F*CK YOU AND YOUR IVORY TOWER

I refuse to apologize for this post to anyone except my mother, for whom the title may be too offensive. But as I’ve enlightened even her as to her cushy seat up in the Ivory Tower of White Privilege, I give zero f*cks. Except for maybe my language but that’s what happens when you’ve absolutely had it with society.

I work in customer service and that generally means two things: 1) It’s my job to be helpful and 2) It’s my job to be polite. Unfortunately both requirements apply to everyone, even the openly bigoted ones. And boy have they been having a field day lately, all out in the open frolicking hand-in-hand as they make literally all. of. us. uncomfortable. #CheckYourselfBeforeYouWreckYourself

A “field day” event happened today and it blew the cap off of the lid I’ve been trying to keep on my emotions post-November 8, 2016. A customer, flanked by her bougie daughters and aloof husband, had been steadily getting on my last nerve ordering me around and talking to me as if I were beneath her. But then this happened as she was attempting to describe the sales associate that was helping her before I was:

Customer: She had dark hair. It was kind of long.

Me: Was she young?

Customer: Yes…and she looked not-American.

Me: …you mean Latina?

As I mentioned earlier, it’s my job to be polite and my job was not worth losing due to this woman’s disgusting display of bigotry. So I held my tongue and refrained from giving her a piece of my mind. And I swallowed hard when she later scrunched up her nose at a fellow human and walked away from them because they were—God forbid—scratching their head and presumably of a lower socio-economic status than her (she who was obsessed with sales and discounts, riddle me that). And I tried to not lash out when another associate, who happens to be an immigrant from a European country, said this woman had refused her assistance before she found me at my register. But I had it when she inferred that not-American is synonymous with Latina. And now we’re here.

Last time I checked, Americans come in all shapes, sizes, and skin colors. But the problem lies when well-meaning white people open their mouths in an attempt to be our allies after situations like the above happen. Confused? Let’s back track.

If you, in your odd curiosity, have ever asked me, “Are you adopted?” as if my lily white mother would never willingly have a baby with my deep bronze father; or “Are your parents still together?” as if a black man is incapable of willingly showing up as a husband and father; or “Are you and your sisters all the same skin color?” as if you’re hoping I break out some on-trend ombre family photo that’ll make you feel cultured; or even “What race do you identify with?” as if I choose who I am in the same reductive way you choose your socks in the morning, I’ve got news for you: you’re part of the us vs. them problem. If you seek reassurance that age-old tropes and stereotypes about my race don’t apply to me and my family because we’re on your List of Good and Okay Minorities to Associate With, you’re perpetuating said stereotypes. Sorry (not sorry).

If you, after saying something uncouth, have ever had the words, “I’m not racist, my (insert personal relation here) is (insert minority here),” come out of your mouth, I’ve got news for you: you’re racist. If you have to associate a race with a person in your life that you’re fond of in order to justify your feelings for other members of that race instead of just seeing said race as part of the larger collective of humans in general and treating them kindly, then you’re racist. Sorry (not sorry).

You can’t fix a system that you (unconsciously?) perpetuate. So, allies, if you’re still with me, I have a charge for you. But…before you get too fussy about what I’ve written so far, you must know and accept what we’ve come to know and accept: you can’t fix the behavior or mindset of Mrs. Cold Spring Harbor up there (yes that’s the town she lives in #OnBlast #NoShame). She and the many people like her are too far gone. But you can fix the small ways in which people like you go about their business in the world. If you boldly change your line of thinking and acting—and you’re a white man or woman—then other white men and women have a higher likelihood of following suit. Because sadly, that’s how it seems to work.

But before you ask for help in changing your ways, here’s me (all of us?) saying, “Nah, b. We’re tired. Figure it out yourself.”

Sound harsh? Tough.

Sincerely,
That Fly on the Wall You Didn’t Realize Was Biracial

BE, HERE, NOW

I wish I could say that I remember living in Queens, but I don’t. I know that I did certain things like skip home from the public library with a stack of books around the age of 3 and play in snow that nearly came up to my tiny little shoulder around the age of 2. But remember, I do not.

I don’t remember moving from Queens to Suffolk County, Long Island with my family around the age of 3-and-a-half! nor do I remember painting my new, all-to-myself room a shade of purply-pink. But what I do remember is a constant, pervasive feeling of Not Quite Liking Where I Was.

