Addiction

This post is not going to be organized.

I was once in a terrible relationship. He was an addict and my first love. For a girl with abandonment issues and from a dysfunctional family that did not a healthy love, make. Our relationship hurdled down a gamut of emotions, as most relationships do. But, dating an addict is different. Dating an addict when they first decide to get clean is extremely different. Dating an addict who is also your coworker and eventually creates this messy triangle between your friend-also a coworker- and you at the boarding school where you grew up and all three work, is novel fodder of epic proportions.

It took me an excruciating amount of time to get to a place where I wished them well. They’re married and have a kid, and I honestly hoped they were in a fabulously healthy place. In order to stay in that well-wishing spirit, I need to stay as far away from information about them as possible.

Finding out that my friend, let’s call her Sarah, went to visit my ex and my former friend made me pause. We’d been playing phone tag and I’d stopped trying to get in touch with her because I knew I’d ask her how my ex was doing knowing it was bad for me. Codependency does that. Falling in love at 24 with a predatory addict does that.

After talking on the phone with my friend I went to a bad place. A terrible place. I knew I would. Not because of how they were doing, but because of how my friend referred to and categorized my relationship with him. It was along the lines of: “…he’s doing so much better now that he’s not with you. His wife [my former friend] is so different from you that he’s a much better person now.” Typing that gives me literal heartburn.

Hearing that made me question my sanity. I began to believe what she said.

However, here’s the truth: He’s not better off now that he’s not with me. Those two statements have nothing to do with one another.

The first time he acknowledged his addiction was while we were dating. He began to see a therapist and do some serious work. During this he began to go to meetings and stop “acting out.” This was a time where he chose to work on his issues and when he became incapable of dealing with them reverted back to old behaviors. This is a person who, while in a relationship; got a blow job in a McDonald’s bathroom because somone offered him one –like it was a box of Nuggets–, who trolled the back pages of The Stranger met up with and received a blow job from a *transgender woman even though he reportedly “was not attracted” to her and hated himself while it was happening, who has slept with hundreds of prostitutes, who, while married to his first wife, had sex with a poor woman in his neighborhood for money several times — they had an “arrangement”, who physically fought an ex girlfriend for pills she’d been prescribed because he was addicted to them.

This is a person who physically assaulted a student where we worked and only received a 3-week, without pay, suspension from his job. This young girl went on to commit suicide a few years later.

I was the adult who saw him assault her, I was the adult who picked up this sobbing child and carried her to safety. Who spoke with his class afterwards and helped them know that his actions were unacceptable. Abuse is never okay.

I was, am, and will always be the person that reminds him of his inability to get clean.

I remind him of his failure. I am a source of pain for him because after knowing all of his dirty secrets, I loved the shit out of him. I didn’t judge him. I stood by him as he treated me terribly. I loved him as he fucked up his life. I walked away when he dove face first back into his addiction in front of my eyes.

He is not better because we’re not together. He is not better because he is in another relationship. I am not, nor was I ever the reason he was an asshole to me and to others. His actions have nothing to do with me.

For Sarah to trivialize a relationship that was pure hell is offensive and hurtful. For her to assume that our relationships are anywhere NEAR being on the same plane is idiotic. I held his figurative head over the toilet bowl while he vomited up his self-hatred, fear, and inability to love anyone not just me. I lashed back at him when he treated me terribly unlike anyone he’d ever known. I stood my ground in situations where his other partners cowered. I stayed in that relationship for entirely too long while he used me.

My memories are real. His actions were real. His addiction is real. Her assessment of my relationship with him is unreal and bullshit. It’s pompous, misinformed, and based on 3 days with a couple and mostly like a shit ton of Facebook photos. Facebook exists to share the gilded and hide the truth. There was no hiding with me. Anyone who dates me doesn’t have to hide.

Typing this is a syntaxed sigh that weighed heavy while internal. This is something for me to look back on and remind myself that it happened. It was horrible, painful, difficult, and real. The first time I fell in love was difficult, ugly, brutal, and very very fucking real.

Ugh, I really need to see a therapist.

*the issue is not with getting a blow job from a transgender woman. the issue is his self-hatred and inability to engage in intimacy during the sexual act…doing something that made him despise himself.

My trip from Chicago to Atlanta Part I

I’m exhausted and probably still running on adrenaline, most of my peers are sleeping while I’m here, awake, writing to you.  I even took some melatonin and nada. An alarm I set months ago to celebrate my arrival in Atlanta just went off.  In Atlanta, however, I am not.  Our Megabus is currently on its way to Tupelo, Mississippi. We were supposed to arrive in Georgia today around 8:30 am.  That definitely didn’t happen.=

This entry is not meant to be a scathing review.  I’m good at those and will happily supply them needed.  In this case, it’s not needed.

On the 22nd I arrived at the Megabus stop around 10:30am to wait for my 11:30am departure.  Our departure time came, buses arrived, people boarded, and buses left.  Mine was not one of them. We, the other potential passengers and I, were able to suss out who was going to Atlanta/Memphis and who was not.  We commiserated a bit and built a rapport.  Many of us were concerned we were at the wrong stop. I kept looking at my phone because isn’t that what we do in odd situations?  We cling to the Internet hoping for answers. I wasn’t clinging quite yet, just consulting.

I’m a well-traveled 29-year-old woman.  I’ve been on something like 6 cross-country road trips in the last 3 years all by car.  I can’t recall how many times I’ve traveled to both coasts by plane. I just know it was a lot. As a result of my experiences I’ve become someone who doesn’t fluster easily.  If I’m trapped in an airport for 16 hours I curl up on benches and go to sleep. If the airport shuts down, I’ll ride public transportation until dawn. If I’m lost in the backcountry, hours from civilization, bushwhacking with a group of students, I won’t panic. I’ll laugh, but I won’t panic.  It takes a lot to upset me.

Our bus finally arrived and we pulled off — it was about an hour and forty minutes after our scheduled departure.  Surprisingly, folks were in good spirits. I remember one woman being really mad at the man who was checking us in, but she wasn’t even getting on the bus, just dropping someone off.  I chose a seat on the upper deck near the back.  Our first stop was Champaign, IL.  As we got close, I noticed the bus went to an off-ramp that didn’t seem right.  Turns out, he’d missed his exit we were lost.  Shortly thereafter, you could tell he was lost again and was going to take an exit to Memphis.  There was a collective, “NOoOo,” and then a flurry of directions from passengers.  We arrived.  The bus drove to the back of the Amtrak station where he could park.  There was a bridge.  We hit that bridge. I heard a huge noise, looked up at the ceiling in time to see the glass roof shatter.  I just sat there, wide-eyed and confused.  He kept driving and the glass kept shattering.  I watched as pieces of glass sprinkled onto those ahead of me. In preparation, I shut my mouth, put my hands over my head and shut my eyes.  Luckily, he stopped midway. We heard the sound of gas and people Freaked. Out.  It could have been worse, but there was this confused rush to get off the bus before either the bridge collapsed, or we blew up (hyperbolic in reflection, but very real in action).

photo

Everyone got off safely. Camera phones were out and I even saw what appeared to be an amateur news camera filming.  I started to laugh because that’s what I do when I’m nervous.  I “tweeted” @megabus and their response was impressively quick. (Nice job y’all)  I text them a picture of the license plate and some other details.  The bus driver that met us in Champaign who was supposed to drive us to Memphis, TN decided the bus was unfit to drive (which I completely agree with) and said “they” would send a replacement bus out, but it would take a few hours.  Again, folks were surprisingly calm. I sat on some tan bark and chatted with a guy from the bus named Mitch.

Let me tell you about, Mitch.  He looks like that guy you see on the street corner playing an instrument asking for change.  The one you’re pretty sure is doing, or about to do drugs, and maybe sells them too.  He had long blond dreads but the sides of his head are shaved. His black sweatshirt was ripped and had some patchwork on it.  His pants were tucked into the top of his knock off Timberlands each procured separately.  From their tint I could tell they were not sisters. He looks like he hadn’t showered in a bit, but didn’t smell. His tiny frame was sealed off with these bright blue eyes.  Initially, I steered clear of him because that’s the guy I always gravitate toward, the odd ones. I’m trying to go against my inherent nature and pursue different people.  I was on a bus full of beautiful Black men and women and I wanted to get to know them.  This situation however didn’t help me break my cycle. I gravitated toward the hippy White guy with mismatched shoes. Of course.

