anyone is danger horrifies us.
Because of the high-rates in our county and state (about 3,500 cases/45,000 cases) and the fact that we are not trending down (wait, what?! You guys opened like a month ago and the ‘Rona didn’t disappear?) Le sigh. Where was I? Because of high rates in our county and state, drive-thru testing is open to all residents. You don’t have to be showing symptoms, or have been exposed to anyone. All I had to do was call DeKalb County. They gave me a website to pre-register. I did it. Picked a date and time, June 5th, and boom, we are registered. We were sent a confirmation email with a QR code for each of us to bring with us to our appointment, which is actually just a ride through a church parking lot on the other side of town and boom, we are done.
We picked June 5th because we plan on leaving at the end of the month. That gives us a weekend before the test to stock up on food and essentials so we don’t have to leave the house until we head for Missouri. We have scoured the CDC and WHO websites, and we think this a “low-risk vacation,” but a little extra caution never hurt anyone. Honestly the scariest parts for me are the drive (it’s a ten-hour drive, so at least two stops for gas), the risk that we will be exposed by a family member or friend who stops by unannounced (don’t be surprised if we just wave and walk away, we love ya, but we didn’t quarantine for 80 days for you to roll up and hug us without a mask on), and/or exposing the people back home to something we picked up along the way. So this isn’t really a stress-free vacation, but it’s the best we can muster at this point.
So there you have it. Our tentative, stressful, summer vacation! I’m excited, and nervous, and prepping like mad, but I think it will be totally worth it to see our people.
“You wanna do like a cheese-on-cheese situation?” I asked my husband the other day while I was standing with the refrigerator door opened, looking frantically from one plastic bin to another. I thought it was a rather straightforward question, but he looked at me with a mix of disgust and sadness, so I offered in a loud tone, “DO YOU WANT TO DOUBLE DOWN ON SOME CHEESE WIT ME?” Nothing. Silence. This MFer needs clarification on this? I proceeded to pull out three different types of cheese, slice them, stack them on top of each other, and eat the stack. Directly in front of him. As my lunch. Then I walked away.
I don’t know about you guys but I am not made for this type of living. I am not made for thinking up what to feed two adults, a child, two dogs, and the large family of nuisance ants that have taken up residence in my house (even though the exterminator has been here TWO TIMES.) I can’t do this. I can’t have all these beings relying on me to feed them all day and night.
Under normal conditions my husband fends for himself for both breakfast and lunch, having an eight-to-five-ish-type office job. My son would normally be eating whatever the hell I pulled together last minute at 7:15 am while he followed me around and said, We have to leave or I’ll be late for band practice. And if I forget, no problem, school would feed him. That just left me and up until two months ago, Sir Duke Barkington, my standard poodle, to nibble on this or that throughout the day. But now we have two dogs, one of which is a 16-week-old puppy who is OBSESSED with food, so she overeats her damn puppy chow then vomits, and then eats the vomit. And since March 15th, I’ve had my son and husband looking at me like, Hey Gir, what’s for lunch? Yeah, they call me Gir.
Early on my husband got the hint, and he just started cooking breakfast late, around 10:30, for all of us. That was our brunch. Everyday. The same thing. Everyday. Eggs. Wrapped in a carb-conscious tortilla. Everyday. I finally had to say, I can’t do this. I can’t live this way. I appreciate you trying to feed us, but I can’t eat another egg. That was almost a month ago and I had my first egg yesterday and it was, I mean, it was okay.
That was also the day I sort of just, umm, opted out of being part of my family’s cooking and eating life. Yes. I’m a horrible partner and mother. I just walked out of the kitchen and didn’t look back. Now my son comes to greet me in my office in the mornings with string cheese hanging out of his mouth, or a frozen waffle cause he’s too lazy to toast it in the oven, or maybe some cereal with no milk because, Mommy the milk shocked me a little, like when you stick a battery on your tongue.
That’s how I got to the ménage à cheese situation the other day. That’s how my husband and I came to a three week take-out bender. We are better now. Detoxed. Ordered HelloFresh.