I’m one of those people who is always reaching for what’s beyond me; always seeking something better or grander and always thinking it can’t be found where I am. I don’t know why but I’ve never really liked Long Island. Well, that’s not true. I like the geography, and some of the towns, but the people—sorry to say it—embarrass me a bit. The rough and tumbled accents; the crassness and propensity for strong language; the general lack of grace and gentility; the culture of god only knows what that’s always felt very much Their’s and not at all Mine—even though a peek through a few of my family’s photo albums would tell a different story. But let’s just say that’s because I was an eccentric teenager trying, for a minute, to fit in to a place where I never fully could.

That’s the problem I guess, Long Island never felt like mine. It wasn’t a place that I could lay claim to, so when a dear friend recently said to me that there was something “so Long Island about you,” I felt my blood boil because to me, there isn’t. Worth noting: she isn’t from here.

You see, my closest friends growing up weren’t in my school district, one wasn’t even in the same state as me. My earliest boyfriends were also from different school districts, most weren’t in my grade either. My own family is mostly from the city, if not different states all together. For college, I shirked convention and hightailed it to a private school in North Carolina, much to the surprise of what felt like everyone and their mother’s who attended in-state public universities or ones within a few hours’ drive of home.

So when I came back to Long Island after college, I did so with my tail between my legs with all intentions of at least working in the city. But that was a thing that very much didn’t happen as I worked for the town I grew up in for 2 years—literally, I was in Town Hall. All the while scratching that itch of mine to leave (again). So I dated someone who lived in Brooklyn. When I finally moved to Brooklyn myself for school, it was largely a disaster and I found myself back in Long Island sooner than I ever wished to return (which at that time was never, mostly never, with the exception of birthdays and holidays and the occasional trip to the Hamptons).

So I was back here. Living in Long Island, at least working in New Jersey (words I never thought I’d say). But when that commute just got to be way. too. much., I was fully here once more—goodbye Brooklyn Boy—dating here, working here, living here. All the while scratching that itch of mine to leave (again). So I dated someone else who lived in Brooklyn; and then someone who lived further east in Long Island but had an apartment in the city; and then that one who lived in Harlem that was so good until it wasn’t good at all. And then I was fully here once again.

But not quite! Because I was still hoping for something better/different/farther away to come my way somehow. Until, quite literally last night, when a very important person in my life—mind you, this is a person I never thought I’d see again (life, you’re funny)—stopped me in the middle of yet another one of my “Why am I here? I can’t stand it here,” diatribes and looked directly at me as he said, “There’s nothing wrong with being here.”

Here.

It has literally cost me so much trying to not be here. I’ve chased down every possible avenue to have an excuse to not be here—religion, education, romance, work—and all of them have ended with an exasperated, financially-strapped, heartbroken me looking up at the sky saying, “Really? Here? Again?”

But yes. Here: apparently where I’m supposed to be now (thanks for nothing Ram Dass). My parents moved my siblings and I here, as in Long Island, for a “better life” and my stubbornness has left me trying to leave this “idyllic suburb” every chance I’ve gotten. Yet my Parent—capitalization necessary as I’m talking about God y’all—has kept bringing me back, saying all the while, “Child, will you just be Here.”

So I shall be here; and not reluctantly this time. Because maybe there’s nothing wrong with being in a place that doesn’t quite feel like Mine. Because maybe it’s not supposed to, and maybe it can’t feel like Mine yet if I am to truly make my mark on it. And maybe, just maybe, this is the biggest test of all: being fully here, in this place and in this moment, even though it’s a here I never really wanted, and finding its light and all the ways I can love it.

Aha.

P.S. Necessary listening…

 

THE WANDERING, WAYWARD DAUGHTER: A MEMOIR, OF SORTS

I keep talking about and focusing on how long it had been since I sat proper and did a bible study in my trusty Life Application Study Bible (New Living Translation). Perhaps I am trying to level myself lest my head get too big (which is ridiculous). Or perhaps I am attempting to differentiate myself from others that I deem more godly than I (which is also ridiculous). Either way and for whatever reason, it is something that I do.

I focus on the time I spent separated from the bible version of God’s word and the pursuit of Him in a Christian sense. Which means I ignore all the other ways I’ve found God these past two and a half years in the pursuit of a meditation practice, yoga, healing herbs and teas, the energy in a beautiful crystal, good food and wine, hiking in nature, and the study of the religiously-neutral, spiritual, indescribable yet palpable energy that connects every and any thing.