We talked on the tanbark for quite sometime. Our conversation varied from the organic orange I gave him, to his girlfriend, to both of our recent road trips, to stories of him riding the rails.  Eventually, a young man joined us. He was not from our bus.  He was a former marine with an admitted drug problem for whom a priest had just purchased a bus ticket back to California. At one point, a cop came up and said something to him because he’d been drunkenly rolling around on the ground. The cop led this kid away and Mitch and I continued to talk about traveling. Eventually, he pulled out his ukulele and started to sing. I loved that.

During the two hours we were waiting for our replacement bus those of us traveling to Atlanta were told to call customer service at  (908) 282-7420 because we were going to miss our connection.  We called and were put on hold.  The first time I waited for 22 minutes all while hearing a prompt thanking me for my patience every twenty seconds. I couldn’t take it any longer so then I hung up. I tried calling the (877) 462) 6342 number and was able to speak to a person quickly. This person tried to help but told me to check with the bus driver and call back.  After our second conversation she gave me the (908) number. I tried two or three more times and couldn’t get through. So I called the (877) number again. I talked to an associate, Crystal Vierra, who was just triflin…nasty…smart mouthed, obnoxious.  She said that I had to call the (908) number because they were the only one that could help me.  I got what she was saying. I even told her that. I told her about what happened Patrick.  He had called the (877) number and was given a new reservation number that secured his seat on the 7am bus out of Memphis to Atlanta.  That was my concern. I was flying out of Seattle on the 24th. If I didn’t secure a seat on that bus I might miss my flight.  She continued to tell me that she couldn’t help me. I asked her why that happened with Patrick and she said she didn’t.  I told her that we were trying to get through to customer service and couldn’t.  I didn’t want to hang up with a person just to listen to some crazy boring music and recording.  Here’s where I had enough. I asked to speak to her supervisor because I wanted to know why Patrick got a new reservation number and I didn’t. She asked me a bunch of questions, which was fine, but it was the way she asked them. I’d really like to see her treat me that way in person.  I don’t think it would happen.  She wanted to know why I was escalating the call and I told her. She said something like, “Okay, because you don’t feel like/want to call the (908) number…” That’s where I had to cut her off. That was just not true. I’d called the number several times. Not only was I wasting minutes, but I was also wasting time and THAT MUSIC WAS DRIVING ME BONKERS.  She tried to cut me off and I didn’t let her. I’m pretty sure I started my monologue with, “So, you were just disrespectful and tried to cut me off so I’m going to explain something to you and then you may speak.” Not verbatim, but close.

All the while, @megabushelp via Twitter was on point.  They responded to my tweets and assured me.  I got more information from them with less hassle and it was fabulous. Seriously, thank you. I cannot thank the individual running your social media at that moment enough. I received and email from Megabus, before I could even ask for it, refunding the cost of my fare. THAT’S how you do things.  Crystal was disgusting.

I’d love to finish this story, but it’s already super long. The next part involves me falling for a celibate hitchhiker on a 30-day pilgrimage.  I’ll write more tonight and try to post tomorrow before I catch my flight back west.  For those of you concerned for my safety, thank you. I appreciate it.

Be well and travel safe,

❤ WMB

UPDATE: 4/25/2013 I’m in Seattle and I’m TIRED.  I’m not going to update for a few days because the weather in gorgeous and I mess my adopted home town.

So you want to go camping but you’re bleeding from your vagina

My visits to the Obgyn start like this:

Them: “…when was your last period?”

Me: “Always”

I got my period for the first time when I was nine. I was supposed to go to a pool party. You can’t go for a dip with a mattress in your underwear so my mom handed me a tampon and I put it in my panties like a pad. She laughed so hard I thought she was going to pass out. I’ve since learned how to properly deal with those little cotton spheres so we’re all good, but sometimes those little bloodsuckers aren’t enough. Sometimes, you need to call for reinforcements. For me that means creating a bullet proof vest of a blood belt in my underwear with overnight pads 24 hours a day for 10-20 days. Misery. So I get it. You’re worried about being with your menses while sleeping under trees.

Since I started seeing my Naturopathic doctor soulmate I’ve stopped bleeding all crazy. Progesterone is manna from Heaven for my uterus from Hell. That helped solve part of my problem. So, I don’t bleed as badly as I have in the past. I still bleed though.

I say all of that to say my relationship with my monthly is complicated.  Since I started being an outdoor lova I’ve had to maneuver these bloody waters and it’s been interesting.

First things first. There’s camping in the front country and camping in the backcountry. This list refers to camping in the backcountry. What’s the difference? Great question. Backcountry means you’re generally an hour or more away from definitive care/civilization. There are no bathrooms, ranger stations, or rest stops. It’s you and your mother nature in Mother Nature. Front country means car camping. You can see your car from your tent and it probably has a cooler full of beer, ice, and food in trunk. Front country camping usually comes with bathrooms and the opportunity for a quick emergency trip to a convenience store.

Here are some of the things I do to keep myself sane while chillin in the backcountry with my monthly.

  1. Manageable itinerary: I make sure I don’t plan strenuous trips while bleeding from my vaginal pit. Your energy is going to be low enough as it is. Take it easy leave those 14 mile 10,000ft elevation hiking days for another time.
  2. Communication: I make sure I tell the person I’m with what’s going on and what has happened to me in the past. I’ve bled so heavy I’ve passed out. If that happens when you’re an hour away from definitive care that helps your camping buddies and medical responders figure out what the hell happened and treat you accordingly.
  3. Cramp Bark: I don’t take Ibuprofen because of my ADPKD. Sometimes Acetaminophen works, but I try not to take that either. This stuff is golden it takes a bit to kick in after your initial dose, but it does a good job of warding of the Fallopian demons of pain with timely subsequent applications .
  4. Draws: NOT COTTON. Weight is usually a big deal when backpacking. On shorter trips I don’t usually mind a few extra pounds. On longer trips say 12 days or more I might even cut my toothbrush up to the bristles cause items add up and, Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That extra weight. I’d make sure I have at least 5-7 pairs of nylon draws. This way if and when you bleed through your goodies you can wash them out strap them to your pack and they can dry during the day. If they’re still moist at night slip ’em into your synthetic sleeping bag and they tend to dry completely. Actually, this works in my 0 degree down bag as well. Cotton will not dry as quickly and you’ll just end up with wet draws. No one wants that.
  5. Diva Cup: Once I was getting on the bus with a group of 12 middle to high school boys and two male identifed co-instructors when I felt that familiar jostle in my ovaries and knew my menses were about to commensees. I didn’t have time to pull together my standard Period Kit so I ran to REI and bought a Diva Cup. It’s simple to use and it can stay in for up to 12 hours. Just make sure you bring hand sani, your treated water, and Dr. Bronner’s soap to the cathole where you’ll bury the blood. Trust me, you’re gonna wanna wash your hands.
  6. A trashbag and a landfill clogging grocery bag: If you opt-out of the Diva Cup or similar products, DO. NOT. BURY. YOUR. TAMPONS or any of their supplemental materials. You need to pack that shit out. Put them in the landfill clogging plastic grocery bag and tie it nicely. Then put the landfill clogging grocery bag into the trash bag and tie that nicely. Place them both back in your pack and pack it out. I suggest the double up because it helps manage the smell.
  7. Mesh shorts: Or at least some kind of pant that expands with your bloat AND will dry quickly. I always bring my favorite mesh shorts that I’ve had since high school.
  8. Pads: Choose your poison. Some may opt for the environmentally friendly sanitary napkins. I go for the “as large as my granny panties” sanitary napkins. These are a just in case mechanism for catching blood. Don’t forget, pack them out. Why? Because they don’t biodegrade. They’ll just sit there until the next person comes to peep or poop and freak them the hell out. Also, it’s pollution. It’s also unsanitary. Also we all need to, Leave No Trace.
  9. A Good camp chair: Again, some don’t care for the weight, but I don’t go on a trip without mine. There’s something to be said about settling into a comfy camp chair after a day of strenuous hiking and mountain climbing.
  10. An understanding that you may smell: A friend of mine (actually, we just fooled during a WFR certification course) who *thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in something like five and a half months (average human time is 7.5) told me that the most arousing smell for him is a woman’s natural scent. Unshowered, unperfumed, and mixed with the residue of campfire. If that eases your worries, awesome. For me, it’s the fact that EVERYONE smells when backpacking. It’s like a trophy.
  11. A sense of humor: The potential for a situation to get weird is peak. A friend of mine got her period in the middle of her first backpacking trip ever (she’d only ever camped at a campground 5 minutes from her house and even then she and her family went home to shower). This one was 14 days and she had an emotional breakdown with her pants down, back against the tree, and bloody tampon in her hand. That shit was hilarious. No, I wasn’t standing there watching it happen — that’s beyond my threshold for human contact– she told me about it when she came back to camp crying. I just stood there like, o_O *laughter and tears.* <–worst friend ever.