That’s how things are going in my life. Hope yours is better.
There is this meme that is circulating that says, Growing Old is a Trap! and I laugh every time I see it. It’s funny, absolutely. And I get the sentiment, especially when my 75-year-old friends share it. It’s just that as I age, as I approach (gasp!) 40 years on this planet, I don’t feel that way at all. I don’t feel old. I don’t feel like I’ve been told I will feel my whole life. My whole life I’ve watched my mother, my sisters, my cousins, and friends reach 40, and most of them dread it. Like, absolutely dread 40. They dread it for a multitude of reasons. They say your body starts to break down. You can’t lose weight anymore, your energy level plummets, your hair suddenly turns grey, your family turns on you, wrinkles crawl across your face. I mean, they make it sound horrific, crypt keeper shit, y’all, and at 38.5 years of age I just gotta say, I don’t feel it.
I mean, I guess I have one-and-a-half years for the shit storm that is 40 to get here, but if I’m being honest I already deal with half that list. I already have greying hair. My husband, also 38-and-a-half, is full on salt and pepper now. I have friends in their 30s who have been dying their hair for years to cover grey. I already have creases and wrinkles around my eyes. Laugh lines, reddening skin. It’s been the hardest ever for me to lose weight since my hysterectomy. It used to be that I could workout a little, cut some carbs and bam! I’d lose 20 pounds. Not anymore. My energy level has always been dependent on my mental health, it ebbs and flows. Why should I be scared of turning 40?
Society, I guess. Women who are 40 have been programmed to think they are dead. Their life is over. Omigod, you’re 40! But you look so young! Yeah, bitch, cause she is young. Or, Omigod, you’re 40! Do you knit now? No bitch, I have ass-slapping sex with my husband every night, so I don’t have time for knitting.
Truth be told I am just beginning to feel like myself again after all the shit my 20s and early 30s did to me. I feel like I’m just starting to blossom. I was always a late-bloomer, so this doesn’t’ bother me much, but I absolutely look forward to my next 38-and-a-half years because I honestly feel like my life is just beginning again. I’m in regular therapy, which has been a game changer. I have a firm-ass grip on reality, something that eluded me most of my life. I’ve lived through just enough grief to know how it works, but I haven’t let it make me jaded. Not yet, anyway. Will my hair go grey? You bet. I might not even dye it, don’t know yet, haven’t decided. Will my wrinkles set in? Will my hands start to bend? I hope so, shows character. Will I wear grandma sweaters? Shit yeah I will, I know I will because I already do. They are warm. And have pockets. Who doesn’t love a fucking sweater with pockets? And what is that, is that a peppermint in the pocket?! Oh shit, just what I needed to settle my stomach after my third cup of dark roast!
Look, I love you 20-somethings, you’re adorable. You’ll also really dumb, but that’s how it is supposed to be! You have A LOT of living and learning to do. A lot of it. And no one wants to take that from you, lest not me. Live, girl! And keep living, and being dumb, even well into your thirties. Then, grow up. Cause it’s honestly not that bad. It’s not a trap at all. You might even learn a thing or two, about the world, about yourselves. After all, you live, you learn, then you get Luv’s (but not really, you only get Pampers cause all the others leak loose stool out yo’ baby’s ass all over the backseat of your new car.) See that? I taught you something. If you let us teach you, we will. But for real, I love you. You make me happy to see, to watch you do your beer pong and your whatsy-daisy, it’s just that one day, when the avocado toast is gone, and the wrinkles have set in, and your 40 and you still don’t have any idea what you want to be when you grow up, I want you to know that it won’t be as scary as it sounds. Trust me, I know.
So let’s stop this 40 is death thing, and embrace who we are. And while I’m at it, 50 isn’t death either! Neither is 60! OMIGOD, stop it Missy, is 70 death?! No! You know what death is, death. You dead. So stop living like you already are and do some shit to wake up. It doesn’t matter how old you are, today is your day.