In those two and a half years, I became a member of the People’s Church of Necessity, a phrase I use to represent God’s uncanny way of placing you in situations that seem so. wrong. amongst people that are too. different. (read: hedonists and nihilists and heathens) in order to heal you. Through the healing, God is dismantling your ego* brick by brick until all you see around you is rubble. Then slowly but surely, God shines Its light upon one brick at a time and you find yourself elbows deep in the dirt building and building. And one day, the rubble is gone and around you is a beautiful Home to dance, sing, play, and rejoice in.

* It is the ego that keeps us separate from God and others. Because it is the ego that drives our desire to be a Special Snowflake and the ego that drives our fear that we are Too Much/Alone/Different/Weird/Needy/etc.

I also came to understand how insignificant our human concept of time is to God. In Psalm 90:4 we read, “For a thousand years in Your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.” A thousand years is a day. Can you imagine? I sure can’t. And that’s exactly why I take upon my heart the largely inaccurate persona of the Wandering, Wayward Daughter.

When I read or hear the Word—in any text or conversation which was inspired by Divinity— and it rings as Truth, I see my thoughts for what they are: a (needless, unnecessary, ungodly) shame cycle meant to feed my ego and keep me separate from God.

But when I read Psalm 107:2, “Has the Lord redeemed you? Then speak out!,” I am reminded of all my conversations with the heathens and nihilists and hedonists in which I would start clapping like a giddy child while pouring out Truth after Truth after Truth of our Grand and Loving Creator of the Universe.

And when I read Jeremiah 31:12, “They will be radiant because of the Lord’s good gifts,” I am reminded of all the times I left yoga, glowing in said radiance, with a desire to only eat foods that would nourish me, and have conversations that uplifted others, and be kind and gracious to my neighbors.

And even when I read, “Happiness is the lost paradise. Humans have worked so hard to reach this point, and this is part of the evolution of the mind. […] Moses called it the Promised Land, Buddha called it Nirvana, Jesus called it Heaven, and the Toltecs call it a New Dream,” in Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements, I smile knowingly because I know that the God of Everything is, and has always been, in everything that truthfully brings us closer to Joy. No matter what you call it.

And just like that, the shame cycle is finished.

YOU’RE A SEEKER, HARRY

Maybe it was when I sat in my mother’s lap after losing both my great aunts within a month of each other, at the age of 10, and consoled her from a Place deep inside me on the permanence of Life and the illusion of death…

Or maybe it was when I truly understood the gravity of knowing exactly what your God voice does and does not sound like, at the age of 26, during those numerous vulnerable and mindless moments in the car, and in the shower, and in the kitchen washing dishes when I felt so overloaded at times that I could barely breathe…

Or maybe it was when I threw myself onto the floor in a puddle of tears, at the age of 21, in a desperate search of something and Everything and hysterically asked for a surefootedness I then believed could only be rooted in the Way, the Truth, and the Life…

Or maybe it was when I walked bravely into school, at the age of 12, with a face riddled in tiny red bumps—a telltale mark of the Fifth’s Disease my body was fighting—unfazed by the questions and sneers sure to come within the mean hallways of middle school…

Or maybe it was when I was cozied up with my not yet deceased great aunt at our kitchen table, at the age of 7, asking her question upon question about the mind and heart hidden under her habit while dipping a seemingly endless tray of strawberries into melted dark chocolate the night before my First Holy Communion…

Or maybe it was when my friend and I stumbled upon the silliest of marvels in the middle of a somewhat backwoods North Carolina town, at the age(s) of 19, in a massive Jesus statue and sought solace for our confused souls in that parking lot overwhelming night after overwhelming night…

Or maybe it was when I watched with wide-eyes and listened with an open heart, at the age of 13, to the rites and rituals my friends were diligently completing for their bat mitzvahs…

Or maybe it was when I began collecting crystals again as I used to as a child, at the age of 25, and marveled at the incomprehensible calm one could have when meditating with a cool stone in hand a thankful and proverbial 2 minutes before the worst heartbreak of my life would barge in, knock me clear to the ground, and leave me grasping at dust in search of a solid rock…

Or maybe it was when I finally sat down to write this post right here, a good 3 days after it began brewing in my mind, at the age of 27, with at once lightening fast and molasses slow fingers across a keyboard in a sweet reverie on my inner Wild Child, and all of her passionate undertakings—misguided or otherwise—and her unwavering ability to always stand back up—worse for wear or otherwise—ready to sing praises to a Great Grandness…

That I first realized I was a Seeker.