You might be afraid that animals will smell your blood and think you’re supper. Not true. Well, unless you smell like a sandwich. As long as you’re not storing Snickers in your vagina like a squirrel, you’re good.

I’ve had my period for a long time, 20 years. Women have been bleeding for much longer. If our ancestors figured out how to deal with it, we can too. I wish being on our period wasn’t such an embarrassing event. We hide tampons in our purse. Companies create quirky (and bloody obvious) wrapper designs so people won’t know we’re carrying a tampon. Everyone knows it’s a tampon. We become ashamed when someone points out that we have blood on our pants. Why? This bleeding happens so we can create a person in our bodies. It’s not some sign of the apocalypse. We didn’t do anything wrong. After all this time, I still don’t get everything right. My body behaves differently with each cycle. Sometimes my boobs hurt. Sometimes I’m on the couch for 4 days, straight wishing I could just slip into a coma and wait it out there. There’s no fool-proof way to get through a camping trip while your bleeding from your vagina. Hell, I still don’t know how I get through regular life when I’m riding the crimson wave. I’ve shared some of the things that have helped me, but I’m always learning. If shit goes down grab some sword fern fronds, a bandana and McGyver yourself a spill spot. It’s okay. I promise you’ll laugh about it later.

The most important thing I want you to take away from this is, “Don’t let your, period or anything else, stop you from camping.” Nature has the capacity to soothe. We should all strive to spend more time outdoors whether we’re bleeding or not. 🙂

If you, or the people you love, have any additional tips please share them in the comments. If you have a story to share let me know and you can guest blog it here. For now, drink, be merry and bleed from your vagina. 😉

*he walked from end to end without leaving the trail except for a day here and there to shower and pick up resupply materials

Related posts:

Pooping

I just blocked my brother on Instagram, ya’ll.

Yup.

Not like funny ha ha blocked, but Eugh I feel gross, blocked. The story is long and so I won’t burden you with the deets, but he’s not my favorite person.  In fact, the thought of him makes me allergic.  My acid refluxes and I start sneezing at shit I didn’t even know was in the air. My nose gets stuffy and my throat itches.  I’m allergic to my family and I’m allergic to bullshit. Good thing I blocked him because I might have gone into anaphylactic shock.

You see, I may have communicated my disgust at his life.  All of it. We have a history of me expecting too much, and him being a terrible person. Ok, that’s unfair. Our relationship is complicated.

Short version?

We didn’t grow up together. Boarding schools. Different student homes.  I tried to keep contact and maintain a relationship and he was more interested in girls and sports.

I tried supporting him and doing the things I felt sisters were supposed to do, but never got much in return.  I’d call, he wouldn’t call me back. Rinse. Repeat.

As I aged, my resiliency for the taste of our cycle diminished. We stopped talking.  My paternal grandmother was on her deathbed and I reached out after a few years to tell him he needed to see her.  He drove down but was too late. Something about he and his wife forgot something at home and had to go back and get it.  That doesn’t make sense to me. They should have kept going for everything but their newborn.  Anything else, leave that shit like it fell off the wagon on the Oregon Trail.

She died before he got there.  She longed for him for 14 years and died without seeing him again.

While there he did the whole, I-need-to-right-all-that’s-wrong-in-my-life-because-we-are-mortal-beings , bullshit.

Him: “I want to be back in your life”

Me: “No, you’re just saying that shit because you’re sad.”

Him: “I won’t fuck it up this time, I’ll be better”

Yada, yada, rinse, repeat, soak cycle.

Me: Fine, but this is it. Seriously. I can’t take this anymore. Last chance.

Fast forward a few months.  We’d been texting regularly..meh, kinda regularly. He calls and says,

“Hey, they found a lump on grandmommy (our maternal grandmother’s) brain.

Me: “Ok. Um, do I need to fly there now? Is she okay? What’s going on?”

Him: “No, you don’t need to go, it’s okay. ”

Me: Ok. Lemme call you back later (I was at a Homecoming and couldn’t hear fo’ shit).

Him: Ok.
I call back later. No answer. I call again. No answer. He doesn’t pick up the phone, or text me back for two weeks. Finally, I reach out to my other family members and when they get back to me I find out she has died.

Yes, my grandmother was dead and my brother never told me.

I was done. I sent him a text message saying so (trust me I tried calling) — and that was it. He didn’t respond so I assumed that he was going to respect my decision.  It’s been a year, maybe more I don’t know.  Well, today I was looking at the “likes” on Instagram feed when I find out that he started following me 12 hours ago.  He didn’t reach out to me in anyway.  He just started following me.

He had a lot of time to say something and didn’t. I felt gross so I blocked him.

This blog address is in my bio so he’s probably read a bunch of my stuff and shared it with other family members I don’t care for.  Whatever, I put it on the internet so I can’t control that.

What I can control is maintaining my relationships with the positive influences in my life. That feels good. Positivity feels very good.

 

Preparing for that which I cannot control

The possibility of taking a 23-day NOLS course this fall is the first thing to excite me in years.  I’m responsible for at least 50 visits to the NOLS website over the last few weeks.  I’m not really worried (maybe a little) about my mental capacity to handle the backpacking. I’ve hiked from 2-14 miles in a day in the past and handled it well. I’m used to spending time in the backcountry for long periods while covering long distances and tackling rolling terrain.  This is not to say that I’m under some foolish impression that any part of my NOLS course will be easy. It won’t be.  Many of the difficulties I may have I cannot prepare myself for.

What I can do is address the physical aspect to being on course.  I started jogging again when I was in Georgia and the weather was nice.  I tried to keep it up when I got to Chicago, but couldn’t. The temperatures aggravated my asthma and I was a complete shit show. I don’t have insurance so me going to the emergency room isn’t something I can afford.  So, I started with P90X again and get outside when I can.  Additionally, I started another fast. I’m on Day 4/Day 2 (depends on who you ask) and I feel great.  I’ve been moderately active and I haven’t been able to complete my P90X workouts. I also haven’t forced myself to, either.  This fast is about resetting my system and trying to reprogram old habits.

I have a pretty fucked up relationship with food at times.  Before you start thinking I eat 4 supersized meals and a small kitten for breakfast, that’s not the case.  I love vegetables and the cooking kale for breakfast is a common occurrence.  I was a vegetarian for almost a decade then I started adding fish to my diet.  In fact, I’m more vegetarian than pescetarian.  Soda is rarely my go to beverage and hasn’t been for about 2 years.  I make fresh juices with my juicer and drink homemade teas and lemonade flavored with stevia when I have a hankering for something sweet.  My problem isn’t often with food choices. Mostly it’s about quantity. When it isn’t about quantity it’s about choice in a big way. Go big or go home, right? *She shakes her head* I’ve used food as a coping mechanism for a long time. Probably ever since I was able to control what I ate which hasn’t been long. Let me explain.

My parents divorced when I was five and we didn’t have much. My mother did what she could, but I spent a lot of time feeling hungry.  She was from the islands and fed us the rural island version of cuisine.  Well, at least what was available here in the states. That was probably fine, but we were in America and when my brother and I hung out with friends, McDonald’s was a go to. She worked something like 4 jobs and we were left to our own devices often. We’d steal money from her coin jar and go to the baseball field, or corner store and buy candy until our faces exploded.  Fast forward six years and I was sent to a boarding school for financially needy and social orphans called Milton Hershey School (MHS). At The Milt, we had access to plenty of food, but I’ll be damned if it was good for us.  We’re talking Pennsylvania Dutch style cooking.  We ate casseroles, potatoes, cream chipped beef, bullseyes (the breakfast egg dish not the seeing orb of a bull), sugar coated french toast, and their nutritionally deficient cousins. Everything  came in the big box truck known as the meal bus.  Not only was the food for shit (props to the ladies in the Central Kitchen even though it was nutritional shit is was pretty tasty… those birthday cakes and cookies?! I still dream about those) it was also controlled by someone who wasn’t me. I did not grow up learning about the food around me. I just remember we had to set the tables with meat first, starch second, and then the vegetables.  Our portions were controlled. If we wanted more it was kinda a no go. If we wanted less, or none we couldn’t.  We had one “No Eat” food and that was it. Because my mom didn’t want me eating pork, that was my “No Eat” food. Everything else, I had to ingest.

That was middle school. High school was a bit different, but not much. The atmosphere of the school changed and we started shopping more often at the local Giant Food store.  Nonetheless, my education did not include food.

