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.

Wait, am I black?

I’m sitting on my bed one day before I find out about the NOLS Gateway Partnership freaking out.  I’m biting my nails–which totally isn’t my thing. I’m all gassed up–which totally is my thing, and I have butterflies in my entire torso. I also applied for a Fellowship and I found myself on their website again. I seriously can’t seem to stay off. Looking over the requirements brought me back to an issue that frequently pops up in the world of equity work; Ethnic vs. Racial Identity.  Let me be clear, I don’t have a problem with NOLS.  They’re great. My issue stems from the systemic oppression surrounding race and ethnicity in the United States of America. The Fellowship requirements are:

  • At least 21 years old, with some exceptions on a case-by-case basis
  • NOLS graduate
  • Clean driving record
  • U.S. citizen
  • Ethnically American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Black or African American, Hispanic, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, or multiracial (categories defined by the EEOC, U.S. Census Bureau).
  • High level of initiative, attention to detail, flexibility, self-motivation, sense of humor and tolerance.
  • Punctual, dependable and excellent “expedition behavior” in a communal living environment.
  • Competence with Apple computers as well as MS Word and Excel.
  • Excellent critical thinking and communication skills
  • Ability to work well in a dynamic environment and adjust priorities quickly
  • Understanding and passion for the NOLS mission
  • Physically able to bend, stoop, crouch, lift (up to 40 lbs.), frequent walk, and stand for extended periods of time.

Here’s the thing. Though I often find myself living the African American Experience, I’m not African American. I am however, Black.  I refused to fill out the Census in 2010 because I problematized their adoption of “Negro” as an option.  I also problematized the Black OR African American word choices.  It’s not an either or situation.  It’s like saying are you Asian, or Pacific Islander, are you Tall, or a Woman, are you Eating, or are you digesting, are you a Rectangle, or a square.

One can be both.

Because I look like this:Image

I have encountered the same racial inequalities as someone who identifies as an African American. But, I’m West Indian. My mother is from The Virgin Islands and my father is from Jamaica. Like born and raised there, from there. They came to the states for college. My brother and I were born here.  I identify as Black because of the way the world treats me as a result of how I look.  An old woman in a care unit where I worked when I was 18 tried to kick me in the face and call me a nigger no more than 5 hours after I signed the new employee paperwork.  People making off-handed, not all disparaging, references to my ethnicity ALWAYS allocate my existence into the African American box, initially.  It’s not until after I correct them and explain that they understand the difference.

My battle against the homogenization of the African Diaspora is important to me because it’s the root cellar where my good childhood memories live.  I remember living in Jamaica. When I return to that home I can see images of my childhood painted on my surroundings like holographic images.  Ackee and sal’fish, green banana, breadfruit, yellow yam, jerk chicken, curry goat, curry chicken…all of it resonates inside me like a tympani drum.  I spoke Patois fluently in my youth. I stopped when the kids, of all races and ethnic identities here in the States, made fun of me and pointed out that I was different.  When I discarded my language I shaved off an identifier.  When I went to boarding school, I stepped into another realm. It wasn’t until my twenties that I realized how much of myself was tied up in my ethnic culture.  I’d soaked in the acid of American assimilation and became, through visual identification African American. I’d lost myself.

I don’t mind being connected with my genetically, tinted brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles.  We are connected, regardless, because we live in a society that has colonized us. My visit to the Virgin Islands at 21 taught me that all of U.S.V.I. was purchased by the US government for 25 million dollars. Our economy is fully reliant upon tourism… upon the extravagant expenditures of the privileged. We share a common bond in that tint of our skin and the pain of our experience.  We are united in the endeavor to celebrate our intelligence, talent, and resiliency. My desire to own my ethnicity and resist the convenient markings of the Census Bureau is oppositional by action and not intent. I am merely showing you that your antiquated boxes based on convenient observations have no place in my world.  I am Black, but I am not African American. I am West Indian.

Related: I had no idea this was happening, but it sure as hell is related
The First African-American Spokeswoman for DNC Isn’t Black Enough, Says Idiot White Guy

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

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.