Wander and waiver though I do, as I believe most humans do and should, my heart was devoted to the pursuit, the passionate seeking, of the Love, Truth, and Understanding wrapped up in the Great Unknown long before I took my first breath in this body, for this life.

And because I find myself in this body, and in this life, I am endlessly thankful that there is an endless well of Patience for my many stops and starts. And that there is an endless well of Answers for my hundreds and thousands of Questions. And that there too is an endless well of Paths to the Divine for my Wild and Curious Heart to Explore.

Tomorrow said path may be a spark of inspiration found in the bottom of a cup of dandelion tea. Or in a breathtaking moment of beauty found in the way a curtain gets lost in the breeze. Or in an understanding of the innate Trust within all of us upon watching a child play some 50 feet away from its parent.

But tonight it is the simple deliciousness of a bowl of pasta made lovingly by my father, and the decidedly jumbled words of J.K. Rowling echoing in my head, and the soulful crooning of Josh Garrels flowing into my ears that makes me exclaim, ever so softly, “It is time to begin again.” 

And begin again I shall.

CAPITAL L

We are connected more than ever, but what exactly is it that we are connected to?

If you say that it is to each other, I dare say you’re mistaken.

Yes, we might know more people in a numerical sense, but do we really know them?

To know someone is to feel the heft of their soul in your hands as they articulate feelings and thoughts without words.

To know someone is to reciprocally share humanity and divinity in such a palpable way that you walk away from your interaction with your heart having grown in size.

To know someone is to feel the trueness of Love in your soul and to feel compelled to give that Love away to someone else because you are so full that you are spilling out.

So you pause your music, take out your ear buds, and walk across the kitchen to give the most present hug you’ve ever given to your mother.

And because you are so connected to Love, you gently tell her to ease out of the urge to pull away from the sudden confrontation of Love and Oneness with another person, and when you feel her melt into the hug, knowing you’ve delivered the right dose of Love, you give her a squeeze and head into the den to where your father is.

And you do the same for him.

And because your heart is a writer and you heal with your words, you open your laptop back up and pour some more Love out through your fingers to the rest of the world.

And then, because you’ve been so pried open, you cry the sweetest of tears where the bitterness of salt has no place.

A COMPASSIONARY TALE

This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. – John 15:12-13 (NLT)

A heavily studied belief in and understanding of Christianity, or the brazen lack thereof, is intrinsically woven through the fabric that is my belief in the Great Unknown. The bible is familiar to me, in the way a ring is still on your finger even after you’ve taken it off. So when Big Things happen in my life, oftentimes I remember a verse or two and smile at the return of my oddest and oldest spiritual friend.

One day, a few years ago whilst in the throes of religious fervor, I read an article with a new phrase—Golden Nuggets of Wisdom (GNW)—to describe the moment in which someone speaks something to you and the impact and power of what they have said resonates deeply in your soul, but barely means much of anything to them.

I had a GNW moment today (but contrary to my norm, I was on the receiving end). A friend who recently experienced the sharp pain that is heartbreak said this, “Because of you guys, I feel like my hurting divided into 4. Like I only had to deal with a quarter of the pain.” Immediately that verse from the Book of John flew into my mind and took on a gloriously rich new meaning.

Another day, a few years ago whilst still in the throes of religious fervor, I read yet another article that expanded my understanding of compassion. I had used the word often enough to that point knowing, but not knowing, what the word meant. I appreciate it more now and use it a lot less. Compassion isn’t about feeling bad for someone being in pain, compassion is suffering with them.

So when that friend said, to the 3 of us in our group chat, that we divided her pain in quarters, leaving her only a fraction of it to bear as her own, I further understood what it meant to be compassionate. I experienced, with an acute consciousness, what it meant to love one another in the same way that God loves us. Because she made me realize that, even without realizing it, I actively chose to lay down my life for someone—to lay down my disposition, my desires, my moods—and experience their life as my own.

For as long as we could and as long as she needed, the 3 of us suffered with her and transformed her pain into an experience of Grand Love. I dare say, we alchemized it into gold.

CAR SEATS ARE FOR ADULTS TOO

I hate driving in overcast weather. Between the shadows and the increased pressure, it’s never a fun experience. But today was exceptionally bad. I could barely stand being behind the wheel. So it got me thinking: am I doing this car seat thing all wrong?