In college, I became a vegetarian.  I don’t remember when or why, I just did.  The cessation of meat consumption didn’t really, at least I don’t think, come with knowledge about healthy eating.  It wasn’t until I went to work for Milton Hershey School full-time at Springboard Academy that I began to teach myself about nutrition.  I’d began some studying in Chicago, but I made pennies and couldn’t afford healthy shit anyway.  When I got to Springboard I made enough money that I could live alone AND afford healthy food items.  Hell. Yes. When I learned about quinoa I damn near lost my shit. Stevia? Hell, that knowledge pretty much gave me an aneurysm. Even then, I was in a SUPER toxic relationship with someone who had CF.  You may not know, but people with CF need to consume large amounts of fat.  People with ADPKD like I have don’t. So with this toxic relationship not only was I not strong enough to set healthy boundaries for myself, the person I was with had the exact opposite dietary needs as I had.

Moving to Seattle is what did it for me. I was working as an Outdoor Educator and physical activity was my life.  When I started with Seattle Public Schools, I had enough money, again, to afford the food we all deserve.  My apartment was across the street from a Jewel Osco, and few blocks from Trader Joe’s, and the Central Co-o: Madison Market — my favorite place in Seattle. I spent so much time at the co-op learning about vegetables, buying fresh breads and cheeses, selecting kombucha, and focusing on my overall well-being. This was two years ago. I’m twenty-nine years old and my healthy relationship with food and nutrition just started. I’m still a baby.

My hope is that my fast will tune my brain and my heart to the key of my stomach. I don’t want to eat when I’m not hungry. I want to remember what hunger feels like and associate that with goodness. Like it’s a message from my body that reads,

Hey, thanks so much for that last meal. We’ve sent it on to do great things and are looking forward to more. ”

Instead of,

Holy shit we’re hungry. We’re hungry. Fuck, when’re we going to eat again? Are we going to eat again? Who remembers how to make biscuits?! Flour’s cheap. We can use water instead of milk. That’ll keep us from dying, right?! Right?!

Two very different messages. I’m tired of teaching my body that panic is a good way to approach meeting its needs.

This NOLS course will test me physically, mentally, emotionally, and professionally. I’m worried about meeting my cohort and being the only  Brown person. Worse yet, would be finding out I’m the only Brown person with no White allies.  My standard for interacting with Whiteness is pretty concrete. I’m not going to sacrifice my wellness because of ignorance. I will not allow someone to learn off of my back. My story is not a novelty it’s my life. I don’t know how I can/would/should respond to racist shit that occurs Outside in this situation.  Actually, I don’t want to deal with it all I just want to fucking play outside because it’s my favorite thing to do.

What I can do is prepare (as much as possible) my body for the physical challenges that are certain. Cause NOLS is hard, y’all. I can sharpen my mind and clear out space for frequent visits. Other than that, I can only rely on the me that’s been alive this long and has not gone to prison for reacting to hate — purposeful, or accidental.

I broke my fast and almost murdered my best friend

My friend often finds herself in the Chicago suburbs for work.  Yesterday around 6:00pm I get a text that says, “Two flat tires will be home SUPER late.” I’d just woken up from a nap because babysitting her daughter earlier in that day while on day two of my fast had wiped me out.  I was nothing short of exhausted.  Day two is usually the worst. Your body is like, “Wait, what’re you doing!? STOP.” I like to take it easy but it was the only day I’d get to see my friends from out of town + my friends wanted their daughter out of the house so I melded both worlds.  I ended up carrying this tiny two year old for most of the day.  After all, her little ass legs only rev up to snail’s pace.

I’m home for the evening when I get a call where she tells me that the garage guys need to get the wheel locks off of the car (they’ve had their tires stolen multiple times), but the keys are in Chicago — an hour drive away. So they decide to try and break them off. In the process of doing so they crack the tires. My friend is obviously upset.  She’s in a super suburb which means it’s hella far away from the city and everything closes at ten. They can’t fix the tire. She can’t rent a car. She’s fucked.  My immediate response was, “I’m coming to get you.” Her response, as usual, is to rationalize why she doesn’t need help and then explain to me why she can do it on her own. It’s annoying that she’s so stubborn. So rather than find a place to wait while I drive out, she argues. Our conversation goes like this:

Her: No, no. I can take a cab to a train. It’s the last train of the night, but I think I can make it. [this is like the worst time to roll the dice]

Me: Let me call (her friend in the city who has a car) to see if she can drive out.

Her: No, let me see what else I can do to figure this out.

Me: I’ll borrow (my friend who just drove into the city’s) car and drive out.

Her: *annoying statement that’s trying to avoid getting help*

Me: I need to have a conversation with them now because if you don’t figure something else out then I won’t be able to get in contact with them to get the car to help you. They have toddlers and it’s getting late.

Her: Something annoying trying to convince me that I shouldn’t bother and that she’ll be fine.

We hang up.

I call my friend, tell her the story, ask her if I can use her car and her immediate response is, “Yes, do whatever you need to do.” I have amazing friends by the way.

I call my stranded friend and tell her I have the car.

Her: …okay, well, I’m going to get a ride to the METRA station and arrive in the city around midnight.

Me: Okay. I’ll come and get you from the METRA station downtown.

Her: No, it’s fine. I’ll just take the “L” into the city.

Me: It’s midnight. That’s dumb.

Her: It’ll be fine.

Me: I’m picking you up from the train station.

We hangup.

You may ask yourself why I’m adamant about going to get her. First, it’s because it’s who I am. If you call me and tell me you’re stuck, I’m going to come and get you. Second, I know what it’s like to feel exhausted and stranded. Sometimes you just want someone to say, “I’m coming to get you.” I don’t have a hero complex — although it reads like it– I just know how annoying it can be to wait for the train after a long day, let alone a shitty long day.

It takes me an hour to get to where my friend is staying to pick up the car. I know I used to live in this city, but I can’t remember shit about getting around. It’s super annoying. Lost twice in one day? Ugh.

I get back to the apartment with the car a little after 10:15pm.  At this point I have THE WORST HEADACHE OF MY LIFE. I head up to the apartment to charge my phone because it’s at 14%. I call and ask her if she’s gotten on the train yet. She says no because the people who dropped her off dropped her off at the wrong train station.  The train doesn’t stop at that station after 10:00pm.  At this point she’s waiting for a cab to pick her up to take her to the correct train station before the last train leaves for the evening. If you haven’t guessed it, her phone battery is also dying and there’s nowhere for her to charge it. I know, I’m shaking my head too.

I forget a lot of what happened here except this part:

She tells me she’s looking into the empty parking lot through the window of the train station and there’s a car behaving erratically. It’s circling the EMPTY parking lot repeatedly and the people inside are staring at her through the train station windows.  Their behavior is making her nervous and she doesn’t feel safe.  Now, my friend is not someone to whom fear comes easily. I can tell by her voice that she’s upset and scared, which is making me frustrated — I know, I know, it’s not a logical response, but it’s my response.  I ask her if she can get somewhere safe and she says she’s waiting for a cab but that might be 30 minutes. In my head I’m thinking, “THIS IS WHY YOU SHOULD HAVE JUST LET ME GET YOU IN THE FIRST PLACE.” She keeps telling me about this car and how her battery is dying. And I’m like, where are you? I’m coming to get you. Her response, which in my opinion should have been, “I’m at 3459 N. Whatever Street in Whatever town Illinois,” was, instead, “I don’t know where I am and I’ll email you the location once the cab takes me to place where I can plug my phone in.” What? Who says that?

At this point I just said, “Look at the GPS on your phone. Tell me what city you’re in so I can start driving. I have no idea what city/town you’re in so I can’t even leave Chicago.”She tells me the city.

Now, I’m juice fasting. It’s only the 2nd day and I’ve already overexerted myself.  I’m hella cranky. I’m hungry. I’m tired. I have THE WORST HEADACHE OF MY LIFE, and I thought I was going to be in bed by this point. I am going to drive a little over an hour to get her.  I know that it’s not safe for me, or the drivers around me if I drive in my current state.  So I ponder breaking my fast.  I think. “Well, there’s a vegan protein bar with great salads I wonder if they’re open.” I look at the map and they’re in the opposite direction of where I need to go to get her making this trip almost 2 hours instead of one. All the places around me are bars, or just shit shows in terms on waiting on food, but I know I can’t drive. Well, I know I don’t want to drive like this so I look across this street and there’s a shitty chain pizza place. It’s right there and I know I can get something immediately. With guilt, frustration, and hunger fueling my steps I get some pizza and get on my way.