Update after talking to my husband. I was telling him I was frustrated with how people think growing and learning and evolving is bad and while he agrees with me, he politely reminded me that you only grow, learn, and evolve if you allow yourself to. Not everyone will. Or wants to. He reminded me that you have to, “know better to be better.” Man, he’s so spot on. All the stuff above only works if you allow yourself to not be burdened by structural pressures. If you educate yourself. If you love yourself enough to show yourself some grace. Please do that, y’all. ❤️
I’ve always been warned, since the first time I took a creative nonfiction class, that people will not remember the things you remember, the exact way you remember them. People will not have the same memories, they will not reframe times, or situations, or people the same way. Even Jerimiah and I, who have spent the last 18 years together, sometimes look at each other when we are retelling a story, an important story, like the death of our daughter, we will look at each other like, “Dude, that’s not how it happened!” And we both think we remember it the “right” way, when in reality the truth lies somewhere between us.
I’ve been thinking about this for a couple of days. I share a lot about my life, about my childhood. I share from vivid, vivid memories I have. Sometimes they are corroborated by my family members, sometimes my family members have no idea what I am talking about. I’ll say to my mom, for instance, remember that time our car broke down and that guy we didn’t know gave us a ride to Ruthie’s house? And she will be like, “That never happened, I would never take a ride from a stranger.” Meanwhile, I remember the way the stick shift of his truck brushed up against my leg. I remember my mom nervously fumbling the door handle. I remember we weren’t going far, and she thought we’d be safe. We were safe. Maybe that’s why she doesn’t remember, because it ended up not being a big deal. We made it to her friend’s house, who took us back to Food-4-Less with a gallon of tap water to put into her overheated 1972 Dodge. I guess the ride with a stranger turned out to be not that big of a deal. Or he wasn’t really a stranger to her, just to me? So why remember it? Why do I? Why does she not? Does it matter at all?
I’m thinking about this today for a number of reasons. One of them is that I have finally started to write a little bit, and the stories that are coming out of me are stories that are stemming from fear and anxiety. They are stories from my childhood, stories that take me back to dark times. Times when I would lie awake alone at night and hope that my mom was okay, cause she was all I had. She was it. I didn’t have a dad around. My siblings were grown and out of the house. It was just my mom and me, and if something happened to her I would be all alone. So I’d lie awake at night, even if my mom was sleeping peacefully in the next room, and I would worry about the next bad thing that was going to happen.
I’ve started writing about it, because I’ve started doing it again. Only this time it isn’t my mom that I’m worried about, it’s my son. My husband. They hopped into the car the other day to grab some take-out food and I immediately thought, there goes my whole world in that car, what if something happens? What if they are in a car accident? Maybe it won’t be bad, but if they are taken to the hospital right now, then what? My people are not here with me. I can’t be with them. What happens if they get sick? What happens if I can’t make it all better? What happens if I lose my whole world?
I’ve started thinking of all these times because my anxiety is high right now and when my anxiety is high writing helps me. And my writing comes when I spend the time thinking about my life, my childhood, my past. And up until this point in my life I’ve had these oppressive thoughts about whether what I write will upset my family, my friends, my siblings, my mom. I’ve said to more than one professor, “Oh I can’t write about that until so and so is dead…” But this week I turned a corner. I realized that I write for me. I write for others like me who can’t share their stories. I don’t write to make people upset or angry, and if they get upset or angry over my truth, or think that is the reason I am doing it, that is on them. That is probably because they do things to intentionally upset people, but I don’t. That’s not how I operate. I operate from truth. And maybe my truth isn’t in line with theirs, but that doesn’t matter. It is mine. When I write my name to a piece of creative nonfiction, it is, to the best of my recollection, true. All of it.
There’s a million quotes that I could share now to explain this, but this morning while talking with Jerimiah about my new-found courage to write about whatever the hell I want to write about, he reminded me of something I say a lot, “If you don’t want people to know you did it, don’t do it.” I’ve said this since I was 16 years old, and it pissed my family off then, and I’m sure it does now. But it’s, well, it’s the truth. For now I’ll be going about my business while I remind myself, “I’m responsible for telling the truth, not for how others respond to it…” after all, truth doesn’t come as easy to others, as it does to people like me.