And then I really got to thinking. New parents obsess over putting their babies and toddlers into car seats properly. There are precise angles and locations for the seat belt, the seat, the baby, etc. If you get it wrong, the mistake can be costly. But it can be just as costly to sit improperly as a driver or passenger too.

I realized that though I could correctly install a car seat for a small child—thanks to my niece and nephew—I had no idea how I should be sitting in my car seat. Or anyone’s for that matter. So I did what I do and I took to Google.

Thanks to these videos, I made micro-adjustments to my headrest, my side view mirrors, my rear view mirror, the angle of my seat, the location of my seat, the height of my steering wheel, the angle of my steering wheel, and how I sat. I changed everything.

And it was no longer a surprise why I was a wriggly worm every time I tried to drive. My headrest was too high, my side view mirrors were tucked in too much, my rear view mirror was too low, my seat was angled too far back, my seat was too far from the pedals (and I already sat pretty darn close), and my steering wheel was both too far forward and angled too far down.

Sitting parked on the side of the road, I felt great. But as soon as I began driving, I was completely disoriented. I thought I was going to throw up the entire time. For a minute, I entertained putting everything back to the (way more comfortable) wrong way. But when I saw the other drivers around me hunched over their steering wheels, white-knuckled making left turns I knew I couldn’t keep doing the wrong thing just because it felt better. So I kept going.

Disoriented as I was, I was also more in control. My car felt speedier and lighter—too light at times, the wind was blowing me off-center every chance it got. Pushed back against the seat as I should be, I was conscious of how often I’d displace my weight on the steering wheel. And so I wondered if I even liked the experience of driving as much as I thought I did—considering the level of tension I had behind the wheel—or if I just liked the freedom that my car represented. This body/soul/life scan continued along with the drive.

I realized that forcing my body into one position for x-amount of time was a constant dance between tension and release. My body kept trying to regain control. It did not like being at the whim of the road. When the car would dip on the left, my body pushed toward the right side. When I would break, instead of succumbing to the change in G-forces, my body fought to stay where it wanted to stay. When I would switch my right foot between pedals, my left side would angle backward to maintain its oddly centered balance.

When I felt my right shoulder blade repeatedly pulling toward the steering wheel, fighting against the cradling effect of the car seat, I wondered how many times a day my body does this little dance. How often I roll my shoulders back and down and yank them back up toward my ears. How often I tighten my hips and ease them back down into the chair. How often my lower jaw clamps toward my upper jaw and steadily relaxes.

It was exhausting to notice how exhausting it is to try to maintain control. So I instead focused on this story and tried, as best I could, to let my body succumb to the movement of the road, for once fighting my ability to fight for control, and release.

MS. EXTROVERT

The words popped off the screen and smacked into my retinas. It was worse than I imagined.

The air in the apartment was more stale than usual that evening, my respite was the humid summer air, the glow of the moon, the dying stars. I was trying to escape my worst thoughts, the thoughts that became things. Their betrayal, sticky and sickening, began but yards from my body. A body, that oddly insisted upon drifting intermittently between the land of dreams and the land of demons.

I fed upon food that made me ill. I drank concoctions that dulled my senses. I poured light into black holes. Had I known what I know now…

I’ve been branded with a mark I wish only to scrub off. Cut off, if I must. On occasion it burns hot but most days it’s just a dull ache in the shoulder blades. My load is heavier now. More to carry, less hands to help.

But there is one bit of freedom. What terrible friends and lovers I’ve rendered into ghosts.

MEDIUM RARE

I come from one of those families that has a broom at the ready and the rug halfway pulled up the second anything bad happens. We are big fans of sweeping.

Needless to say, it has taken me 26 years, a turn or two through therapy, and a few sips of red wine and whiskey to admit, out loud to a crowd, that my life can be a rather dark and stormy one despite my constant face of optimism or aloofness.

I spent the past week cooped up in a prison of my own creation, ruminating endlessly, and bleeding out surprising amounts of raw emotion at every second…in public. Normally I would have sopped up the gooey mess and blamed it on Mother Nature or the moon cycles. But not this time. I stayed raw.

I am not perfectly put together and good, despite my composed exterior. This girl is brooding at the core, the emotional center, the tides, the midnight-frosted yin, the femininity of Lady Luna. I have loose limbs as only one who is real can. Yes I am optimistic, yes I am still light-hearted. But it is weighted in my bones with an unmistakeable intensity. I walk on both sides of life.

It is time to live raw; medium rare, at least.