Minutes after I eat something the headache subsides. I get lost a few more times while driving –UGH– but I get to her.  She’s super grateful and happy that I brought her dog with me. I knew she’s want to see him after such a shitty day.  She does the thing panicked people do when they’re safe, unload all of the shit about their day at lightening fast speed.  I felt badly, but all I want to do is listen to hip hop, drive, and get home. No talking.  I tell her, “…hey, so I broke my fast and I’m feeling kinda shitty about it. I ate pizza and it’s making me feel gross plus I’m tired I can’t give you the attention you deserve. I’m sorry.”  She’s like, “…oh, it’s okay I don’t need 100% of your attention I just need to talk. Oh, and I ate a great salad I feel pretty good.”

This is where I run into trouble. Many find speaking cathartic. I find solace in silence.  How do you maintain your composure when the person you’re around needs the exact opposite of what you need? Plus how do you respond to someone who just sat in a restaurant eating salad and drinking margaritas while you ate shitty pizza and hated yourself? You. Don’t. Say. Anything. I know my emotions are all askew because I’m fasting. It’s 1:30am and my responses are totally irrational and hyperbolic. I’d be picking a fight just to be mean and that’s not cool.  I awoke this morning still frustrated and greasy. I have to start this shit again and that’s annoying.  I’ll talk to my friend about how I felt, eventually. For now, I just want to do yoga, meditate, and find my happy place.

Fasting and babysitting leads to reconciliation

Oy. My head hurts, and my lips are dry. My nose is stuffy, but that’s annoyingly usual. My shoulders are sore and I feel like there’s a cat litter box on my tongue.  There’s a lot going on.

I went to the Zoo with Magoo aka Goober aka Goo, today.  It was nice to be around her in this way.  I was her only option for safety and she clung to me just as her parents said she would.  We had to fake her out though.  Before we left we pretended like Daddy had to go to work, Mommy had to leave, and Grandpa was going to the doctor. She said her goodbyes and everyone bolted to corners of the house, except for me. Heh Heh Heh. We walked down the block and she held my hand. A two-year old’s hand is really fucking small bee tee dubs.

We still have our issues, but it was a good day.  We took the bus, which she loves, and she fell asleep. The little White girl and adult Black woman in public is an eye catching dynamic to say the least.  There will probably be a post about that later.  I carried her from the bus stop to the zoo and the wonderment commenced. That little lady fuckin loves animals.  Like lost her shit with excitement and loves all animate objects not human.

I was nervous about spending the day with her because she cries as soon as I hold her. It’s kinda like I’m the plumber and she’s the drain. Her pores and ducts let loose when I’m around then I look like I’ve kidnapped a small child. Her grandpa joked that he was going to put out an Amber Alert as soon as I left the house, the bastard. I laughed, but was totally willing to chop him in the throat

We met up with my friends who were in town and their two kids. I go way back with those little munchkins. Like since before fertilization back.  I almost delayed moving to Seattle so I could see the youngest be born.  We’re close.  Having the opportunity to hug and love on those little buggers filled up a part of me I didn’t know was empty. Hopefully I’ll get to hangout with them tomorrow.

I sat down with the intention to create a post about this fast I’m on.  It’s the second day and I’m kinda feeling it as I mentioned in the first paragraph. Instead, I talked about the children in my life.  Huh. Maybe I just needed to get that out. In my early twenties there came a point when I wanted children of my own. My biological clock stood in place of my heart and I felt like I would expire if I didn’t procreate.  Being around my Friends With Kids (great movie) over the last 4 years has changed my mind. I love kids — not all of them by any means– but I’m not sure I want to expel any from my vaginal cavity.

My excitement comes from reading the course syllabus for my PhD program. My heart palpitates at the thought of traveling the world. I salivate thinking about sleeping in my car in the dead of winter while driving cross-country for the seventh time.  When I think about dating or having children the part of my heart dedicated to dreams and passion shrinks like a flaccid penis.  I’m not there anymore.  My ADPKD is supposed to flare up when I’m about 37. Dialysis will begin shortly thereafter.  It’s not wise for my body to endure dialysis and pregnancy separately let alone simultaneously.  The longer I wait to have kids the more likely it will be that I shouldn’t.

Perhaps all of this is my body, my heart, and my mind reconciling that I’ll always be,  “Auntie Jéhan.” If it’s not, and I feel that yearning again I have no qualms about adoption. 🙂

Related Posts:

Detox

I am a Mouthbreather

Body Image

What to do about Magoo

Black don’t crack

Written by contributor Mallory Green

Black Don’t Crack

On February 17, I turned 28 years old.

A lot of people have anxieties about getting older.  I don’t, really.  Actually, let me take that back.  I do.  But for me, my fear is getting older and not having anything to show for it.  I live in Chicago and I work heavily in the world of theatre.  This means that I don’t have a ton of money.  I’m afraid of living my whole life under the poverty line.  No money, no assests.  Besides this fear, I’m quite happy with getting older. I look forward to being in my 30s.  I see it as an exciting adventure, much like my 20s have been so far, but with more… assuredness.

My mother is 64, and is quite ok with getting older.  In her words, “The only way to not get older is to die, and I’m not trying to do that.”

Now, if you’re black, have black friends, or encounter black ladies at the grocery store, I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “black don’t crack.”  I say it all the time.  But is this really true?

Look, it’s not like I’ve done extensive research on the issue, but what I do know is that the black women in my family look good!  All of my aunts are in their 60’s and they have skin as radiant as Moses descending a mountain with a couple of stone tablets.  Not to mention the legions of older black actresses who all look exceptionally unseasoned.

Phylicia Rashaad, age 64.  Ain’t nothing cracking over here

Phylicia Rashaad, age 64. Ain’t nothing cracking over here

18th Annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Award Party ? Red Carpet

Stacey Dash, age 46. Also known as ‘Dorain Gray.

So what is their secret?  Genetics?  A secret skin regime?

These questions popped up in my head because in the past few months, I’ve become increasingly more aware of how my face has changed over time.  I don’t look bad (good God, I’m only 28), just different.

Me in 2009

Me in 2009

Me on my 28th birthday

Me on my 28th birthday

I look like a 28 year old, and honestly, I think that’s awesome.  It just weirds me out that I perceive myself as looking very different.

So this spawned something a little crazy.  On the morning on my birthday I woke up, and went to Walgreen’s, where I proceeded to buy $60 worth of anti-aging products.  With every item that I picked up I thought, “This is ridiculous,” but I still bought them, every one.

There are a million and one things besides anti-aging crap that I could have spent my $60 on. But at the time, it seemed imperative.  In the mirror, I see this face that I happen to like—but am afraid of it changing again.  In the back of my head, I was hoping to freeze in my 28 year old face forever.  Of course, that isn’t going to happen.

Maybe I’m writing this blog post to myself, so that I don’t go over the deep end.  There are so many beautiful, extraordinary, exceptional women in the world whose happiness is blocked by their distress about aging.  I don’t want that for myself.  Maybe I need to change the way that I think about my face’s metamorphosis.   Maybe my face looks different than it did 4 years ago because today I know more.  It may have changed because today I am more confident and self-assured.  And I know for sure that I love myself today, more than I did when that earlier picture was taken.  And maybe that’s what showing up on my face.

To read more of Mallory’s writing please feel free to visit www.MallorySSTP.tumblr.com

If you’d like to contribute to wearingmyblackness.com contact me at wearingmyblackness [at] gmail [dot]com.

Related posts: Guest Blog Your Blackness

What to do about Magoo

I have a problem. I don’t like my best friend’s daughter.

She’s 2.

I feel kind of guilty writing this.  But only kind of.

Let me state my biases.  Most of my experiences are with youth ages 12-24.  When I first began doing youth development work it was in 2002 at Milton Hershey School.  I was 19.  The kids with whom I worked were 5-8 (ish).  Things went great.  We spent a lot of time laughing and just being silly.  I have no recollection of feeling this frustrated.

In fact, one of my favorite people in the entire world is 4 and I’ve loved him since before he was born.  He’s pretty awesome.  We would go for hikes, play soccer, play basketball, play “football,” and he’d help me cook some random meal in the kitchen.  I liked hanging out with him.  His parents weren’t too bad either.  😉

With this current issue she is the daughter of my best friend and her partner. Both were former roommates.  My best friend knows everything about me and we’ve been close since the moment we met performing theatre in Chicago.  It’s about 6 or 7 years since our first meeting and a lot has changed.  I live in another city. She lives in the same place. I’ve had several partners in this time, and she’s still with the same one.  Other than that, we’re still the same people.

Enter her child.

When I’m not around, her kid asks for me. We talk on the phone. She talks about me when I’m not there.  When she found out I was coming she was super excited and she looked forward to my being there. I was told this from her parents.  When I visit which has been several times over the course of her life.  Initially, she was SUPER loving.  I could hold her and she’d rest her head on my chest in the most adorable way possible.  I mean even her mom would be like, “Yeah, she doesn’t do that with me anymore.”

DSC_0153

This most recent visit she was excited to see me and was loving for a while.  The first night she fell and slammed her head on an end table REALLY hard and she opened up all her faucets and screamed. I held her and she cried.  Her mom was RIGHT next to her when it happened.  But, she held on to me and cried.  It was cool.  That was two days ago.

Five minutes ago her mom handed her to me and she started crying. She wanted mommy. She wanted daddy. It was the end of the world.  This kid doesn’t want to be held by me.  Please understand I’m an advocate for giving people space regardless of age.  We’re all people and should be able to set our own boundaries.  As a result, I don’t chase after her. I don’t try to pick her up all the time. I let her have her space.

She still cries when I hold her.

After a while, that shit hurts.  I told all of this to my friend.  I came to the conclusion that it’s super hard for me to get this from the offspring of my best friend.  I love her and her partner to death and its weird to not be embraced by another member of their family.  Shit, it’s hard not being embraced by people, let alone a 2 year old.  Unfortunately, my walls are up and I’m starting to take it personally.  Because it is.  She’s responding this way as a direct result of who I am.

This is so frustrating.  I’m at the point where I’m just going to back away from the kid and try to reconnect when she gets older.  Maybe she’ll reach out then with some shit like, “My parents suck and don’t understand me.” I’ll be like the aunt she can come and talk to when shit gets real.

For now, I’m over her.

Control

There is none of that going on in my life right now.  The only thing I have control over is how cute my outfit looks and that’s because I dressed myself this morning. But aren’t we all one car accident away from not even being able to do that?  There was a 27 car pile up in Georgia yesterday. Damn.

Yes, I control some of my choices.  I chose to quit my job and move to a state whose politics are reliably anti-progress and whose history includes lynchings (don’t they all though?). I chose this life.  This life, however, is currently highlighting just how little control I have ever had over anything.

My grandad has moments where his entire body locks up and says, “You wanted to go this way? Ok. Cool. We got chu.  SIKE! You ain’t goin nowhere mutha fucka. You can just stand here till I make you fall.”

That’s messed up.

This is one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in a very long while.

I can’t control that’s he’s getting older and this will probably get worse.  My first job out of high school was working for Arden Courts as a caregiver.  It’s one thing to give care to a complete stranger.  It’s another to care for your grandfather in a clinical way. And I’m not even the one doing most of the care giving!  It’s hard just being here.  I sat across the table and watched him eat yesterday.  Tears fought their way to the front of my eyes.  I wouldn’t let myself cry because it’s unnecessary and kinda rude. –I’m looking him in the face and crying at the state of his life.  If someone did that to me I’d punch them in the throat.  — I’m mourning the man I knew and not celebrating his life as it has become.  He is still very funny and quite biting.

I cannot control my grandfather’s health. I cannot control my life or what happens to me.  I can, however, control “my response to it.”  I am learning a great deal by just changing how I respond.

An Open Letter to ING Direct/Capital One 360

This difficulty is multi-fold because I’m trying to get home to see my grandfather.  I don’t have much money and that’s why I don’t matter to ING Direct –soon to be Capital One 360. It’s one of my longest relationships with a financial institution to date.   My experiences with this bank have been neutral (almost good) thus far, and so this is hard. I’m trying to get to a home that I’ve never called as such but do now because of the people and not the place.  My granddad is ill and I’ve left Seattle to be with him.  Honestly, more for me than him, but with him nonetheless.  I quit my job saved and stored my belongings packed up my dog in an old car and am driving. And now, because of ING Direct, soon to be Capital One 360, I am losing time with him.

At some point on my road trip I discovered that my card’s magnetic strip was not working.   Being more responsible than I usually am I made all the necessary arrangements to have a new card mailed to an upcoming location on my trip.  When I arrived I realized I’d beaten the card, but did not worry. Days passed and still, no card. Additional phone calls and days passed with no change.  Eleven business (18 people) days and no card later I’m still waiting.

Circumstances provide an opportunity for thought.  The voices of all my mothers sing quietly in my mind that, perhaps, I should have other resources.  Perhaps. But, I don’t.  A lot of people don’t. We work for our compensation and should have the opportunity to access it, as we need.  Here in this deserved season of bank animosity I can empathize with the feeling of being out of control: the feeling of someone taking advantage.

I want to live in a world where I matter. Where banks aren’t so big that someone the size of me can disappear and no one is concerned.  Where customer service doesn’t consist of a different person with each correspondence and previous conversations are kept in digital logs.  Where I feel good about the choices I make as a consumer.  After my interactions with the consistently growing entity that is ING Direct/Capital One 360 I’m not sure that what I want coincides with what it can give.

At what point did Hulu stop being enough?

I’ve lived alone for quite sometime.  My usual routine is I walk in the door, up the stairs undress on my way up leaving a trail of partially wet clothing and dirt. Grabbing my laptop computer I’d walk into the kitchen find something on Hulu (or Netflix) and begin to cook a meal. Read Nachos.

I could sit in my apartment for hours — when not skating derby, or at work, and just watch tv on the internet.  Hours of television into my brain. Yes, please.

I’m currently on a road trip to Georgia.  I’ve driven down the coast of Oregon, through the coast and inland of California through mainland Texas and now I’m hanging out with friends. All of that driving? Completed by me. When I first got to my friend’s house I played Assassin’s Creed 3 for 3 days straight. Then I grew weary of that. Then I tried watching Hulu. By this time my queue was at 54 and that’s bizarre. I’m sitting down doing nothing currently and what I want to do is read my book “Staying Healthy with Nutrition.” I tried watching Hulu earlier, and just couldn’t do it. A few episodes of Grey’s played while I was rooting around in my car.

At what point does your brain say “…enough! stop! stimulate me!!”?  I’m unemployed, unengaged, homeless, damn close to penniless, but I’m bobbing around in a sea of not sadness.  Comfort. I’m bobbing in a sea of comfort.  I’ve been eating so healthy Rebecca Wood would be proud. I’m exercising regularly and not too much.  I started reading again. When did this happen? Did having a job turn me into a boob? Why? How does that happen? What is it about my lack of responsibilities that has turned me into the most humane version of myself I’ve been in years?

Roadtrip 2013

I’ve been on a road trip for about a week now.  I haven’t been writing much, or taking many pictures for that matter.  I have been enjoying my time with my dog and thinking about my future. Here are some of the pics I did take.

This first one is actually from November 2012.

Teddy Roosevelt National Grasslands

Oregon Coast

Oregon Coast

Oregon Coast

Oregon Coast

Self potrait. Making faces on the coast

Self portrait. Making faces on the coast

life, decaffeinated

I took my blood pressure today and it was 141/101.  It’s been high like this for weeks.  My ADPKD will worsen with high blood pressure.

One tactic patients try is to reduce their protein intake. I’ve been a vegetarian since 2004 with recent additions of fish over the last few years.  I’ve recently removed animal meats, and reduce dairy to creamer  in coffee.
I need to completely eliminate caffeine.  This is frustrating.

I’ve enjoyed my frequent visits to my favorite coffee shop patronized by local hip hop heads, and neighborhood friendlies.  I’ll just have to switch back to tea– decaffeinated.

It’s not the worst thing that could happen.  I am still afraid, however, that my ADPKD will get the better of me before I can finish leading the life I want.

Rich people eat like what?

A few weeks ago a friend of mine discovered Farm dinners.

Yes, that’s a horse in the background.
Courtesy of http://www.experiencepnw.com

The concept epitomizes the localvore movement. “Think global, eat local”  Seattle is allllll about supporting local businesses. Yay! I’m a big fan as well. I fully acknowledge, however, that it’s easy for a place whose streets have been trod by Bill Gates, Joel McHale, August Wilson, Jimi Hendrix, Gail Devers, and Brand Carlile.  “There’s gold is these here hills!”  It’s not so easy for people with less money to access this awesome ideology.  It’s hard for me to write this  because it separates me from a culture that defines me — poverty. My brain is poor, but my wallet is not.  I feel a crazy amount of guilt participating in events like this.

A few of my friends and I are traveling to a Carnation, WA.  We each paid $75 for a Farm dinner experience — Yes. Seventy-five dollars.  I can’t believe I paid $75 to eat 3.5 feet away from my food’s origin.  I’ve lost my mind.  That was the cheapest option.  We chose beer.  Wine was  between $100 and $175. Bananas.

The menu for this evening:

Reception

Chicken liver pate, carmelized onions, pickled mustard greeens
Dunkleweizen

First

Garlic and brown butter lake with stewed chicken legs

Haystack Hefeweizen

Second

Sweet pea arancini with chevre, herb salad, and mushrooms

Copperhead Pale Ale

Third

Grilled chicken breast with quinoa, orange, chile, pineapple sage, and fried egg

Wildcat IPA

Forth

Rhubarb fritters with cinnamon maple syrup

Steam Train Porter

*Side note: they spelled “fourth” wrong, didn’t they?  Also, I’m not a poultry eater so I hope they’re substituting.  UGH, even that last sentence was SO PRETENTIOUS.  “I’m not a meat eater, so I hope they’re substituting?!” BLARGH. (I need to reconcile my current existence with my past history). I’m a work in progress.

That being said, I’m sure it will be fun and tasty. It’s just hard spending so much money on one thing, food.

do you remember the time

I’m applying for new jobs.  One of them asked me to do two things 1) have a kick ass sense of humor (yes!) and 2) create a writing sample.

Here’s a super rough draft excerpt from the latter:

“I remember the day my mother gave me away just as a child recalls all its memories: clearly yet stained by the inaccuracy of youth.  She, my brother, and I attended a function in a magnificent building I later came to love and call  “Founder’s Hall.”  Flags stuck out of the roof like an Afro pick in a freshly picked poof.  The marble floors felt fancy beneath my feet and brownness blew around me; dust clouds and tumble weeds in my season of desertedness.  Heels clicked then as they still do now.  My skin weighed heavy: as I wore my blackness differently then than I do now.  It was enrollment day.  My mother, a single parent from the Virgin Islands, had heard of a school where you could send your children.  This residential school, a Mecca, would pay for everything your child needed through high school and even through college at no cost to the parent or sponsor.  “At no cost to the parent or sponsor.” An unintentional and heavy lie still passed down like an urban legend through generations.  Attending Milton Hershey School cost me everything.”

courtesy of pennlive.com

Black people don’t swim

I had a conversation with a coworker yesterday.  At some point he said, “Black people don’t swim.”  I laughed.  For the most part he’s correct… I guess. I mean, maybe. When I envision the lap swimmers at a local pool I don’t picture a bunch of Black Americans doing laps for exercise.  That’s probably because I haven’t been to a pool in YEARS. As a culture, we don’t swim. I’ll embrace that.  We hang out in the pool acting a fool and socializing, but we don’t linger on weekends to perfect our butterfly stroke. Do some Black people swim? Of course.

We “don’t do” activities because historically we were denied access. We were marginalized into our own communities with little access to awesomeness.  Think about it.  Name something Black people “don’t do.”  Now look back at when it became popular in America. If, at some point we were denied access through legal or social infringements it’s probably not apart of our culture now and frankly Black people, that’s lame. We gotta do better.

I’ll swim.  I don’t mind it.  It’s not like I’m afraid I just haven’t had the opportunity in recent years because of work.  If I’m at the pool I usually supervising a bunch of excited youth from the sidelines.  Becoming a whitewater rafting guide, however, is on my “Do before I die” list.  I’m in this place with work where I want to quit but haven’t figured out my next step.  I like my apartment so I want to keep that, but I also want to travel.

Whitewater rafting The New River

That’s me in the back, by the way. No, not the white guy….

 

*Dance Break*

I just had a mini daydream about happiness.  In it, I went to the local co-op, bought bulked goods, and put them in a storage container in the back of my yet to be purchased vehicle with all my camping gear.  I pictured myself traveling with my dog and cooking food on my camp stove and sleeping in the back of my car with the hatchback raised so I could see the sky.

Why don’t I just do that?

Note to self: Answer the above question.

*End Dance Break*

One reason I haven’t swam/swum/what word goes here? in a while is directly connected to body image issues.  I haven’t felt at home in my body and I don’t want people doing to me what they do to women at the beach. I am uncomfortable when people remark on my body even if it’s for a compliment.  That’s why derby is so fantastic.

I can skate around in fish nets, panties, and a halter top and throw myself around for 90 minutes without someone saying ANYTHING about my body.  I love those spaces. I’m going to try to make “swimming holes” spaces like that for me.

Summer goal: Engage in the activities I want regardless of societal pressures.  (I’ll let you know how that goes.)  😉

Why are we still inside?

I facilitated conversations around diversity/cultural competency/intercultural dialogue/inclusion/any other term that means conversations around social constructs

I can’t ignore what happened today.

In the middle, just as the sun rose high and sweat began to form, my heart weighed heavy and settled in near my feet. I couldn’t move because I needed to speak.

*breathe*

The morning’s cooler discussions stepped aside to let the heat in; those discussions of race, power, privilege and “diversity” were tough, much like the gristle on a steak — extra and unwanted and yet digested if and when ingested. I looked across the room and felt heavy. There is so much that we cannot see and yet need for guidance. We have been constructed by external forces to be what makes sense. We’re handed boxes, bags, and miscellaneous containers and urged to put different pieces of ourselves inside until the compilation of our beauty is gone and only “what makes sense” resides. Even if we resist our assignments we’re still boxed along with other resisters. There is so much work to do and so few soldiers.

I’d been feeling mediocre for quite sometime. Today felt like success. Not just for me personally as a facilitator, but on a larger cultural level. I connected with young people in powerful memory crafting ways. These young people are entering into fields of work that are not widely occupied by people of color. Because they have positioned themselves on the fringes of culture their mere presence in this field is shifting the cultural norms of the youth of color with which they work. Their bravery is changing Blackness. Their bravery is changing the norm.

My new success are tied to new experiences that are not traditionally engaged in by people within the mainstream Black culture. Today I was able to serve as mouthpiece for some because of my childhood experiences. I often look back at women and “others” who were fortunate and unfortunate enough to be the firsts in their fields – Jackie Robinson, Huey P. Newton, Angela Davis, Zora Neale Hurston, etc…. My recollection of them was often associated with the longing for notoriety or at the very least the longing to be noticed. I’ve slowly been realizing that I am able to make a difference by just being myself.

Blackness isn’t real.

Neither is Whiteness.

Let’s discuss. Feel free to disagree in the comments. I welcome the discourse.

A brief history of the United States as recounted by me–but remember, I wasn’t there.: Natives inhabit, colonizers colonize or as I like to say colonizers genocide, African slaves brought over, slavery happens, end of slavery, what do with do with these Africans who no longer speak their languages and what do we call ourselves since we’re no longer natives of our own nations?

BAM- Enter stage left “Whiteness” followed by “Blackness.”

Africans were no longer African. Their languages, culture, and other identifying traits were stripped, transformed and diluted. They developed other identities and created a culture from pain and poverty. Blackness began from the base of humanity. A place where people are bought, sold, raped, traded, killed, and then given a contractual freedom. They were taken from their homes, shipped like cargo and then forced to live and work in a new land that belonged neither to them nor their owners. Finally, when conscience caught up with policy (yes, I know, it’s debatable) they were awarded freedom in a place that didn’t want them, had no idea what to do with them, and wouldn’t admit their role in this conundrum.

Politicians wonder why Americans that have been Black and poor for generations live the lives they do….

This country, the United States of America, didn’t know what to do with this plague of color they’d created. First, they were Africans, then slaves, then niggers (yeah I said it), then negroes, then coloreds, then African-Americans, then African Americans, then somehow Black became an umbrella term for everyone who entered our country with dark skin and certain characteristics — Mmm negroid, sounds like a disease–BECAUSE IT IS. It’s a cheater’s way into dialogue. Rather than find out how someone identifies the dominant culture lumps them together because it’s easier. After all, the dominant culture itself has no identity either.

Their culture became just as diluted except their social class had the time, opportunity and design to improve. If you were White in America you could work hard, pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get rich. If you were Black in America you worked really hard to provide boots for your oppressors while standing barefoot in a field of thorns. White Americans took their earnings and purchased land and property that was never theirs to sell. That owned fallacy was handed down through generations and increased the owner’s wealth. That wasn’t an option for Black Americans. It wasn’t feasible for a long time financially or legally. There were exceptions. Of course, there are always exceptions. For example, when there are 5 people in a room 1 of them probably has herpes. There’s always an exception.

I’m afraid of that moment when our litmus test became the exceptions and not the rules; the oppressors and not the oppressed. When the beneficiaries of bootstrap mentality started to steer the horse The United States took on a whole new direction. Our policies did not include our reality. The constitution sought a more perfect union and yet wouldn’t acknowledge the hundreds of thousands of SLAVES whose blood provided the ink that signed the Declaration of Independence and documents of its ilk.

The term Black was created because an oppressor had no idea what to call the victims of its deeds. It was easier to lump them into one category and wash their hands. Now, at a time when access to The United States is more fluid. The dominant culture continues to lump and refuses to individualize. Lumping is acceptable just read the side of a Jiffy cornbread box.

Whiteness was created because Irish, German, Scottish, Albanian, and other ethnically salient cultures were no longer salient. We were at a place were pork and sauerkraut were no longer exclusive to one geographic area and its inhabitants. Whiteness was the easiest way to understand what they had become — skin, a surface.

Race is surface.

I hold no authority over how you identify. I merely problematize and acknowledge the weight of our words and what we call ourselves. Just as I try to be accurate to honor my ancestors and current self, I urge others to seek that same specificity and reap its benefits.

There is power in belonging.

attractiveness is relative and that sucks

Seattle weather as of late has been impressive.

I could just kiss your face

When the sun comes out in Seattle, residents collectively lose their shit. Everyone is outside, running, jumping, throwing frisbees, walking dogs, playing soccer, eating organic locally grown kale, and working in their gardens.  We’re like the antithesis of vampires. Wednesday I was a happy member of the flock.  I rode my bike 4-5 miles to a restaurant to eat with a friend.  At dinner I didn’t snort the pre-dinner bread and oil like I usually do (yay good choices!).  We ate a sub par meal (I didn’t eat it all and I’m proud of myself).  Then I biked home — well, part way– I biked downtown and took the bus uphill.  Then, because the weather tickled my athletic parts I changed, leashed my dog, and went for a run. Ladies and gentlemen, zes and hirs that never happens. I don’t work out more than once in a day unless I exercised in the morning and was chased by a mugger at night.

He was equally surprised

Upon my arrival home I signed up, at the urging of my friend, for My Fitness Pal.  It’s like Weight Watchers, but free AND awesome.  Today I logged on via computer and discovered some other cool new features (you can write on your friend’s walls).  I even picked up a friend or two.  I hope my enthusiasm lasts.  I think it will just maybe not at the same intensity.  It’s kind of fun.  When you use the mobile app you can scan the bar code of what you’re about to eat and it uploads the nutrition label.  I’ve uploaded homemade recipes and it calculates the contents; vitamins, dietary fiber, polyunsaturated fat, etc.  My favorite part is how it incorporates your exercise into the mix.  I went to my boxing fitness class and burned 916 calories.  I can then see how it impacts my food intake. It’s like a lazy person’s food journal.  Okay, maybe not a lazy person’s…more of an electronic food journal for busy people — so basically the opposite.

This recent burst of athletic vigor allowed me to realize that sometimes I don’t do a good job of looking in the mirror and recognizing what I see. Granted,  I’m getting better at it.  I’m trying to see my body for what it is and not what I think it is, or what plutocrats and media outlets tell me it is.  Most recently, I noticed one thing that I have that works in my favor; my athleticism.

I am athletically inclined. I excel at sports.  I was a fantastic basketball player, field hockey goalie, and track and field shot putter/javelin thrower/discus tosser.  When I tried sparring for the first time I rocked it.    When I do cardiovascular exercise I shed fat and my musculature is evident.  I don’t have to try hard to look ripped. That being said, I also struggle with looking at myself as feminine and seeing myself as attractive. Ah, there lies the rub.

Now, even though I don’t see myself as attractive, I feel attractive when I’m working out. No, that’s not right, I feel confident when I’m working out.  I’ve heard they come hand in hand.

How does this tie into Blackness, you ask? Well, closely.  In a book I’m reading Black Rage the author mentions (this is not a direct quote) how White women can exert little to no effort and be seen as attractive.  They can wake up, brush their hair, walk out the door and be viewed by society as prreetty.  Black women, however? We must exert much more energy and focus into looking socially acceptable.  Have you seen Chris Rock’s 2009 movie Good Hair? If not, watch it. If you have and you still disagree, watch it again and read Black Rage. In the Western culture we aren’t socially acceptable if we walk out the door with our hair two stepping in the wind just as it grew out of our heads.  Before I had locks nightly I would oil my hair, two strand twist it (at least an hour’s worth of work), wrap it up in a silk scarf, go to sleep, wake up fix the scarf, go back to sleep, wake up, untwist it, style it, and then I still look liked what people would call a “ragamuffin.”  Trust me, I did the “just brush and go” often, and that choice has had me playing in the basketball court of androgyny way too long.

So, when you look at me — natural hair, athletic build, darker skin (we haven’t even gone there yet), and deep voice I am not attractive as deemed by society.   Then, let’s whip cream my lack of familial influence in my upbringing, coming from a “broken home,” AND my naked love of things that are not generally accepted in “b”lack culture.  I’m screwed when it comes to self-image.  I didn’t grow up hearing “You’re beautiful” or at least “You’re visually acceptable.”  That’s why I’m a 28-year-old woman who is still coming to terms with being Black and seeing myself as attractive.

Attractiveness is relative.  I am slowly digesting the possibility that media tycoons, stupid psychologists, and government officials could be wrong.  There is a possibility that when I am at my best — well exercised and properly nourished– I have the makings of a handsome woman (that term still makes me giggle).  Now that the Seattle weather is nicer, the anti vampires have come out of their tent cocoons, and I’ve become best friends with My Fitness Pal, I’m definitely examining a cleaner petri dish.  My hope is that when I’m at the weight I’m supposed to be (T-minus 34 lbs) I can re-examine my self-image and self-worth.

So this is what depression feels like

Yesterday was what I refer to as a “bad day.”  Seattle was gorgeous.

The sun bared its chest and the wind licked its hairs.  I, however, still laid in bed for too many hours shutting out the world.  The night before I went to see a coworker perform stand-up and had about a half a drink too many.  After a few hours my weariness grew neck and neck with my desire to be at home.  I finished my 3rd drink — too quickly I’ll add– and went to the bus stop.  I’ll admit: I was acutely aware of how dangerous it was to be drunk and alone in an unfamiliar neighborhood riding an unfamiliar bus line.  It was scary, but so is life and I endured anyway.  After all, cabs don’t scour the South End looking for fares.  It’s just not that kind of neighborhood…

The bus came I got on, went to the back — which, by the way, is also not the safest place to be at 2am.  A few stops later two gentlemen joined me.  I put on my accent like a coat. Different degrees in different degrees. They recognized its presence and asked me where I was from. The flirtation was obvious and appreciated, They wanted to come home with me and “hang out.”  I respectfully declined and they respectfully accepted. Eventually, my stop arrived and we said our goodbyes.  The one with the nice facial hair commented on the largeness of my belly button –which made me pause–, made a statement about my thickness, and bid me safe passage.

I am learning the dangers of alcohol.  I make calls and decisions I’d rather not.  My mind is not my own and this depression becomes a stranglehold.  I am not myself.  On Saturday I spun and slipped into the spiral at my feet and used my covers to seal the space. I know what I am like when I am like that. It’s not good and quickly becomes worse. I contemplate the hated thoughts of a Christian god, weep for no reason, and wish I could just rest–forever.

I could feel the worst of it approaching and so I chose — no, forced myself to — leave my house.

A friend –well, not quite that but something close– was scheduled to be the featured poet at the Ladies First poetry night.  I knew there was an open mic scheduled beforehand and felt the need to speak my words.  And so, I forced myself to go; sans make-up with a little style I journeyed in that direction.

A young woman greeted me with laughter and friendly antiquity. I signed up for the open mic then panicked in my chair.  I wanted to read two pieces but opted, safely, for one.  The second was ill-constructed, controversial, unfinished, and raw. I needed more time to be as comfortable with those words in my mouth as I was with them on paper.  The audience snapped and “Uhm-hmed” in agreement.  I left the mic with the support of joined hands and sat down.  It felt good to have people want my words.

At the conclusion of the evening they invited anyone to sign up to be Featured poets. I didn’t.  I assign a level of importance to titles like that. Later, the MC came up to me and asked if I’d be interested in being a Featured poet.  I thought she was making a funny so I laughed. She wasn’t.  I agreed as long as it wasn’t anytime soon. I need to time to write, create — build on experience.

I know I’m depressed or at least crazy because I still can’t shake the feeling Featured poet status was offered out of pity.  I came up with a working title for my show on the bus ride home.  Cystic: sloughing away that which harms me. There are people in my life like the cysts on my kidneys, taking up space and eating away at the healthy parts of me.  I would love to slough them off and dialyze my blood with the healthiness left. I’d like to cleanse myself of their remaining spots with the hope that there is something substantial beneath.  I need this cleansing now and am grateful for the opportunity to create.